The Last Days of Winter - Part 1

Mark Walker MWalker at
Fri Mar 22 02:43:00 EST 2002

During the last week of winter I had the pleasure of heading back to Florida
for a weeklong business trip.  The trip would be a whirlwind of central and
southern Florida, and allowed me to survey the daytime Lepidoptera in many
counties including Seminole, Orange, Volusia, Lake, Putnam, Osceola, Martin,
Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Collier.  The trip would begin on
Thursday, March 14, in Volusia County, under a complete layer of low lying
fog.  I had hoped to start swinging a net by 9:00 a.m., but the fog wouldn't
lift until nearly 11:00 a.m.  I was angered at the injustice of it all, and
threw a nice little tantrum - as I had a lot of ground to cover and was
hoping to get up to Putnam County by noon.  Little did I know that the very
same layer of morning fog was killing many motorists in a horrific 50 car
pileup just up Interstate 75 in Georgia.  How spoiled I can be.
I never did end up finding any Callophrys species, which was principally
what I was after, but the sun finally did shine through and by noon the leps
began to fly.  I stopped for a lengthy inspection at several places within
the Ocala National Forest, and was pleased to find Erynnis brizo (Sleepy
Duskywing) fresh and very common at moist soil.  Many Swallowtails were
active here, including Papilio glaucus (Tiger Swallowtail), Papilio troilus
(Spicebush Swallowtail), Papilio palamedes (Palamedes Swallowtail), Battus
philenor (Pipevine Swallowtail), and Eurytides marcellus (Zebra
Swallowtail).  There were a few Nymphalids on the wing, including Vanessa
atalanta (Red Admiral), Hermeuptychia sosybius (Carolina Satyr), and Phoebis
sennae (Cloudless Sulphur), but for the most part they were absent in this
region.  Though there had been recent rain, there were plenty of indications
that the winter has been a dry one.  There was an abundance of bidens and
lantana blossoms flourished, but little was coming to nectar.  I saw no
Lycaenids except for Hemiargus ceraunus (Ceraunus Blue).
As the day began to wind down, I noticed that there were several fires
burning unchecked from within the NF.  By 4:00 p.m., much of the sky was
darkened and the smell of burning forest permeated the air.  This made for
an eerie landscape, and simply gave the leps (and me) just another reason to
call it a day.
On Friday we would head south for Miami.
Mark Walker
Freezing in Colorado Springs
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