Pettigrew State Park NABA Count – Aug 28, 2016

Yesterday (August 28), the Pettigrew SP, NC, butterfly count was held, under relatively poor conditions — mostly cloudy and somewhat threatening skies and winds of 10-12 mph. The afternoon was cloudy with a few sprinkles here and there, but winds were still an issue. We had outstanding coverage, with six parties: Jeff Pippen and me; Ed Corey; Salman Abdulali; Signa and Floyd Williams; Nick and Elisa Flanders; and Randy Emmitt and Tom and Barbara Driscoll.

Zebra Swallowtail 49
Black Swallowtail 24
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail 98
Spicebush Swallowtail 32
Palamedes Swallowtail 207
Cabbage White 12
Orange Sulphur 77
Cloudless Sulphur 511
Sleepy Orange 1,090
Gray Hairstreak 14
Red-banded Hairstreak 3 low
Eastern Tailed-Blue 4 always scarce on this count, for no obvious reason
Summer Azure 70
Variegated Fritillary 69
Pearl Crescent 138
Question Mark 5
Eastern Comma 1
Red Admiral 24
Common Buckeye 116
Red-spotted Purple 21
Viceroy 37
Southern Pearly-eye 6 good number of pearly-eyes of both species
Creole Pearly-eye 2
pearly-eye sp. 3
Carolina Satyr 9 low; did not attempt to discern if any might be Intricates
Common Wood-Nymph 2
Monarch 6 only seen by one party!
Silver-spotted Skipper 169
Horace’s Duskywing 3
Zarucco Duskywing 1 scarce in the area
Common Checkered-Skipper 22
Common Sootywing 22
Clouded Skipper 2 low
Least Skipper 341 very high, at least relative to other skippers
Fiery Skipper 51
Sachem 1
Dion Skipper 7
Dun Skipper 2 quite low
Twin-spot Skipper 1 at northern edge of range
Ocola Skipper 37

Total: a very disappointing 39 species

Misses: Great Purple Hairstreak; American Lady; a wide variety of grass skippers we often get 1-2 individuals of, such as Whirlabout and Lace-winged Roadside-Skipper; and migrants such as Gulf Fritillary and Painted Lady. Though the first two were the only usual misses, with 5-6 parties and decent conditions, we usually get lots of ones and twos in the skippers and migrants that fill in holes to get to 45 or rarely 50 species.

What were much big bigger issues than the weather were the continued clearing and herbiciding of many ditches and canals in the area, and very sadly the obvious mosquito spraying that took place in much of the count circle, as evidenced by a near lack of most grass skippers and many other insects (including mosquitoes) where nectar sources were abundant. Masses of coastal Joe-pye-weed, ironweed, verbena, climbing hempweed, swamp milkweed, pickerelweed, etc., were devoid of nearly all butterflies and bees/wasps, even including swallowtails. This year has seen an increase in most butterfly populations across North Carolina since the devastating snow, ice, and freezes back in early 2013, but this area has been devastated by spraying. It was difficult to find skippers other than Least and Silver-spotted, but if you go to other areas of the Coastal Plain, this skipper dearth isn’t really a problem.

I want to sincerely thank the efforts of all of the observers, nearly all of whom had to travel 2-3 hours from their homes to reach the count circle, only to be confronted with a lack of skippers. Better butterflying back in your home areas!

Harry LeGrand