Tuesday, August 16, 2011

12th Annual Durham Butterfly Count!

This was my 10th year doing the Durham Butterfly Count, I have missed one year since 1999, another year a hurricane canceled the count. Given the recent drought we thought the count would not fair too well. The 6 parties of counters were 1-2 counters in a party. I was by myself for the first time in many years.

When I got up the morning of the count the Doppler weather map showed a huge system of storms in Winston Salem and it was heading our way. By the time the system traveled 80 miles towards us in just dissipated into nothing. Still the morning was heavily overcast and gray, not the best for butterflying.

Silvery Checkerspot, Chlosyne nycteis

Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia 
 The host plant for the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly. At times this plant which can reach 10 ft tall can be covered in butterflies.
Gray Hairstreak on Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia
Can you see the wings twisting around the stem?

- Ailanthus Webworm Moth, Atteva punctella 
On wingstem.
You know the state parks budget has been slashed to the bones. I found this sign down next to the Eno River in the park. I have been through this part of the state park every since I have had a cell phone, I get great coverage with the cell most of the time. In the park I get no signal at all never have, great use of funding don't you think??

This mountain mint was everywhere in the Cole Mill Access of the Eno River State Park along the power line. It kept me extremely busy counting butterflies, must have been nearly an acre of this excellent butterfly attracting plant. I don't usually cover this area on the count, see the photo below.
One of my former favorite butterflying areas. The power line folks cut this back to the nubs, right down to the dirt during the 100 degree days we've had. Ok it is the power company's right of way. But it used to be 3 - 8 foot tall in Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, Butterfly Weed, Joe-Pye Weed, New York Ironweed, golden rods and Virgins' Bower. I could on a good day find 20-25 species of butterflies right here in the 1/4 mile stretch of gravel road. I did find 4 species during my count this time by the creek not shown in this photo. Hope these plants will grow back otherwise it is habitat loss again.

I also had another area of yellow composites along both sides of a paved road for 1/3 mile that last year I had over 500 butterflies on. I t was mowed down just like this, didn't bother to look it made me sick to see it.
Here I sort of got in trouble with Tom another party leader, I did not know he was counting this spot. Miss Huff lantana, you can see here 2/3 of the patch. I counted over 400 butterflies here mostly skippers.

 Red-spotted Purple
My first one of the day it was along the Eno River.
 Here is a Delaware Skipper it is uncommon here, I did see 2 of these. The bright orange is telling here seeing inside the wings help to clinch the ID. Not having an inside photo I could be wrong on this and it could be a Sachem. I did see 2 Delawares both gave me open wings to confirm them.

The most common butterfly seen on the count, I had 601 of them, the count total was 2118 Sachems. The male Sachem is the light orange skipper and the longer brown one with the chevon marking is the female Sachem.
Here is another female Sachem on Brazilian Verbena a common weed that attrcts butterflies when it is well watered.

Little River regional Park has a butterfly garden, it had 3 butterflies total. Usually the butterfly garden had lots of butterflies. I took this Sleepy Orange on Butterfly Weed photo in the garden there.
Wild Indigo Duskywing This was the only one of this uncommon butterfly I saw. It is one a Queen Anne's Lace seed head.

Brian added a new species to the count list a Harvester!
Here is a short video I took of some Wooly Aphids the Harvester larval food I found along the Eno River. Harvester is the only butterfly in the US with carnivorous larva which feed on Wooly Aphids and not plant material.

So the total tally for the day was 57 species of adult butterflies (+ Black Swallowtail caterpillars making 58 species, the adults were a no show) and 4540 butterflies were count in all. We were above average on species numbers and individual butterflies. Not what I expected when the day started out. Jeff's full report can be found at this link.


Andrea said...

Oh how nice to be counting butterflies, which i think will be difficult if done here because there might be double counts. I hope you come over to this country and we will also count ours, hahaha! I really love your photos, of course you have wonderful gadgets for them.

wiseacre said...

sounds like a great day, glad it exceeded your expectations.

As long as they didn't spray herbicides that power line area should regrow, those are tough wildflowers and cutting them back should only slow them down for a season.

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

You certainly get some great butterfly photos. What camaera and lens combination do you use? Being fairly new to your blog I do not know. The dire staits of your park system and the disregard for habitat along the roads gee, I thought for a moment you had made a trip out to California. Interesting post.

Kim and Victoria said...

Nice! Great photos! My former father-in-law built a "cabin" in the woods, and mowed down all the natural habitat (including trilliums!) to put in a lawn he could mow. Crazy.

Skeeter said...

What a shame the elec, company is doing. Here in our neck of the woods, they are installing Fiber optics all along the roadside. In the process, killing tons of trees and blooming beauties. I can only imagine what will happen as the storms take down those trees. What a mess they are causing....

Beautiful butterflies and wow, so many....

Looks like your bees are happy as can bee. Okay sorry could not resist that pun.... And what an interesting bee rescue up that tree. Brave soul indeed....

Karen said...

Randy, great photos of the butterflies, ever since I started following your blog every time I see a butterfly I want to run and get my camera. For some reason, they don't sit still for me like they do for you, lol.

Too bad about the power company mowing that all down, but I bet it will be back. Unfortunately, too late for the butterflies this year, but hopes for next year.

Talibra said...

Przepiękne motyle, śliczne zdjęcia.

greggo said...

nice surprise. numbers that is. Well documented. Enjoy you tour. What type of lens do you use?

Birds, Bees, Berries, and Blooms said...

I was hoping you would have photos from your butterfly count. I love your photos. Butterflies are so different. Thank you for the lessons, I enjoy them. Thank you so much for sharing.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

I am always in awe of your butterfly photos...and your knowledge of them! Super!
Oh, Freda made the ID on my mystery vine....Groundnut, Apios americana. Pretty cool!

sweetbay said...

Maybe the power company mowed to keep the woody plants down. Not a good time of year to do it though. You saw a lot of beautiful butterflies. Great photos!

Cameron said...

Wonderful thing you do each year!

The power company along a highway in Durham (noticed today) looked like they had used chemicals. Everything was that rusty brown color. Is that still legal? Shouldn't be!

What I love about the Blue Ridge Parkway is seeing all of the wildflowers. All those plants you mentioned. I'd love for my garden to look as good as those roadsides up there between Blowing Rock, NC and Galax, VA.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Darn neat. I should do one of these locally--but Saturday at 8am is too early for me (when they usually are).