Florida to Virginia Week 37

“Two weeks late,” I muttered to myself, as Jeff Basham, Tommie Rogers, Abby Wolfe and I probed patches of piney woods near Atlanta, GA for Cofaqui giant-skipper.  Jeff had counted nine individuals here atop Arabia Mtn. SP in late August . . . but alas, not one today.  Nonetheless, what a beautiful setting for a day in the field with three special people!  The park is basically an elevated dome comprised of huge slabs of granite (called a monadnock) covered with vernal pools, wildflowers, and rare plants.  

Over the next 3 days, guided by Jeff, we visited sites near Chattanooga TN, finding both Southern and Creole pearly-eye (photos below), Long-tailed skipper, and 30+ other late summer species including Yehl and Dion skippers, White M hairstreak, and the female Diana Fritillary.  


James River, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

Next . .  a difficult decision, one I’ve faced often this year: either chase three new species, all near-certainties, but involving long driving-days, or explore, at a more relaxed pace, a long stretch of the Appalachian high country from the Smoky Mtns. to Shenandoah NP.  With apologies to big-year purists, I chose the latter, reasoning that the likely loss of a few species would have little impact on my expected year-end total of around 510 species.  In the Smokies, roadsides and meadow edges abounded with flowers and butterflies: Diana and Great-spangled fritillaries jockeyed with swallowtails for nectaring rights atop pink thistles and large yellow composites, while skippers, satyrids, and sulphurs cruised the grassy areas.  In less than an hour I counted up to 30 species.  More of the same as I drove the length of the scenic Blue Ridge parkway, adding American copper and Peck’s skipper to my day list.

I have a few more days here in the east, attending a national family reunion in Buckhannon, WV.  Now, how can I sneak out to look for those three species I shunned in Virginia?

New Species:  3        Total trip species:  478          Species Photographed:  465


Southern pearly-eye (note the orange antenna), Chattanooga, TN


Creole pearly-eye (note FW 5th eyespot and bulge on PM line), Chattanooga, TN


Red-spotted purple, Chattanooga, TN


Yehl skipper, Chattanooga, TN


White M hairstreak, Chattanooga, TN

© Chris Tenney 2014