On Sunday May 17 Jen and I headed north to the Scotia Chalk Mine/Happy Jack Peak to meet our friends Pat and Diane Miller and Jon Nikkila to search for Fulvia Checkerspots (see May 6 entry) and any oak feeding Duskywings (see May 10 entry). The Chalk Mine is located in Howard county a couple of miles southeast of Scotia on NE Highway 11. The weather was marginal when we left – mostly cloudy, temps in the low 60s and a chilling breeze from the northwest. But the forecast called for clearing skies so being optimistic we departed and hoped for the best. We all arrived at the Chalk Mine about 1:00 pm and began the arduous (more so for some than others) climb to the “Peak”. After about 45 minutes the sun did begin to break through from time to time and the butterflies began to stir. I mostly stuck to the hilltop where I thought Fulvia Checkerspots might make an appearance while the rest of the crew worked the south and east faces of the hill. Oaks are are found on the lower portions of the hill while the top half of the hill is a higher quality native prairie. I had once seen a Duskywing at this location but had not been able to get close enough to make an id. So Sunday Jen and Jon had the same experience – a probable sighting but no id. So the group found five butterfly species that afternoon – Gorgone Checkerspots (Chlosyne gorgone), sulfers (Colias sp.) and Painted Ladies (Vanessa carduii), Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) and the unidentified Duskywing (Erynnis sp.)
After the clouds closed back in Jon headed home but with a good bird sighting/photograph (Bay-breasted Warbler I believe). He seemed pretty excited about it. As we came up with no new butterfly species for the year the rest of us comforted ourselves with a pizza from the Pizza Palace in Burwell. Not a bad consolation prize if I do say so myself.
So we all got some good exercise and fresh air. I’ll be looking forward to revisiting this site later under better conditions.
A local association has assumed ownership of the property and it was very well kept. There was evidence of cedar removal and the grounds were neat and clean. I’d recommend a visit if you’ve never been there. The mine is supposed to be open from Memorial Day to Labor Day but with the virus who knows. Here is a link to their website https://visitnebraska.com/scotia/happy-jack-peak-and-chalk-mine.