A very early eastern pine elfin photo’d by Shawn Wainwright in Toms River, 3/13/12. (Is it a record early date for the state?)
Shawn Wainwright’s find of eastern pine elfin on the surprisingly early date of March 13 seems to fit the pattern we are seeing in most species so far this year. It also gives us ten species for the month — and we aren’t even halfway through March yet.
As of 3/13/12, our log lists the following species for March:
Cabbage white, 22 reports for the month (FOY: 2/27/12)
Orange sulphur, 22 reports for the month (~300 individuals; FOY: 1/1/12*)
E. pine elfin, 1 report (FOY: 3/13/12)
Blueberry azure, 13 reports this month (FOY: 2/23/12)
Holly azure, 3 reports (FOY: 3/12/12)
Summer azure, 2 reports (FOY: 3/8/12)
American snout, 5 reports this month (FOY: 2/1/12)
Question mark, 11 reports this month (FOY: 2/22/12)
Eastern comma, 4 reports (FOY: 3/1/12)
Mourning cloak, 25 reports this month (FOY: 1/31/12)
[*Listing a first-of-year date for orange sulphur seems misleading since the species has apparently flown more or less consistently (when temperatures reached the fifties or above) fall through winter in Cape May County.]
What we should consider the total number of species for 2012 so far depends on how we count.
We have two reports of monarch hanging on past the New Year (but almost certainly not surviving the winter in NJ) — on 1/1/12 and 1/8/12. But we also have two other species that apparently attempted to over-winter and perhaps (just maybe?) survived: red admiral reported on 1/1/12, 1/7/12, and 2/23/12; and common buckeye on 2/18/12.
So, that’s thirteen species so far, if you count monarch; twelve if you dismiss monarch but accept red admiral and buckeye as butterflies of 2012; and ten if you say none of those three should count because odds are good all were killed by winter weather. (All three are missing from our March log at the moment.)
The story was much less complex and less exciting last year. By March 13, 2011, we had recorded only four species for the year:
Question mark, 1 report
Eastern comma, 2 reports
Mourning cloak, 6 reports
Blueberry azure, 1 report
Our first cabbage white was not found until 3/17/11 and we had no reports of orange sulphur until 3/26/11. Our first holly azure appeared on 3/19/11, and no pine elfins were reported until 4/9/11. (We did have an early Henry’s elfin last year, on 3/19/11, found and photo’d by Harvey Tomlinson at Belleplain State Forest).
Which species will be next for us this year?
Keep exploring, everyone!