By Sheila Vincent, Group Program Coordinator
On July 12, a small group of Delaware Nature Society staff and volunteers hit the field with lepidopteran intent: to count butterflies for the North American Butterfly Association’s annual Fourth of July Butterfly Count.
Our group, armed with cameras and nets, combed Burrows Run Preserve and Ashland Nature Center to find all butterflies present in order to provide an accurate census as part of the Wilmington Count. Other groups covered different natural areas in this count circle.
Among the 14 species of butterflies identified, we had some notable surprises. Pearl Crescents, a diminutive orange and black butterfly, turned out to be the most numerous, with 40 individuals counted. Fair numbers of Monarchs (11) and Great Spangled Fritillaries (9) were documented. Little Wood-Satyrs and Common Wood-Nymphs are uncommon species we found. The gorgeous Red-spotted Purple was a favorite find.
Among the notoriously difficult to identify skipper family, we captured and photographed a Little Glassywing, the first ever documented at Burrows Run Preserve. Only by photographing the skipper and studying images in a butterfly field guide could a positive ID be made.
“Citizen Science” like the Fourth of July Butterfly Count is valuable in building up an accurate picture of animal populations across the U.S. This year’s Count, for instance, reinforced the notion that 2009 is an “0ff” year for butterflies in northern Delaware (probably due to the very chilly, rainy spring). What better way to have fun and contribute something useful at the same time?
Photos by Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant