I hadn’t even reached the woods when my attention was caught by my first butterfly. It was very dark in flight, almost black, and when it landed I was surprised to see a Dreamy Duskywing. In the three years I’ve been visiting Hurdman I’ve never seen any duskywings here before, so this one was a new species for my list. The Dreamy Duskywing has no white spots on the forewing, unlike the common Juvenal’s Duskywing.
A little further along I spotted a relatively large blue butterfly flying close to the ground. Upon closer inspection I identified it as a Silvery Blue….the dark spots on the underside of its wings form a single, curving line, unlike the scattered markings of the smaller Spring Azure. These are one of the prettiest butterflies, especially when they reveal the bright blue wings.
Along the feeder path I found a couple of Red Admirals, a Cabbage White and migrants! A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was singing prettily from the treetops, and a female Scarlet Tanager was flitting about in the canopy. A Least Flycatcher was hawking for insects near the beginning of the feeder path and a Gray Catbird was singing from within a dense thicket near the end of the path. Migrating warblers were scarce, with about a dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers and one Black-throated Green Warbler along the trails, but several breeding Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts and Warbling Vireos had arrived and filled the area with their songs.
I found a Cabbage White nectaring on dandelions and a Red Admiral nectaring on Garlic Mustard and stopped to photograph both.
Garlic Mustard is an extremely invasive plant and will colonize an area very quickly. It out-competes native plants, reducing the biodiversity of any area it takes over. It is spreading quickly at Hurdman, much to my dismay.
Closer to the river I found two Baltimore Orioles singing, a White-crowned Sparrow, and two Barn Swallows hunting for insects on the wing. These latter two species are new for my Hurdman list. Three Brown-headed Cowbirds squeaking from on top of the telephone wires were not.
Along the bike path a shiny green beetle landed in front of me; this was my first Six-spotted Tiger Beetle of the year.
There was little to see on the river, so I turned around and headed back through the woods to the bus station. I saw a reddish-brown butterfly drifting along and thought it looked too big to be a Red Admiral. When it landed I noticed the orange forewings and black hindwings above; however, I was only able to photograph it with its wings closed. Although it lacked the silvery dot on the underside of its hindwing that turns the comma into a question mark there is no doubt that it was a Question Mark.
I was thrilled to see my first Question Mark of the year; this species gave me my first five-butterfly-species day, which isn’t bad considering I haven’t been able to get out butterflying since the season began. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a great summer to come!