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.
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)!
By Jeff SkevingtonSingle-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.
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 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!