Red admiral photo’d by Will Kerling on 12-4-12 at Cape May Point. This species will apparently be the last recorded this year — on 12-23-12, also by Will.
Will Kerling has been carefully following the persistence of four species of butterflies he has dubbed “The Fab Four”: orange sulphur, common buckeye, red admiral, and mourning cloak. All were recorded each month of this year January to November, and only the last did not appear for us this month. Their persistence goes back longer than that, however, as he notes here:
We had an orange sulphur entry on 3.26.11 which lead to records for them every month since, through December 2012: 22 straight months for this species!
The red admiral had a mid-April 2011 entry (4.14.11) which lead to records for them every month through December 2012: 21 straight months for this species!
The common buckeye had an entry on 4.11.11 which lead to records for them every month through December 2012: 21 straight months for this species!
Will 2013 continue any of these streaks?
December 23, 2012 was my last Butterfly Day unless a total miracle happens (Butterfly Days for 2012 = 299*). Unless someone finds a mourning cloak in a tree well, a shed or something of the sort we will miss it only in December of this year.
My entry of red admiral on December 23rd, 2012 in the Cape May Point State Park (2:05 pm) will probably be the last butterfly entry of 2012.
* Butterfly Day = a date with at least one observation of butterfly.
Will has recorded at least one butterfly, and usually many more, on 299 days in 2012. That is an amazing record. Congratulations and big thank-you to our leading contributor!
Can we still call it a summer azure? Photo by Will Kerling on 11-11-12 at Cape May Point.
I’ve updated the original November 12 post below by adding the final compilation for the month and the list of November’s contributors.
Yesterday’s warm weather brought out the butterflyers and the butterflies. We had seventeen different observers out and about (and reporting) and we found sixteen species in a single November day.
At the moment we have recorded eighteen species for the month:
black swallowtail (caterpillars only)
eastern tailed blue
The two species seen earlier in the month but not reported yesterday are eastern comma (reported on 11-10-12) and fiery skipper (seen this month only on 11-1-12).
Last fall we recorded nineteen species for the month. Two falls ago, 2010, we had our best November in our five years of logging, recording twenty-three species. Three species found in both those Novembers and not yet recorded this month are American snout, variegated fritillary, and common checkered skipper. Has the storm limited our chances of finding any of those three this year? The last snout this year (so far) was seen on 10-26; the last sightings of fritillary and checkered skipper were both on 10-21.
Good luck out there, everyone!
Update 11-12-12: Chip Krilowicz has found our 19th species for the month. Thank you, Chip!
Variegated fritillary 11-12-12 at Pennington Farm. Photo by Chip Krilowicz.
Final November Update and Compilation:
Chip’s variegated was the last new species added for the month of November and we ended with nineteen for the month.
Here’s the compilation for all records for the month. Hit the plus sign for easier viewing:
Thanks to each of who contributed your observations in November, 2012:
Bridget and Patrick O’Connor
Chris & Paula Williams
Shawn & Jessica Wainwright
Let me know if I overlooked anyone.
Have a refreshing winter break, South Jersey butterflyers, and see you right back here come next spring — or maybe come another “winter” like 2012′s, when butterflies flew in every month.
Will Kerling photo’d this orange sulphur, apparently a survivor of Hurricane Sandy on 10-31-12, two days after the storm made landfall.
Superstorm Sandy’s high winds, devastating surf, and extensive damage to dunes, beaches, houses, businesses, parks, and wildlife areas meant October 2012 ended with bad news. Until those last few days, we were having another excellent month.
Observers reported 47 species in October, several on new late dates:
tiger swallowtail (new late date: 10-6)
little yellow (multiple reports for 5th month)
long-tailed skipper (93 reports and new late date: 10-24)
Horace’s duskywing (new late date: 10-24)
wild indigo duskywing (new late date: 10-25)
common checkered skipper
clouded skipper (new late date:10-14)
tawny-edged skipper (new l.d.: 10-5)
little glassywing (new l.d.:10-11)
broad-winged skipper (new l.d.:10-5)
Brazilian skipper (app. 4 different individuals)
Fresh cloudless sulphur egg photo’d by Will Kerling on 10-26-12.
Our total of 2287 records for the month brought our total for the year to 18,000+, already 5K more than our previous high for a single year (13,400 in 2010) — and we have November and December yet to come.
Thanks to each of who contributed your observations in October, 2012:
Michael O’ Brien
Keep them coming, everyone.
Here’s a significant find that came in a little late to be included in our original compilation of September reports: a sleepy orange found and photo’d by Deni Regensburg in her garden in Ocean View on 9-28-12. This record will be added into the end-of-year compilation.
For the full spreadsheet for October, go to the link below and hit the + sign for easier viewing:
Sam Galick photo’d this leucistic monarch among the many thousands of monarchs seen at Cape May on 9-29-12.
Update (10-8-12): Link to September compilation now included here (scroll about 4/5 down).
Whew, thank goodness for a rainy day this morning and some time to reflect back over the excitement and action of South Jersey butterflying during the past eight or ten weeks.
Some of the highlights:
–>little-known or unknown colonies of both checkered white and harvester discovered in our area;
–>giant swallowtails in at least four different locations;
–>little yellows so numerous and widely scattered they seem almost expected (and perhaps even under-appreciated in the flurry of other rarities?);
–>a spectacular southbound flight of painted ladies;
–>a spectacular northbound flight of long-tailed skippers with sightings in seven of our eight counties (and also in at least a few counties in North Jersey);
–>Ocola skippers and fiery skippers sweeping into the area as well;
–>Brazilian skippers making what seems almost certainly an unprecedented incursion into our area;
–> one of the best monarch flights of the past twenty years;
and lots else!
Except for the monarchs, which CMBO and others have been diligently and commendably counting for many years, we do not know how the butterfly numbers of this year compare to the flights of ten or twenty years ago. Someone might have personal memories or notes of a late summer/early fall a decade or two ago when the activity matched 2012′s (anyone?), but no previous period like this has been documented as this year’s has been — by so many observers working together throughout the area and compiling so many thousands of reports.
We now have the data to compare this year with any similar future year. Five or ten years from now, we will have our numbers from this year to make real comparisons between 2012 and any similarly action-packed August/September. We will then be in a much better position to know how unusual this year has been.
Thanks to each of you for getting out in the field over the last two months and taking the time to contribute your reports. Whether it was one report or many hundreds of reports, let’s all keep at it!
Michael O’ Brien
That’s at least 57 observers who contributed sightings during August and/or September. (Let me know if I overlooked anyone.)
Our total of observations in August — 3300+ — broke our five-year record for any single month, which we had just established the previous month (with 3200+ reports in July).
I can round off those two numbers because this last month we crushed both those totals and all previous months in our five-year history. We more than doubled our totals for September 2011 and we set a new single-month record: in the thirty days of September we compiled 3647 reports.
We found 62 species in September, including two species new for the year: bronze copper on 9-9-12 (found at Mannheim Marsh by Dave Amadio, our only record for the year) and Brazilian skipper on 9-19-12 (first found by Jim & Doyle Dowdell in their yard in Villas). We had more than a hundred individual reports of long-tailed skippers (and an estimated total of 255 individuals, almost certainly an under-count). Some other highlights for the month: sleepy orange was regular in the Dowdells’ garden the entire month (9-2-12 to 9-28-12) and also was found in Cumberland County on 9-1-12 by Brian Johnson. Cloudless sulphur had a wonderful month (especially in contrast to 2011, when it went virtually unreported): more than 200 reports of the species, and an estimated total well over 1000 individuals (again an undercount as several observers could only estimate numbers as they streamed by). Pat and Clay Sutton also reported (and photo’d beautifully) the caterpillars and chrysalids of the species in their garden.
Here’s the complete report for September in pdf form (hit the + for easier viewing):
….. And as I was typing this, I was interrupted by a phone call from Will Kerling, who has been out this morning — in windbreaker — in search of at least one butterfly he could add to our compilation for the day, despite the wind, drizzle, and low temperatures (high 40s-low 50s).
And what did he find?
A Brazilian skipper in the rain (!), found and photo’d by Will Kerling at a new locale in Cape May, 10-7-12. (The plant seems to be a variegated yellow Canna.)
Under the circumstances, that has to be one of the most startling discoveries of the year… so far.
So, who’s up for running out the door now, onward into October?
Brazilian skipper, photo’d by Steve Glynn at Woodland Village, Clermont (Cape May Co) 9-27-12.
Our newest contributing observer, Steve Glynn of Millville, jumped into our pool with a big splash last week, by recording our 4th record of Brazilian skipper for the year (and only the 5th in the five years of our log’s existence). Steve considered the possibility that it had escaped from the “Imagine Butterflies” exhibit. Apparently, however, Brazilian skippers are not kept in that museum (may even be legally forbidden): they are considered a pest species (as caterpillars) and they also lack the big wings and gaudy colors butterfly museums prefer. Steve’s skipper is almost certainly a free-flying individual that has come a long, long way by self-propulsion from its home range — as have the others so far located this year.
So far, all four reports of the species have come from Cape May. Is there a sharp & lucky observer out there who can add a record from north of the peninsula? That would be a first for New Jersey, it seems, and this might very well be the year to do it!
Brazilian skipper found by Chris Tonkinson and Will Kerling, on Beach Avenue in North Cape May, 9-22-12, photo’d by Will Kerling.
We have also had three records this month of clouded skipper, which is both rare (no log records in 2011, one in 2010, none in 2009), and also tough to ID. The dusty edging on ventral wings can be reminiscent of a female zabulon, but clouded is less flashy in most lights (so say the observers who have seen it).
Chris Tonkinson found the third and most recent individual on 9-23-12 at Cape May Point State Park, and we have photographs from two contributors documenting her find:
Clouded skipper photo’d by Sam Galick at Cape May Point State Park, 9-23-12.
Clouded skipper photo’d by Will Kerling at Cape May Point State Park, 9-23-12.
Congratulations to the finders and photogs above!
Our log’s next challenge: can we “spread the wealth” around by finding either of these skipper rarities north of the peninusula?
Keep exploring and logging, everyone!
Bronze copper, our only report of the year, photo’d by Dave Amadio on Sunset Drive, Salem County, 9-9-12.
As everyone who visits our log knows by now, Cape May has been the hottest of hot spots for the last couple of weeks, drawing an amazing array of butterflies (and butterflyers), giving us multiple reports of a mind-boggling list of rarities. It’s some show down there!
But let’s not forget the rest of our area. Scroll through our log a little to see what’s happening in our “northern” counties and you will find that the butterflying is very good elsewhere across our whole region as well.
Some highlights north of Cape May include:
Dave Amadio found four harvesters (remember them?) still flying at Chestnut River Branch in Gloucester County on 9-16-12.
Chip Krilowicz photo’d eight harvester caterpillars in Laurel Ravine in Camden County on 9-6-12. He also photo’d fiery skipper in his yard in Haddonfield, Camden County, on 9-6-12 and recorded the same species at Palmyra Cove Nature Center, Burlington County, on 9-20-12. Chip added Burlington County to our list of long-tailed skipper records with his find there in Pennington Park on 9-20-12.
Chris Herz had twenty-one common checkered skippers at Gloucester Community College on 9-13-12 and hit double digits again a few days later with fourteen on 9-17-12. She also had both a dark-form female tiger swallowtail and a fiery skipper at Riverwinds in Gloucester on 9-16-12.
Brian Johnson found at least thirty common checkered skippers on Bayside Road in Cumberland County on 9-15-12.
Both Brian Johnson and Dale Schweitzer recorded long-tailed skippers in Cumberland County, in or near Port Norris, on 9-7-12 and 9-17-12 respectively.
Matt Webster had a long-tailed in his yard in Camden County on 9-17-12.
Shawn Wainwright had a long-tailed in his yard in Toms River in Ocean County on two successive days, 9-21-12 and 9-22-12. Shawn also photo’d an Ocola there on 9-21-12, giving us our 5th county for that species this year: Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, Gloucester, and Ocean.
Jesse Connor’s garden in Port Republic in Atlantic County drew a long-tailed skipper to the same Verbena plant already hosting a fiery skipper and Ocola skipper, so that all three “southern strays” were nectaring there simultaneously, on 9-23-12. A few minutes later, a second long-tailed joined the first.
Side-by-side long-tailed skippers in Port Republic (Atlantic Co), 9-23-12.
Outside our region, but not too far, Michael Gochfeld and Joanna Burger’s garden in Somerset County brought in their first long-tailed skipper on 9-21-12.
That gives us long-tailed records for six of our area’s eight counties (Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, and Ocean) and one in Somerset. So, long-tails have appeared in at least seven counties in the state this year — with more to come, almost certainly, farther north, and maybe also to the west in Gloucester and Salem.
Can we find a long-tail in each of South Jersey eight counties in one season? That would be a very cool record of butterflyers’ team work, and maybe something never previously accomplished (?).
Keep those reports coming, everyone! What a year!
9-25-12 Update: In response to this post Michael Gochfeld has passed along a report of a long-tailed skipper at Overpeck Park (Teaneck) by the GW Bridge area. The date is not certain, but that adds Bergen County to the NJ records this year.
9-26-12 Update: Will Kerling reports: “Under the NABA Butterfly Sightings, there is an entry (with photos) for Betty Lampkin’s sighting of a Long-tailed Skipper on Sept. 25, 2012. The site is a garden at Cedar Crest Retirement Village next to Mountainship Park – Morris County, NJ.”
So, those two reports mean long-tailed skippers have been seen in at least nine counties in the state this year: Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Ocean, Somerset, Bergen, and Morris.
Please pass along any reports from outside South Jersey (and keep logging any inside SJ!). It will be interesting to see how widespread this year’s invasion becomes.
Long-tailed skipper missing its tails photo’d by Cynthia Allen in her garden on 9-3-12.
A second long-tailed skipper, with both tails, photo’d by Cynthia in her garden the very next day, 9-4-12. The northernmost area of the species’ regular breeding range seems to be in North Carolina or southern Virginia. Why do they and other “autumn vagrants” come our way?
Six butterflies are generally considered called “southern migrants” or “autumn vagrants” in our area because they wander up here in late summer/early fall with some regularity although their recognized breeding ranges do not reach New Jersey. None of their life stages — eggs, caterpillars, crysalids, or adults — seem able to withstand our winters, but each fall we see at least a few individuals of most of these species.
This year we have had all six species push up here earlier than expected. All first appeared before September 1st, four of them weeks or months before:
little yellow FOY on May 6
cloudless sulphur FOY on May 26
fiery skipper FOY on June 30
Ocola skipper FOY on August 9
sleepy orange FOY on August 23
long-tailed skipper FOY on August 29
Each of those dates is the earliest we have recorded for the species in our five years of logging, except August 23 for sleepy orange, our second-earliest FOY.
The most apparent explanation for these “wrong-way” flights is that they are a way for the species to stretch the limits of its range. Sending doomed pioneers northward each fall could work for the species if the climate eventually changed and enabled some to survive.
But that explanation has a flaw. A species is not a community working together. Instead, each is a set of individuals all working for themselves to preserve their own genes in future generations.
If the individuals crossing Delaware Bay and moving northward cannot leave successful eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalids that become adults surviving to breed themselves, what do vagrants gain by their long flights? They seem like sacrificial victims to a widespread urge that may be good for the species in the long run but seems entirely wasteful for wanderers individually.
A good-for-the-individual explanation would work if there is a return flight by the off-spring of these late summer wanderers, but have we ever seen any evidence for that?
Another, related question:
Is this year’s pattern — all six species here and earlier than usual — simply a flukey event, or is it a sign of things to come in future years? Over the next two or three decades will cloudless sulphur and perhaps one or two of the others follow the sachem’s apparent path over the past several decades and push their breeding range into our area?
Ocola skipper at CMBO’s Goshen garden photo’d by Chris Tonkinson on 9-4-12.
Ocola in Port Republic 9-1-12.
Little yellow photo’d by Sam Galick near his driveway 9-8-12. Sam notes: “It was ovipositing eggs on partridge pea in an area where I decided not to mow the grass yesterday because I saw partridge pea — in the off chance that a little yellow would stop by, and what do you know? Sweet!”
For more on this puzzle of “wrong-way” migration, see: Pied-Piper Migration
For a discussion of the connection between global climate change effect and the expansion of a number of southern butterflies into Massachusetts, see Another Reason Good Reason To Do What We Do
Keep exploring, everyone. Can we find a seventh autumn stray — now that the official start of autumn is actually close?
This sleepy orange, found and photo’d by Jim Dowdell in his yard in Cape May County 8-23-12 and 8-24-12, gives us 91 species for 2012 and seems to complete our sweep of the pierids possible in South Jersey, unless…..
Will we be able to repeat this year’s success with the pierids in any future year? It will be a challenge. Eight species of pierids occur in South Jersey, three of them only rarely, and all have been recorded this year.
Three are whites: cabbage white, falcate orangetip, and checkered white (the last a species we had not recorded on our log until this year).
Five are sulphurs: orange sulphur, common [clouded] sulphur, cloudless sulphur, and two genuine rarities — little yellow and sleepy orange.
Jim Dowdell find in his yard above completes our sweep of the family, it seems….
…unless there is another pierid out there, lingering somewhere…. one we have never before recorded on our log….
….and maybe it’s winging its way toward you and your binocs or camera right now….
Keep alert, everyone!
Some other recent pierid shots for inspiration:
Cloudless sulphur in flight, photo’d by Tony Leukering, Cape May Co, 8-22-12.
Cloudless sulphur at rest, photo’d by Will Kerling, Cape May Co, 8-24-12.
A cloudless sulphur caterpillar feeding on flowering partridge pea, photo’d by Pat Sutton in her garden, 8-21-12.
Zabulon skipper, one of twelve southern species that have expanded into Massachusetts over the past two decades, apparently in response to climate change.
Chasing butterflies is fun, as everyone in our group knows. And it’s a challenge as well — testing mind, body, and spirit — again as everyone here knows.
Let’s remember also, however, that those chases can lead to something more important than personal thrills and satisfaction. Our log is only five years old, but the data collection we have created is already valuable — and the more data we gather and the longer we keep compiling, the more valuable our log will become.
Both Michael Gochfeld and Cynthia Allen passed along the news article linked below, a synopsis of a recent publication from Harvard Forest investigating the data gathered by the Massachusetts Butterfly Club over twenty+ years. The observations they have recorded so diligently over those years documents that a number of northern species (e.g. Atlantic fritillary and Acadian hairstreak) are declining while a number of southern species (e.g. zabulon skipper) are expanding, apparently in response to climate change.
Here’s the passage that seems most relevant to our logging:
Elizabeth Crone, a Harvard Forest senior ecologist who worked on the report, said while she was not surprised by the results of the study, she didn’t expect data collected by a group of citizen scientists to have such clear-cut results.
Crone said she decided to lead the study based both on professional and personal curiosity. The ecologist, who moved to Massachusetts in December 2010, said she ran across the Massachusetts Butterfly Club’s data while trying to learn more about the state’s butterfly community.
She said long-term monitoring data, like that the club kept on butterfly populations in the state, is not common in the scientific community because of budget and time constraints.
“There’s been a lot of awareness about climate change effects qualitatively, but not quantitatively,” Crone said. “It’s amazing what this group of citizen scientists had done.”
So, all you citizen scientists out there, chasing down those butterflies and participating in our logging and blogging, let’s keep at it here in our state as well!
You can read the Associated Press article synopsis at this link:
A slightly, more detailed synopsis from the Harvard Forest website is at this link:
For the full report from Harvard Forest by G.A. Breed, S. Stichter, and E.Crone published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, go here:
Can you name the butterfly species in this beautiful photo by Harvey Tomlinson from 7-21-12 at Bunker Pond, Cape May Point State Park? Answer below.
Thirty-four observers contributed a truly remarkable total of 3210 reports, the most we have ever had in one month by more than a thousand. (The previous record seems to be July 2011, when we totaled 2100 reports.)
We added three new species for the year and totaled 67 species for the month (two more than the 65 of July 2011).
FOYs for July
Three species were new for the year and one of them (checkered white) new for our five years of logging:
dion skipper, 7-5-12
checkered white, 7-25-12
meadow fritillary, 7-27-12
As of 7-31-12, we have recorded 86 species for the year, very close to the total we had last year at this time, when we found our 86th species, hoary-edged skipper, on 8-3-11.
Our species list for July 2012:
eastern tiger swallowtail
white m hairstreak
little wood satyr
wild indigo duskywing
salt marsh skipper
The stars of the show of the month were the Pierids. Checkered whites made Salem County the place to be in the last week of July and the flight may now continue into August (see earlier posts — below — for details).
And meanwhile, little yellows are giving us the best flight in years, at least in Cumberland and Cape May Counties. Let’s hope it continues into fall and pushes north as well.
A little yellow photo’d by Will Kerling 7-29-12, Cape May Co.
Contributors in July 2012:
Cynthia Allen, Wendy Allen, Dave Amadio, Jesse Connor, Jack Connor, Mike Crewe, Joe Demko, Rhea Doherty, Deb Dowdell, Jim Dowdell, Kathy Flynn, Amy Gaberlein, Sam Galick, Jean Gutsmuth, Chris Herz, Brian Johnson, Sandra Keller, Will Kerling, Tiffany Kersten, Tony Klock, Chip Krilowicz, Tony Leukering, Mary Mizener, Michael O’Brien, Brendan O’Connor, Bridget O’Connor, Mike Russell, Bill Schuhl, Edie Schuhl, Clay Sutton, Pat Sutton, Harvey Tomlinson, Chris Tonkinson, and David Wright.
Thanks to each of you.
The full compilation in pdf form is here. Hit the plus sign for easier viewing.
Keep exploring and reporting!
…Oh, Yeah, the Puzzle Answer
The butterfly in Harvey T’s photo is a cabbage white, believe it or not. Will Kerling identified it, David Wright confirmed that ID and noted, “The variation that shows up in Cape May is not that frequent. It [also] appears in the imported population in Hawaii.” He passed along the photo to Art Shapiro at UC Davis, “one of the world’s experts on pierids. He called it a very white summer phenotype male P. rapae.”