Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Butterflies from WV Mountains

It has been in the nineties here for weeks to hot to garden or do nature walks. This evening I was watering the veggy garden and noticed a long thin damselfly. I caught it with my hands and carried it inside to check Ed Lam's book to be sure. It was indeed a male Slender Spreadwing the first record in Orange County in about 20 years or more! Then once I was sure of the ID I let it go outside and it flew away happily!

So here we go some of my best photos of the many species from our visit to Spruce Knob a week ago.

Pink-edged Sulphur, Colias interior on Ox-eyed Daisy
This is a northern species, it feeds on blueberries.
We saw hundreds of them on this trip what a delight, more photos below.
Pink-edged Sulphur on Red Clover.

Here we have a female albino sulphur. With these you can not tell for sure if it is a Clouded or Orange Sulphur. This was my first one this year.
Here we have an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail that has much more yellow in the hindwings than I have ever seen in our area.

Common Ringlet, Coenonympha tullia
We saw maybe 40 to 50 of these butterflies. Back in 2003 I saw thousands of them in this area. Another northern species.
Another northern species the Harris' Checkerspot, Chlosyne harrisii
Saw only 5 this trip and as you can see they were past their prime.
See my website for better photos and info on them.
The Fritillaries!
Meadow Fritillary, Boloria bellona
The smallest of our frits. This one was checking out fresh deer bones along Gandy Creek.

Normally in the eastern US fritillaries are not hard to tell apart. But given Spruce Knob has both Atlantis and Aphrodite Fritillaries telling these two apart is pretty tricky. When I took this I thought it was an Atlantis Fritillary, but a closer look leads me to Aphrodite Fritillary, Speyeria aphrodite. See my page on this species.
Above and below are Atlantis Fritillary, Speyeria Atlantis on Common Milkweed
The above photo was one of those Oh, wow photos knowing it was special before I chimped it.
If you do not know what chimping is, it is when you take a digital photos and you look at the display. See my page on these butterflies.
A Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta on Viper's Bugloss, Echium vulgare a very good nectar plant for butterflies, from Europe and Asia though....
My page on Red Admirals. 
Here is a female Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa She was laying eggs in the only willow bush at the top of Spruce Knob the highest elevation in West Virginia. That willow has always had Mourning Cloaks every time I have visited there. This one was drying off after a quick thunder shower that came in while I was photographing the Gray Comma below.
This Gray Comma, Polygonia progne was hunkering down for an approaching thunder storm. I grabbed the spruce limb and pulled it down, the big camera could not focus one handed. It was a strong limb to pull down so I got out my trusty G11 Canon point and shoot and took this photo from an inch away well over my head with one hand. BTW Meg had already fled to safety in the car, I was thinking this might be the elusive Green Comma which I have not yet seen.

Our first stop in the West Virginia mountains led  us to this rare Gray Comma above and below. It even nectared on a daisy but I failed to get a photo. We saw 4 of these at different sites over the two days were were there. Four might have doubled the number of Gray Commas I have seen.
Along Gandy Creek I found hundreds of grass skippers on these deer bones. The dark ones with lighter centers are Peck's Skippers usually 6-8 a day is a good day for them, this spot had close to one hundred of them. The other plain looking skipper is the European Skipper which we saw at least a thousand of them over the two days we were there.  If you found flowers that butterflies liked it was a sure bet European Skipper would be seen.

In case you did not notice every butterfly species shown above has a link to my pages on that species, feel free to check them out.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Odes from WV 2 day trip!

This past week we stopped on the way back from my nephews wedding to camp at Spruce Knob in the mountains of WV. One Monday and Tuesday I spent about 6 hours a day trekking around Spruce Knob Lake and a beaver pond ditch below the lake. Also looked around Gandy Creek for odes as well.

I'll do a post after this with a lot of butterfly photos as soon as I get a chance.

 Male Superb Jewelwing, Calopteryx amata

Female Superb Jewelwing photo above and below.
These were found along Gandy Creek. Gandy Creek only had Superb and Ebony Jewelwings and Common Whitetails.
Hagen's Bluet, Enallagma hageni (male)
These are hard to ID just from a photo like this, so I could be wrong on the ID.
I featured this damselfly on another recent posting it is a male
Aurora Damsel, Chromagrion conditumFound at the back of Spruce Knob Lake and a singleton along Gandy Creek
More on this species at Jim Bangma's website

Variable Dancer, Argia fumipenni or Violet Dancer, Argia fumipennis violacea (male)
The Variable Dancers where we live have amber tinted wings, these northern ones do no have tinted wings.
The above photo is a female Eastern Forktail, Ischnura verticalis
and the photo below is the male Eastern Forktail.
There are records of this species in our area but I have failed to find them, in WV they are very common. You can find out more about them at Stephen's website
Brown Spiketail, Cordulegaster bilineata
I saw several of these in the back waters of Spruce Knob Lake and below the beaver pond. They pose nicely for photos. See Jeff Pippen's page for more info.
Not sure on the ID here these are meadowhawks but given the difficulty to ID them I can't say for sure. Female above and male below. My guess would be Ruby Meadowhawk, but it just a guess.
Unicorn Clubtail, Arigomphus villosipes
above and below photos.
These were found in good numbers at the top of the beaver pond and the back of Spruce Knob Lake. Stephen's site on this species
I reported these incorrectly they are male Southern Pygmy Clubtail, Lanthus vernalis
Found lots of these in small rocky creeks perched on the rocks, my first for West Virginia. I have not seen this species in many years since I found females perched in trees in western North Carolina. Will Cook's page on this species

Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Libellula pulchella
Saw more of these than I ever have around the beaver pond there were more than 3 dozen alone flying all about chasing each other. Stephen's page on these.
Chaulk-fronted Corporal, Ladona julia
Saw fewer of these than most of the times I visited Spruce Knob Lake and they usually are easy to photograph, not this year. Jim's page on these.
Calico Pennant, Celithemis elisa (male)
The most common dragonfly we saw.
They were everywhere I estimated seeing at least 150 of them.
Male Dot-tailed Whiteface, Leucorrhinia intacta
My first for West Virginia, I have seen them in Maryland and Pennsylvania
Stephen's page on this species 

Wait until I get to the butterflies!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Plants from Penny's Bend

Penny's Bend is known for several endangered plants like the Smooth Coneflower (Echinacea laevigata) shown above and  below. This site had maybe 50 plants in bloom, I have visited another site with hundreds of these plants. I'd have to blindfold you to take you there though.

Here is a milkweed vine, I used to know the name but have forgotten it.
Now an unusual sport of the same vine.
Down the road from Penny's Bend was a landscape planting at Treyburn of Magnolia grandifolia and this bloom was around 14 inches in diameter. The fragrance was intense! I wanted to see if my G11 camera was up to the bright white against a dark background, it did fairly well if you ask me.

A few weeks ago we visited old downtown Wilmington and the older Magnolia grandiflorias were in bloom and most the aroma could be taken in a hundred feet away it was really something.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Butterfly Yard List Complete?


It happened on Saturday June 5th a Zebra Swallowtail nearly flew into Meg while we were both enjoying coffee on the new in the woods deck in our yard. This butterfly has been evading my yard list for over 13 years! I can not think of any other easy butterflies that could show up here.

Below the yard list is a list of faint possibilities with Harvester and Confused Cloudywing being the only species real chances of showing up. You know faint possibilities have showed up there back in 1997 a Zebra Longwing showed up when I started the list.

Here is the new list:

1 Pipevine Swallowtail
2 Zebra Swallowtail New in 2010
3 Black Swallowtail
4 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
5 Spicebush Swallowtail
6 Cabbage White
7 Falcate Orangetip
8 Clouded Sulphur
9 Orange Sulphur
10 Cloudless Sulphur
11 Little Yellow
12 Sleepy Orange
13 Great Purple Hairstreak
14 Coral Hairstreak
15 Banded Hairstreak
16 Striped Hairstreak new in 2010
17 Henry's Elfin
18 Eastern Pine Elfin
19 Olive Hairstreak
20 White M Hairstreak
21 Gray Hairstreak
22 Red-banded Hairstreak
23 Eastern Tailed-Blue
24 Spring Azure
25 Summer Azure
26 American Snout
27 Gulf Fritillary "stray in 2008"
28 Zebra Longwing "stray in 1997"
29 Variegated Fritillary
30 Great Spangled Fritillary
31 Silvery Checkerspot
32 Pearl Crescent
33 Question Mark
34 Eastern Comma
35 Mourning Cloak
36 American Lady
37 Painted Lady
38 Red Admiral
39 Common Buckeye
40 Red-spotted Purple
41 Viceroy
42 Hackberry Emperor
43 Tawny Emperor
44 Northern Pearly-eye
45 Appalachian Brown new in 2009
46 Gemmed Satyr
47 Carolina Satyr
48 Little Wood-Satyr
49 Common Wood-Nymph
50 Monarch
51` Silver-spotted Skipper
52 Long-tailed Skipper "strays in"
53 Hoary Edge
54 Southern Cloudywing
55 Northern Cloudywing
56 Hayhurst's Scallopwing
57 Sleepy Duskywing
58 Juvenal's Duskywing
59 Horace's Duskywing
60 Zarrucco Duskywing
61 Wild Indigo Duskywing
62 Common Checkered Skipper
63 Common Sootywing
64 Swarthy Skipper
65 Clouded Skipper
66 Least Skipper
67 Fiery Skipper
68 Tawny-edged Skipper
69 Crossline Skipper
70 Southern Broken Dash
71 Northern Broken Dash
72 Little Glassywing
73 Sachem
74 Delaware Skipper
75 Zabulon Skipper
76 Dun Skipper
77 Pepper and Salt Skipper
78 Common Roadside-Skipper
79 Eufala Skipper
80 Ocola Skipper

The only other species I can come up with that have been seen in the county that by a fluke of nature could show up are:

Giant Swallowtail Highly unlikely yet a historical record exists for the county. Hercules Club has been growing well at a site around two miles from here.

Palamedes Swallowtail No records in the county, this species seems to be spreading out, I had a new county record in Durham this year.

Checkered White Guess it is possible, but the most recent records are from 40 miles away or so in Wake and Caswell counties.

Harvester Probably my best bet to find yet still unlikely. The creek below us does have some decent stands of American Beech with Wooly Aphids about 1/2 mile from here.

American Copper No county records, it has been seen maybe 40 miles from here. Not very likely.

Oak Hairstreak No county records, yet this year was a bumper year for new records of the species, too late to find them this year.

Southern Pearly-eye Has been seen in the county, yet I can't recall ever hearing about any records in the county. It uses cane and there is no cane anywhere around here. very unlikely.

Dorantes Longtail There is a record in the county it would be a very rare migrant from southern Florida, very very unlikely.

Golden Banded Skipper One historical record in the county. The host plant Hog Peanut is abundant along our road and the habitat is somewhat similar to where I found 2 of them in Caswell County years ago. Still very unlikely or very lucky to find.

Confused Cloudywing Rare and one of my best possibilities to find, would require good photos to make sure on the ID. Probably my best bet to find.

Mottled Duskywing No county records, yet the host plant New Jersey Tea does grow well along our road. Still not very likely.

Dion Skipper Might be found along the North Fork of the Little River 1/2 mile from here but not in the local yard. I saw one of these yesterday in Durham.

Lace-winged Roadside-Skipper Might be found along the North Fork of the Little River 1/2 mile from here but not in the local yard.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The re-purposed deck has come a long way!

It has been about 2 years since we built the addition and the old 10 x 16 deck was pushed aside. It remained in the edge of the yard for a long time. An eye sore it was! I wanted to cut it up and haul it off, but never got around to it. Meg suggested we move it into the woods and re use it.

So about a year ago I rolled it into the woods using pry bars and 4 inch PVC pipes. We finally came up with a good location for it a few months ago and I moved it to it's final resting spot. Last month I jacked it up and leveled it and set footers under it. Made the posts out of cut offs from recent jobs I did, all scraps. So it set there with both the ends two 2 x 6s missing, they were removed to unbolt the deck from the house and to remove the awful old hand railings!

Recently I built this deck in the woods with benches and suggested to Meg we build a small bench before we close up the ends.  We came up with a U shaped bench and I gathered up the material to build it. The short pieces used were all left over scraps from other jobs.

The old deck boards are really old. The 2 x 10 that is resting on the ground at one corner actually says it is treated for ground contact, normally ground contact is only 4 x 4sand 6 x 6s not the framing lumber. That 2 x 10 had a date stamp 1984! The dark spot in the middle is from where we used to have a suet feeder hanging above the deck, that does not pressure wash off.

Closer details on the bench shows the left over decking boards on the short end of the bench. NC building code requires decks over 30 inches off the ground to have hand railing, the benches make the deck no longer 30 inches off the ground unless you are standing on the bench. I also projected the benches back off the deck 3 inches, this gives you more room on the deck and makes it easier to clean under the benches too.

Here you can see the rest of the work I still need to do. Dig out two more footings and secure 2 more posts made from left overs. The section on the right was part of the ramp we removed it is 4 x 10 foot and set down one step down from the now 10 x 14 deck.  The 6 x 6s used as bench posts have 3 notches cut in them, one notch to set it on the 2 x 10 band board on the deck and the other two to set 2 x 6s on for the bench frame.

So here you can see I did shot the entire deck I was hiding the mess there.
Here is a list of the stuff I had to buy to refurbish and customize this deck.

3 - 2 x6 x 16 treated pine (replaced deck boards)
1 - 2 x 8 x16 treated pine (replaced deck boards)
4 - 2 x 6 x 12 treated pine for bench frame
1 - 6 x6 x 8 treated pine for bench supports ( I had a 2 ft piece of scrap)
6 - 80# bags of concrete
And about $60 worth of decking screws, 5/8 inch galvanized bolts
If I was paying someone to move and build this as shown above it would have been around $1500 labor or more.

Tomorrow I plan on finishing refurbishing the old picnic table Meg has had for years. It has a metal frame and was made of oak and varnished at one point. The benches for the picnic table are done, I used treated pine decking boards to replace the oak