by Nicole Hamilton
Our 2015 Butterfly count was another wonderful adventure! The weather was perfect, being in the high 70s to mid 80s, sunny with a light breeze, and with our team of count leaders we were able to field nine teams across our count circle. A total of 81 people came out for the count, and they included experienced as well as people brand new to butterflying. From the emails and photos that flew following the count, a lot of fun and new discoveries were made! One team even enjoyed watching a turtle laying eggs!
But what about the butterflies? Well they came out for the count too! We had a total of 49 species across our teams, and as we moved from fields to forests to gardens and roadsides our sharp eyes counted a total of 3,859 individual butterflies in about 6 hours time. In terms of the total number of butterflies counted, this year’s count was our fourth highest in our 19 years of holding the count. In terms of species diversity, however, 49 species is the average for us. That said, when we look at the data, there were some standouts – and one was a record for our count! The record sighting was that of a Long-tailed Skipper by Catina Anderson at her home garden, which happens to be inside the count circle. She captured some great photos of the butterfly, which was exciting to see and important for documentation! Other standouts for the day include the highest numbers ever for American Coppers (17), Hackberry Emperors (82), Pecks skipper (342), Little Glassywings (73), and Zabulon skippers (235). The habitat at the Blue Ridge Center has become a hotspot for Sleepy Orange butterflies with 10 spotted this year, and we fielded three full teams there this year in order cover the rich and varied habitats.
In terms of misses or near misses, we didn’t see a single Painted Lady, Viceroy or Fiery skipper. While these are not generally seen in large numbers on our count, we often see at least a couple but had none this year. How many Monarchs did we see? We saw 51. This is lower than last year when we saw 63 and certainly not the exciting sightings of 2009 when we saw 193, but we are glad for every Monarch we see and hope to see that number rise looking forward. You can look at the data and compare our results across the years by downloading our summary sheet at here.
We want to give a big thank you to all our team leads for scouting their sectors, coordinating their people, gathering the data, and teaching new people about butterflies: Larry Meade, Sheryl Pollock, Joe Coleman, Dirck Harris, Jon Little, Phil Daley, Tom Ramsay, Bob Blakney and Nicole Hamilton. We also want to thank all the people who joined us for the count – spotting and identifying and having a great time: Laura and Liam McGranaghan, Marcia Weidner, Paul and Chuck Myers, Jon Little, Bob and Tammie DeWitt, Teresa Davenport, Candi and Casey Crichton, Dirck Harris, Joanne Burlew, Jill Miller, Carol and Chris White, Tom Ramsey, Nancy Goetzinger, Mary Keith Ruffner, Kits, Kirtana and Kashvi Ramani, Peter Pegg, Jeanne Leckert, Mike Smith, Walt Gould, Kathy Hayden, Mimi Westervelt, Bonnie Getty, Suzanne DeSaix, Martha Kling, Jane Yocom, Bob Blakney, Sheryl and David Pollock, Mildred Porter, Fran, Albert, Irene and Angela Ho, Joe Coleman, Joette Borzik, Carol DiGiorgio, Randy and Pam Spicer, Jen Venable, Larry Meade, Donna Quinn, Barry Marts, Laurie Proulx, Adit Nehra, Anisha Kohli, Phil Daley, Matt Orsie, Amy Ritter, Susan Ruggles, Del Sargent, Nancy Walker, Nicole Hamilton, Kayla Hinrichs, Susan Robinson, Elinor Fischer, Kathy Ford, Amy Ellis, and Kathy Cain.
“We dedicate this year’s butterfly count in memory of Bob Lyon, who passed away this past August. Bob established our Butterfly Count for us in 1997, creating both our count circle and setting the first Saturday in August as the day of our annual count. He selected that day based on his years of field observations, which showed that weekend as our local peak for both diversity and numbers of butterflies. We will always think of Bob fondly as we head out into the field. He taught many of us his tips and techniques and now we pass them onto others.”