It was a great day to count butterflies. We had a good group of counters, with a couple seasoned veterans. Then, we had a couple folks like me, who know a handful of species, but struggle with the different skippers (they look too similar and fly too quickly). I was really pleased to identify a southern cloudy wing correctly. That means that there is hope for everyone!
We tallied 21 different butterfly species, and counted 172 individual butterflies. We had several that got away before we were able to identify them. We don't use nets, but rather binoculars that can focus to a few feet. We have counted 22 species on three previous counts, so 21 is a good count.
Great spangled fritillaries were the high species with 55 butterflies. It is a long name, but they are beautifly butterflies that are abundant at Mariton. When their wings are closed, you can see the silver spots (or spangles). When open or flying, you see orange. We only counted 45 cabbage whites. Silver- spotted skippers came in at 14.
Like bird censuses, a butterfly census is only a snapshot in time. If we counted in the afternoon, we might pick up some different species and loose some species from the morning count. In a year with lots of milkweed blooming, we would get different numbers, than a year with very few blooms, etc. But over years it does give us an idea of what butterfly species one should be able to find in late June. So, it provides important baseline data. This can be interesting when looking at trends, more than comparing one year against another.