ASCM August Butterfly Walks

Thanks to our Nature Walk Leaders for these reports on our August Nature Walks!


Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary

nteen dedicated nature lovers braved the mid-August, hot and humid weather conditions this past weekend to stroll through the sunny meadows at the Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary.

Although birds were hard to spot due to their quiet skulking nature at this time of the year, we managed to see twenty nine different species. The most notable of these were the Indigo Bunting, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing and early arrival Dark-eyed Juncos. To see silent Blue Jays in the woodlands was a unique experience. As usual, White-tailed Deer frequented the woodland edges.

What made this walk especially memorable though, were the abundant butterflies that flitted amongst the thistle plants and other flowering grassland vegetation.

Cheryl Farfaras, a certified butterfly bander managed to net six Monarch butterflies for the group to see up close. She attached tiny, stick-on, ID tags onto the wings of four of the Monarchs that she identified as ones that will make the trip back to their breeding grounds in Mexico. Two others were released as they were third generation butterflies who will not be making the trip south. She also showed the group how to identify male from female Monarchs by noting the black spots on the upper wings of the males that are not present on the female.

Another highlight of this walk was the Hummingbird Moths who were drawing nectar from the thistle plants along with the butterflies. These moths mimicked their namesakes in body and actions and if you didn’t observe closely, you wouldn’t take them for moths. There is always something new to discover on these nature walks, isn’t there?

Especially abundant in the native grassland meadows this morning were Eastern Tiger Swallowtails. Other butterfly species seen were: Spicebush Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Cabbage White, Little Yellow, Gray Hairstreak, Eastern Tailed Blue, Great Spangled Fritillary, Baltimore Checkerspot (a real surprise), Painted Lady, Common Buckeye, Red-spotted Purple, Hackberry Emperor, Monarch, Silver Spotted Skipper, Horace’s Duskywing, Common Checkered Skipper, Common Sootywing, Fiery Skipper, and Zebulon Skipper. Fast flying odonates (dragonflies) also occupied the group’s attention as they dazzled us with their aerial displays.

Altogether, it was an enjoyable and pleasant outing, despite the hot weather. At least, it wasn’t January.
Thanks to all participants!

Ron Polniaszek, Walk Leader

Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary - August 20, 2011

The day dawned warm, in the mid-70s, the humidity was 45% and the skies were cloudless. By the time the ten nature lovers who attended this day's nature walk finished, the temperature had climbed into the mid-80s. For the past month, significant rainfall has been scarce and the meadow at the Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary reflected the arid conditions. Grasses were dry and flowering plants were late in blooming. This affected our day's butterfly species count. Last year around this date, we spotted 38 butterfly species. This year, the species count was just nine. Because blooming plants were few and far between, the butterflies gathered around the few bloomers which allowed us splendid views. Common Buckeyes were abundant. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails were the most numerous species seen this morning. A few Monarchs were spotted and we figured they were passing through on their migration to their Mexican rain forest nesting grounds. Spicebush Swallowtails, Gray Hairstreaks, Little Yellows, Eastern Tailed Blues, and Common Sootywings put in an appearance. A Great Spangled Fritillary stole the show with its rich chocolate browns with silver spots and a wide cream sub-marginal band on its hind wings and its warm orange color with black markings on its fore wings.

We were also able to get good views of dragonflies this morning. Twelve-spotted Skimmers were the most common and largest of the odonates we spotted. Also seen were Eastern Pondhawks, Common Whitetails, and Ruby Meadowhawks. The most interesting dragonfly spotted was a Blue Dasher. Its powder blue abdomen with black tip was hard to miss or forget.

Hummingbird Moths were everywhere on the Bull Thistle plants. They out-competed the Bumblebees and Butterflies for prime spots on the 2 to 3-inch wide, purple flower heads. We had a naturalist with us this morning and we spent some time identifying other wildflowers and shrubs in the meadow. Prominent plants included: Partridge Pea, New York Ironweed, Pokeweed, Late Goldenrod, Common Milkweed, Blackseed Plantain, Common Yarrow, and Common Mullein. Our Big Bluestem and Turkey Foot Grasses were over six-feet in height.

We did not neglect our bird watching duties on this morning's walk. We managed to identify 29 bird species. We had excellent views of two pairs of Indigo Buntings. Other birds of note included a fly-over of a Belted Kingfisher, a calling Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and a Red-tailed Hawk who was sunning itself with its wings and tail splayed out atop a low tree. An Eastern Kingbird and an Eastern Wood-Pewee were doing their best to keep the insect population in check. Two White-tailed Deer yearlings were keeping an eye on us as we hiked the meadow trail. No doubt other deer remained hidden in the nearby woods. It turned out to be a busy and interesting morning for the group; the two-hour walk passed quickly. We look forward to next month's walk when more birds will be moving through both of our ASCM sanctuaries. See you then!

Ron Polniaszek, Walk Leader

Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary - August 18, 2012

An overnight sustained rain gave way to perfect weather for this morning's 2-1/2 hour nature walk in the meadows of the Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary. The sky was crystal clear and the temperature was a comfortable 78 degrees F. Today's seven hikers included two young girls and their father who were visiting the sanctuary for the first time. They occupied their time taking in the many butterflies present this morning in the meadows and they particularly enjoyed pointing out the Queen Anne's Lace plants and other colorful wildflowers. It was wonderful to experience the many treasures of the sanctuary as seen through their young and inquisitive eyes.

Mid-summer flora was one of the elements that dominated our interest on the walk this morning. The meadow was replete with native plantings which provide food, cover and a place for rearing young. In full bloom were Partridge Pea, New York Ironweed, Bull Thistle, Common Milkweed and Swamp Milkweed to name just a few of the plants that were frequented by honey bees, butterflies, dragon flies and damselflies. We even spotted a Ruby-throated Hummingbird taking in the nectar. Other prominent planting seen were Late Goldenrod, Blackseed Plantain, Common Yarrow and Common Mullein. Our Big Bluestem and Turkey Foot Grasses were sprouting full seed heads and were in many areas over 6-feet in height.

Butterflies spotted in the meadows this morning were: Swarthy Skipper, Black Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Cabbage White, Clouded Sulphur, American Copper, Gray Hairstreak, Eastern Tailed Blue, Pearl Crescent, American Lady, Common Buckeye and Monarch. Odonates spotted were: Ebony Jewelwing, Violet Dancer, Familiar Bluet, Common Green Darner, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Blue Dasher and Common Whitetail.

Other wildlife spotted this morning was 12 White-tailed Deer, one Red Fox, a Garter Snake, and many small Toads. As usual, birdsong kept us company during our walk. Carolina Wrens, House Wrens, Gray Catbirds, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, American Goldfinches, Indigo Buntings, Northern Cardinals, Field Sparrows and American Crows vied with each other to announce their presence. Fly-over bird species this morning included a Green Heron, several Northern Flickers and two flights of Canada Geese in V-formations. Utilizing the thermals being formed over the warming nearby farm fields were Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks. We may have even spotted a Common Raven in one of the thermals. Ravens are found mostly in mountainous areas, but they appear to be expending their range into central Maryland counties. Hawking insects over the meadow were Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Eastern Kingbirds. During the woods portion of our walk were several Pileated Woodpeckers hammering away at tree trunks searching for grubs and beetles.

The Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary was alive with wildlife action this morning. It continues to be a great place for nature lovers to enjoy a day surrounded by all that Mother Nature has to offer. We hope to see you soon at our sanctuaries.

Ron Polniaszek, Walk Leader

Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary - August 16, 2014

2010-2014 -Authors & The Audubon Society of Central Maryland

 Updated: 10.04.14