Harry's Island

Mark Walker MWalker at gensym.com
Wed May 23 18:35:32 EDT 2001

When Harry Pavulaan and I were introduced on this newsgroup/uselist back in
1996 (I was a New-Englander at the time), Harry provided much encouragement
and advice on lepping in the mostly frigid northeast.  With his help, I was
able to explore many diverse habitats across both north and south New
England - areas that he had thoroughly explored during earlier days.  Harry
had fondest memories from one area in particular - southern Rhode Island.
He wrote - and forwarded to me - a pair of fantastic articles from the
spring and summer 1993 editions of the Journal of International Amateur
Entomology (a publication of the Young Entomologists' Society).  These
articles provide some fantastic and detailed information on the Butterflies
of Rhode Island's Great Swamp.

I won't even begin to try to describe this area - Harry's articles do a much
better job.  All I will mention is that the area has proven to be quite
productive and every bit as unpredictable as Harry warns from a weather
standpoint.  On Monday, May 14, 2001, I drove down from Manchester, NH to
southern Rhode Island for a look around.  It had been three years since I
had been there.  The skies were sunny and clear at 9:00 a.m., and the
forecast was partly cloudy through Tuesday.  I was quite surprised to see
thunderheads form out of nothing, completely obscuring the sky by about
noon.  Temps were in the 60's during the morning, the afternoon brought
rain, but I was not disappointed.  It was a short day of lepping, but the
diversity was incredible.

One of the bugs I searched for first was Henry's Elfin (Callophrys henrici).
The butterfly is known as a morning bug, and is always associated with it's
Holly (Ilex sp.) foodplant in the northern U.S.  I was pleased to find the
bug enjoying the morning sun - landing and perching on bare ground
(apparently too early for nectar), very close to a stand of American Holly
trees.  Celastrina sp. were super-abundant, with what appeared to be two
ssp. flying in overlapping broods (one darker blue with dark patches on the
hindwing below, and one much lighter with very light hindwings above and
without dark scaling below).  Also super-abundant were Juvenal's Duskywings
(Erynnis juvenalis).  These would dance around you during your walk, flying
ahead and landing for some sun with wings outstretched.  The females can be
stunning - and there was a good showing of these (about 1 in 5).

The highlight of this trip were the Hessel's Hairstreaks also found landing
on bare ground near the large White Cedar Swamp.  I have never seen this
butterfly - other than in collections or field guides.  I have been in Great
Swamp before, but without the good fortune of seeing this bug.  It is
absolutely gorgeous.

Of the spring butterflies described in Harry's article, I had the pleasure
of seeing most of them - even in the presence of otherwise non-ideal weather
conditions.  Skippers, Coppers, Hairstreaks, Blues, Elfins, Swallowtails,
Nymphalids, White's - all were present on this blustery spring morning.

Here's my list:

Papilio glaucus (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail)

Lycaena phlaeas (American Copper)
Callophrys polios (Hoary Elfin)
Callophrys henrici (Henry's Elfin)
Callophrys niphon (Eastern Pine Elfin)
Callophrys hesseli (Hessel's Hairstreak)

Everes comyntas (Eastern Tailed Blue)
Celastrina ladon? lucia? neglecta? (Spring Azure)
Phyciodes tharos (Pearl Crescentspot)
Nymphalis antiopa (Mourning Cloak)
Vanessa virginiensis (American Lady)
Vanessa atalanta (Red Admiral)
Junonia coenia (Buckeye)

Erynnis icelus (Dreamy Duskywing)
Erynnis brizo (Sleepy Duskywing)
Erynnis juvenalis (Juvenal's Duskywing)
Erynnis baptisiae (Wild Indigo Duskywing)
Hesperia metea (Cobweb Skipper)

Mark Walker
back in CA


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