Tagged: annual butterfly count

OFNC’s 16th annual butterfly count

team

The butterfly count is an annual OFNC event organized this year by Jeff Skevington. Working in groups or alone, participants patrol the same location – a 24-km diameter circle centred on Manion Corners – each year from about 9 a.m. to about 4 or 5 p.m. Data are submitted to the North American Butterfly Association.

Ideal habitat for a large number of butterflies, the count site includes both alvar and swamp.

Ideal habitat for a large number of butterflies, the count site includes both alvar and swamp.

This year, the count got off to a delayed start when high winds on Saturday caused the organizers to postpone the event hoping for better conditions on Sunday, 3 July. They were rewarded with a sunny morning, with wind speeds of 7-25 kph, although it became windier later in the day. By 3 p.m., light rain was falling, ending the count early. A potluck dinner followed.

Many of our veteran area leaders were away this year, so coverage was below normal. The largest group included both experts and enthusiastic newbies: Jeff Skevington, Angela Skevington, Alexander Skevington, Rob Ellis, Li-Shien Lee, Derek Ellis, Julia Ellis, Celeste Cassidy, Elizabeth Gammell, Reni Barlow, Juliet McMurren, Gabriel McMurren, Sarma Vishnubhatla, and Lakshmi Vishnubhatla. Well know local butterfly expert Rick Cavasin covered two other areas with help from Ian Whyte.

The results were very good for the two groups that were out. Wetlands were dry as a result of the drought conditions in our area, so Sedge Skippers and related fauna were absent or not detected.

According to Jeff, “The Delaware Skipper is increasing its range and moving north. They were rare in our area a few years ago and are now regular on counts (you can see the change over time on the summary count sheet). The others are all regularly observed species.”

Thanks to Sarma Vishnubhatla for the photos of the participants above and to Reni Barlow for the gallery of butterfly photos below (be sure to click on them for a better view)!

Summary of this year’s count
Inventory of species for 1998-2016

OFNC’s 15th annual butterfly count – one counter’s perspective

Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed photographed by Gillian Shields

by Gillian Shields

Editor’s note: The butterfly count is an annual OFNC event organized this year by Jeff Skevington and Peter Hall. Working in groups or alone, participants patrol the same location each year from about 9 a.m. to about 4 or 5 p.m.

The 15th annual Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ butterfly count took place Saturday, July 4, 2015 – on a perfect sunny summer day. This was the second count that my children and I have taken part in. We joined a record number of participants (34) at a point near Manion’s Corners, the centre of the 24-km diameter count circle (see map).

A great cross-section of young and old, beginner and expert was represented. Before heading out on the count, nets were distributed, and we were divided into groups that had at least one person with the expertise to identify butterflies caught. Captured butterflies were examined, identified, and then released.

Our group’s first stop was right next to the meeting area. Those of us with rubber boots meandered down into a marshy area next to a small creek while the rest of the group checked the wildflowers along the side of the road. We found some lovely Baltimore Checkerspots among the Swamp Milkweed (photo above right) and Blue Skullcap and surprised a fawn resting in a hiding spot in the reeds. We were also pleasantly surprised to see a Black-billed Cuckoo close to the marsh.

European Skipper

European Skipper photographed by Gillian Shields

The second stop brought us to Burnt Lands Provincial Nature Reserve. Permission had to be obtained before visiting the park, so it was a special privilege to visit this place that contains a rare alvar ecosystem with a diversity of plants and animals. In this stark beauty, we found many butterflies including this tiny European Skipper (photo left).

This area was also home to swaths of poison ivy, so our rubber boots did double duty and protected us from their oily secretions.

At this point we stopped for a roadside lunch by the alvar and, while we were eating, this stunning Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (below) settled down in the ditch next to us.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail photographed by Gillian Shields

24 Appalachian Browns were found during the count, a record number for this species. This one was photographed a week later at the Perth Wildlife Reserve by Peter Hall.

24 Appalachian Browns were found during the count, a record number for this species. This one was photographed a week later at the Perth Wildlife Reserve by Peter Hall.

Several roadside stops after lunch to check Prickly Ash, the larval food plant for Giant Swallowtails, proved disappointing, so we headed to the last stop. My daughter wanted to sit out this last hike, so I stayed with her while my son continued on. The last area included fields where they found a large number of Appalachian Browns, a nice surprise (see photo). It was a great day out and a fantastic activity that children can actively participate in.

A record 58 species were recorded, including one new species, a Little Glassywing, as well as record highs for Acadian Hairstreaks, Summer Azures, Eastern Commas, Grey Commas, Eyed Browns, Appalachian Browns, and Peck’s Skipper. See the tally for 2015 and previous years here: Annual Ottawa area butterfly count.

14th annual OFNC butterfly count

By Jeff Skevington

Hans Blokpoel with one of the easier to find Appalachian Browns from the count. Photo Alexander Skevington.

Hans Blokpoel with one of the easier to find Appalachian Browns from the count. Photo Alexander Skevington.

Single-day insect surveys are nerve-wracking as they are controlled to a great extent by the weather. It was thus a pleasure to awake on July 5 to spectacular weather for the 14th annual OFNC butterfly count. Butterflies like the sun, but shut down if it gets too hot. The day was perfect with a high of 27 degrees and no cloud. Thirty observers were in the field for the count this year and were treated to one of the best days out in recent memory.

Butterfly counts, like Christmas Bird Counts, are established around a standard count circle 24 km in diameter. Surveying hundreds of circles across North America every year allows for comparison of butterfly numbers and may provide insight into the health of our environment. Counts are coordinated by the North American Butterfly Association. Our circle is centred on Manion Corners west of Stittsville. Participants are divided among experienced group leaders. This year we had five groups in the field covering the circle and had some great highlights.

Manion Corners butterfly count circle.

Manion Corners butterfly count circle (click for larger image)

We rarely add new species that we have never seen before, but this year was exceptional with three additions! Peter Hall and his group found a Mulberry Wing at the south end of Beavertail Road (photo below left). This species is rare and local in the Ottawa area, mostly because its wet sedge meadow habitat is disappearing with development.

A second new species found this year, Two-spotted Skipper (below right), is also a wet sedge meadow specialist that is rare and local in our region. Our group found one in the wet meadow just south of our meeting area at the intersection of Dwyer Hill and March Roads and another in a wet meadow in Burnt Lands Provincial Park.

The first Mulberry Wing ever found on the count. Photo Peter Hall.

The first Mulberry Wing ever found on the count. Photo Peter Hall.

Another first for the count, Two-spotted Skipper. Photo Jeff Skevington.

Another first for the count, Two-spotted Skipper. Photo Jeff Skevington.

The other new find for the count was Giant Swallowtail. This species has been marching northward with climate warming and is already common in Ottawa despite just showing up here three years ago. Their larvae feed on Prickly Ash and our adult was seen on Burnt Lands Road in an area with lots of the host plant.

In addition to the three new species, we also set new high count records for six species: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (8), Mustard White (109), Banded Hairstreak (17), Summer Azure (165), Eastern Comma (17), and White Admiral (64).

Count results are online on the OFNC website. Thanks to everyone who participated!