Double-Header Rarities

Giant swallowtail, photo by Will Kerling, Cape May Point, 8-12-12

Two of our sharpest-eyed and hardest-working observers scored big for our log yesterday.

Will Kerling tracked down the giant swallowtail above at the Coral and Cambridge Avenues garden in Cape May Point on Sunday. “It’s interesting how your eye can fool you sometimes, trying to turn something unfamiliar into something it’s not,” he reports. “When I first glanced at it in the distance, my first thought was, ‘What is that? Two male black swallowtails trying to mate?’ Then I stepped closer and I realized, ‘Hey, that’s not two butterflies, it’s one big one. Giant swallowtail!”

We have had only a handful of records of the species over our five years of logging: single individuals only (apparently) in 2008, 2009, and 2011 and no records in 2010. There have been reports of the species in North Jersey and New York this year recently, however, so all of us should be on the lookout. Thanks to Will for alerting us in the best way possible!

Meanwhile, in Gloucester County, caddy-corner across our region from Will’s position at the Point, Dave Amadio was tracking after a different rarity:

I visited Chestnut Branch Park in Mantua Twp., Gloucester County for the first time last year, and took note of the American beech trees in the woods. Stuck this info under my cap with plans to return this year. Well today I thought I would check these woods out once more. The first significant beech tree that I encountered was infested with woolly aphids. Shortly after, one or two bugs lifted high into the trees. My limited experience with this species told me that these were harvesters, but to my dismay, they failed to give me the needed look for a positive I.D.

I continued to search additional beech trees with aphids. Again a bug teased me with its flight and disappearing act. Finally, I saw one land near a heavily-infested branch. HARVESTER! I watched as two females in the same tree lay eggs on leaves near the aphids. I was able to observe three more along the path which appeared to be behaving like males.

Female harvester with wooly aphids, both photos by Dave Amadio, Chestnut Branch Park, Gloucester County, 8-12-12

These two finds, plus Cynthia Allen’s recent find of a very early Ocola skipper (8/9/12) in her garden brings us to 89 species for 2012.

Dave’s harvester also gives us a new species for our all-time log, which now stands at 110 species over the past five years.

Thanks to all observers!

Update: Chris Herz visited the site on Monday, 8-13-12, and counted 13 harvesters. Here’s a photo she took of a female apparently ovipositing:

Photo by Chris Herz, Chestnut Branch Park, 8-13-12

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