WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Gateway to the North -- Ecologically & Spiritually!

I spent Sunday in the Pennsylvania game lands north of Ricketts Glen State Park in northeast-central Pennsylvania.

I love it up there because the place just has the "feel" of upstate New York or Canada for a fraction of the driving. At a higher altitude, some creatures here are at the southern extremities of their range.

I actually went to the Ricketts Glen area in mid-June to photograph two elusive butterflies which don't make it much further south: Harris' Checkerspot, which has a striking pattern on the underside wings, somewhat comparable only to the Baltimore Checkerspot, and the Arctic Skipper, which is strikingly colored despite its small size, reminding one of a miniature Fritillary. I got my photos.

The park office at Ricketts Glen posts several warnings about leaving one's car windows all the way up, and hiding any food, lest a bear punch out a window. In five or six visits to Ricketts Glen over the past five years, I have YET to see the American Black Bear.

I would be much more delighted to see a River Otter, but that too has eluded me.

Still, a beautiful part of our greater region, often with absolute tranquility and solitude on some of the trails.

Posted at 6:44pm on June 15, 2009 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Michael Logan
Fri, Jun 26, 2009 11:27am
Alan, I enjoyed reading your trip report. I too am looking for Harris's Checkerspot. Could you tell me where in the State game lands to search. It is a very large area, and I was hoping to limit myself to known good areas. Also might early July be too late to look for Harris's.

Thanks, Mike

Allan Loudell
Fri, Jun 26, 2009 1:09pm

Yes, it is getting a little late. I have travelled to the game lands north of Ricketts Glen in July and found many other interesting butterflies - including Baltimore Checkerspot and various Hairstreaks and skippers - but no Harris' Checkerspot.

But, this weekend may STILL work for you, if you can make the trek on fairly short notice. I say that because I found the Arctic Skippers more raggedy than the Harris'.

If you take the main highway north of the park-limits, a couple of miles up you have a small parking lot on the left just before a bridge over a creek. Park your vehicle there; walk north across the bridge; and almost immediately past the bridge, go right (east) along the path. I found Harris' about a block or two in... and many more about a half mile to a mile in, where the path runs north of a bog.

Hope that helps!

Allan Loudell

Polly Mitchell
Mon, Jul 6, 2009 11:04pm
Hi Allan:
I took my 13-year-ol son on a hike at Rickett's Glen on July 6th. We saw a beautiful black with blue spots butterfly. Can you tell me how to identify this?

Tue, Jul 7, 2009 9:50am

I need a little more information. Was the butterfly gigantic and with a tail, like an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail?

In that case, we'd be talking about a "Black female form" Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Except the blue spots would be more like "lozenges".

If somewhat smaller - and still with a tail - perhaps you saw the Spicebush Swallowtail. But the "lozenge"-shaped spots would be blue-green in the males, somewhat iridescent blue in the females.

If smaller, with no tails, another possibility: The Red-Spotted Purple. But again the blue spots would be more like a row of lozenges.

Actually, the orange spots would be more prominent on the undersides of the wings of the Red-Spotted Purple.

Maybe you could check out a reference book and see if your butterfly was one of these two.

Or use your search-engine to find these species on the Internet.

Let me know if one of these appears to match.

Allan Loudell

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