Sam Galick photo’d this leucistic monarch among the many thousands of monarchs seen at Cape May on 9-29-12.
Update (10-8-12): Link to September compilation now included here (scroll about 4/5 down).
Whew, thank goodness for a rainy day this morning and some time to reflect back over the excitement and action of South Jersey butterflying during the past eight or ten weeks.
Some of the highlights:
–>little-known or unknown colonies of both checkered white and harvester discovered in our area;
–>giant swallowtails in at least four different locations;
–>little yellows so numerous and widely scattered they seem almost expected (and perhaps even under-appreciated in the flurry of other rarities?);
–>a spectacular southbound flight of painted ladies;
–>a spectacular northbound flight of long-tailed skippers with sightings in seven of our eight counties (and also in at least a few counties in North Jersey);
–>Ocola skippers and fiery skippers sweeping into the area as well;
–>Brazilian skippers making what seems almost certainly an unprecedented incursion into our area;
–> one of the best monarch flights of the past twenty years;
and lots else!
Except for the monarchs, which CMBO and others have been diligently and commendably counting for many years, we do not know how the butterfly numbers of this year compare to the flights of ten or twenty years ago. Someone might have personal memories or notes of a late summer/early fall a decade or two ago when the activity matched 2012’s (anyone?), but no previous period like this has been documented as this year’s has been — by so many observers working together throughout the area and compiling so many thousands of reports.
We now have the data to compare this year with any similar future year. Five or ten years from now, we will have our numbers from this year to make real comparisons between 2012 and any similarly action-packed August/September. We will then be in a much better position to know how unusual this year has been.
Thanks to each of you for getting out in the field over the last two months and taking the time to contribute your reports. Whether it was one report or many hundreds of reports, let’s all keep at it!
Michael O’ Brien
That’s at least 57 observers who contributed sightings during August and/or September. (Let me know if I overlooked anyone.)
Our total of observations in August — 3300+ — broke our five-year record for any single month, which we had just established the previous month (with 3200+ reports in July).
I can round off those two numbers because this last month we crushed both those totals and all previous months in our five-year history. We more than doubled our totals for September 2011 and we set a new single-month record: in the thirty days of September we compiled 3647 reports.
We found 62 species in September, including two species new for the year: bronze copper on 9-9-12 (found at Mannheim Marsh by Dave Amadio, our only record for the year) and Brazilian skipper on 9-19-12 (first found by Jim & Doyle Dowdell in their yard in Villas). We had more than a hundred individual reports of long-tailed skippers (and an estimated total of 255 individuals, almost certainly an under-count). Some other highlights for the month: sleepy orange was regular in the Dowdells’ garden the entire month (9-2-12 to 9-28-12) and also was found in Cumberland County on 9-1-12 by Brian Johnson. Cloudless sulphur had a wonderful month (especially in contrast to 2011, when it went virtually unreported): more than 200 reports of the species, and an estimated total well over 1000 individuals (again an undercount as several observers could only estimate numbers as they streamed by). Pat and Clay Sutton also reported (and photo’d beautifully) the caterpillars and chrysalids of the species in their garden.
Here’s the complete report for September in pdf form (hit the + for easier viewing):
….. And as I was typing this, I was interrupted by a phone call from Will Kerling, who has been out this morning — in windbreaker — in search of at least one butterfly he could add to our compilation for the day, despite the wind, drizzle, and low temperatures (high 40s-low 50s).
And what did he find?
A Brazilian skipper in the rain (!), found and photo’d by Will Kerling at a new locale in Cape May, 10-7-12. (The plant seems to be a variegated yellow Canna.)
Under the circumstances, that has to be one of the most startling discoveries of the year… so far.
So, who’s up for running out the door now, onward into October?