NABA Butterfly Count 2022

mitigationBack to the area around the Clifton Institute for my first NABA Butterfly Count. We visited an extensive pollinator garden on private property (thanks to Shane’s Signs), a gravelled patch of Thoroughfare Road adjacent to a wetland mitigation project (photo), and a private horse farm. In the pollinator garden I made my first acquaintance of one of our hummingbird moth species (Hemaris thysbe) who were going gangbusters—not on our checklist, but still. I found the first of a few Sleepy Oranges (Abaeis nicippe) and Juniper Hairstreaks (Callophrys gryneus) that we tallied, and was finally able to twitch Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius). Stephanie Mason pointed out this critter to me ages ago (“Peck’s have checks”) but that was before I started listing butterflies. But dang, skippers burn me out fast. We saw so many Sachems (Atalopedes campestris) in all their variability that the mental key began, “Is this skipper not a Sachem?”

No lie, it was hot. We started at 08:00 and I began to flag at 11:00. I am finding that a few hours of heat tends to make my feet swell in the waterproof light hikers that I usually wear. I was grateful for the jug of lemonade at the tally rally back at Clifton.

The other inflation solution

Greatest Generation Dept.: Meaghan Kacmarcik reminds us “What Was It Like to Ration in DC during World War II?” Feeding a family of three meant eating lots of fish, renting time on a pressure cooker, and pretending Ritz crackers could make an apple pie.

Because it is the beginning of the month, you still have nearly all your ration points left, except for the three blue produce stamps you spent on the bag of potatoes. In the last few months, you have rarely seen these starchy balls of goodness anywhere in DC. So, when you spotted a sign in the window of a store advertising potatoes in stock, you quickly ran home to grab your ration books before others bought them all up.

Can’t find my favorite frozen pizza at Safeway this week? I got nothing.

Not one of our better moments

Paul Shore’s sharp criticisms of a recent Throughline episode are a bit sniffy, but on target: “Language is not script and script is not language, part 2.” The unfortunate episode constitutes a précis of a recent book by Jing Tsu, and presents her thoughts uncritically, leading to muddy thinking uncharacteristic of NPR.

In fairness, it’d be excessive to expect the Throughline production team to have learned about the science of linguistics and created a respectable linguistics-oriented podcast/broadcast in the relatively short time they presumably had available;… [if] the team wanted to do an episode on this general subject they’d want to devote an unusually large amount of preproduction, production, and postproduction time to it, in order to get things right within what for most people is a pretty obscure field.

When notices about Jing Tsu’s book came out earlier this year, I thought, “Wait — what? Simplifying its writing system had something to do with modernizing the natural language? How does that work? When did that happen?” The episode left me none the more enlightened.

Clifton Institute dragonfly/damselfly count 2022

Dragonfy watchers at Leopold's Preserve by Marie Pinto (White House Farm Foundation)As usual, that’s me in the back, the last one to get on whatever we’re looking at. (Thanks to photographer Marie!) But well equipped.

No luck getting good images of the two common saddlebags species, but I did snap some reasonable images of Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) and what turned out to be Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata). Dang, those pond damsels are tricky. The best spot in our sector for pond damsels was again the pond behind The Farm Brewery at Broad Run. You know, the place with the axe-throwing barn.

Last Sunday was plenty hot, and we pooped out by 15:00 except for leader Larry. His pro tip for finding Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) is to check the parking lot: the critter has a tendency to mistake a car roof for a puddle.

A mystery: 26

In “The Contest”, in the first act of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney matches skills and egos with Pirelli, with Beadle Bamford looking on, at barbering—and then (in the original Broadway production in 1979) in a second section, at dentistry (tooth pulling, no more no less). The tooth pulling section doesn’t appear in later productions. Why did Sondheim delete it? It serves to underscore what a louse Pirelli is, because he has to conscript a healthy Toby in order to have a patient to work on, and hence we have no sympathy for Pirelli when Sweeney offs him. It has one of my favorite Sondheim rhymes: saliva and drive-a you mad. And it’s not like Pirelli gets all that much stage time.

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At the park: 132

Report for last week (29 May):

We closed our regular work days on a less than positive note. We found a Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) in box #77, so the second clutch of 2+ eggs that was started there was predated. We finally got access to wonky box #84: a Wood Duck flushed, but we found only 4 non-viable eggs, and we cleaned them out. As for box #61, we did get a hatch, but only evidence of that 1 duckling fledged; I am writing this one up as partially predated.

However, the books are not completely closed for the season. Box #1 (the one leaning over in the new pool by the tower) has a second Wood Duck clutch of 10 eggs going. Estimating that incubation began on 21 May, then hatch is expected about 19 June. Kat will check that one as a one-off on a time-available basis.

With so many boxes in use, and one clear dump nest, it’s not surprising that we had more than our usual number of abandoned/failed nests. What is a little surprising is the level of predation by Black Ratsnakes: visual observations at 2 boxes, and indirect evidence at a third. I suspect that one or more snakes have found a way to slip past the predator cones, perhaps exploiting the gaps where the cone is attached. We may want to explore a means of sealing those gaps.

So that’s it for scheduled work days — thanks for all your help, and we’ll see you next year. I’ll prepare final reports after all the numbers come in.

Mason and Bailey: 4/At the park: 131

Back in the field with the scrappy little Mason & Bailey Club, and their first visit to Huntley Meadows Park! Almost perfect weather. The day was not too birdy (my scouting yesterday listed 25 species, many of them just heard), but we did get some looks at Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Osprey. And one of the Red-shouldered Hawks was squawking.

Somewhat better luck with some of the other orders: Painted Turtle, Snapping Turtle, American Bullfrog, Green Frog, Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) (male and female), Ebony Jewelwing, and my lifer Northern Pearly-eye (Lethe anthedon). First blossoms of Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris). A fleabane that I’m calling Erigeron strigosus, in the parking lot while I was waiting for folks. Crushing several siliques of Sweet Cicely produced the desired sensory effect.

I packed too much information into this trip, we didn’t even find a beaverdam, and we ran over our time budget (again!), but my little crew kept going with me.

At the park: 130

Mixed blessings in this week’s report:

Wood Thrush singing in the parking lot, and was that a Little Blue Heron in the main wetland? Warm weather, some good results and some less so.

Boxes #6 and #67 finally hatched, having been overdue. Box #3 apparently only fledged one duckling. Boxes #1 and #77 have new Wood Duck eggs, having already fledged a clutch. On the not so good side, boxes #2 and #10 were abandoned, and we cleaned out those boxes.

So while we had clutches started in 15 of our 16 boxes, which is higher than usual, 4 were abandoned — also higher than usual. Plus the predation of box #13 by a Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis). Perhaps it was the same animal that we saw at the box again on Sunday.

roof patchI put another patch on the knothole in the roof of box #67.

Down lower Barnyard Run, I found a big patch of Rattlesnakeweed (Hieracium venosum), and about four Fragile Forktails (Ischnura posita), a male and three females.

So we can shift over to spot-checking the remaining boxes with eggs (#77, #84, #1, #5, #61) on our next work day, on 29 May. I am on call for work that day, so I will have my phone charged up.

* * *

Thank you very much!

Where does it all go?

Golly, with all the TVs and computers and Norton subscriptions I’ve bought, it’s not surprising that I only have 234.89 USD left to buy Bitcoin.

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At the park: 129

Sunday’s report:

Many adventures today! We had four successful clutches hatch and fledge (boxes #77, #1, #60, and #68). (K: I just have “cleaned” in my notes for #77, so I take it that there were no unhatched eggs.) Box #4 turned out to be a failed dump nest, so we cleaned it out. Box #3 was in the process of hatching when Megan checked it!

And box #13 was predated by a Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis). PJ has a picture showing three distinct bulges in the snake’s body. This box had only 3 eggs back on 17 April, so it seems likely that the hen was not there to defend the incomplete clutch.

Box #60 is new, and it has the fine mesh screen for the ducklings’ exit. It’s already coming detached at the top.

New migrants and breeders heard and seen: Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus), Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes).

I checked some references: the layer of tissue lining the shell is best described as the chorioallantoic membrane (just in case you need that word for Scrabble).

* * *

We’ll work again on 15 May. Köszönöm!