WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Northern Delaware Butterfly Count

I joined Jim White and Sally O'Byrne Sunday for the annual northern Delaware "butterfly count" for NABA, the North American Butterfly Association.

Jim's specialty is actually herpetology: reptiles and amphibians. (He and his wife Amy co-wrote the wonderful book, AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES of DELMARVA, and he's been with the Delaware Nature Society for a quarter of a century. Currently, Associate Director of Land & Biodiversity Management). In fact, he saw four species of turtles during our outing: The Red-bellied Turtle; the Eastern Painted Turtle; the Stinkpot Turtle; and the Red-eared Slider (Same as the dime-store turtles we kept as kids!)

Sally's specialty is ornithology: birds. She's President of the Delmarva Ornithological Society.

But as longtime naturalists, both know more about identifying butterflies than a lot of people.

Anyway, the NABA butterfly count gives us a snapshot of butterfly populations around the country. Over years, you can plot trends as climate, habitat depletion, and mosquito and/or Gypsy moth spraying can deplete butterfly populations. (Although occasionally, we get movement in the opposite direction!)

Our group visited locations in west Newark, southeast of Newark, just off 273, and White Clay Creek State Park.

Pearl Crescents were by far the most numerous butterfly, surprisingly more so than Cabbage Whites and Orange Sulphurs. It looked to be the emergence of the Pearl Crescents' second brood. We observed dozens in one field in west Newark.

The second brood of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails is just emerging; we only saw a few. No Spicebush Swallowtails.

One Monarch and a couple of Viceroys.

But Common Wood-Nymphs - with their eye catching mahogany wings with bright, orange-yellow patches around the eyespots - emerged from fields along trees at several locations.

We only saw one Red Admiral... would've expected more.

In contrast to "butterfly counts" in New Jersey, no Hairstreaks this year. We've seen Gray, Red-banded, Coral, and/or White M Hairstreaks in other years.

Sachems proved to be the dominant skipper with our group.

Another group surveyed a swath of higher-elevation territory near the top of the Delaware--Pennsylvania "arc".
These observers saw the Great Spangled Fritillary (It's amazing how INFREQUENTLY this Monarch-sized butterfly makes it south of the Piedmont Plateau onto the Atlantic Coastal Plain!) They also observed a Black Swallowtail. They did NOT see the Baltimore Checkerspot, the spectacularly patterned butterfly with a small colony on Delaware Nature Society territory near the DE/PA line.

I submitted our Newark-area group's sightings to the NABA (North American Butterfly Association) website...


Posted at 6:01am on July 13, 2009 by Allan Loudell

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