Working for Them – 3 Days, 3 Species

Day 1 – Friday July 3rd I decided it was time to cross Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela) off my list before they disappeared for the season. Their normal flight period is mid June to early July so there was not much time to spare. They inhabit open woodlands/woodland margins. My spot of last resort was Broken Arrow Wilderness just north of Fullerton where I’d seen them by the hundreds some years ago, but if I could find them before I got there so much the better. So first I stopped at Harold Anderson SWMA just north of Dannebrog for a “guick” look there. The area was open but the road gate was locked so I had to walk a lot farther than I intended. It was a nice walk but consumed about an hour and a half during which time I found no Little Wood Satyrs. So I pressed on to Broken Arrow Wilderness, arriving there about noon. After purchasing my day pass I set off on some woodland trails in search of my quarry. An hour later I gave up after finding three Northern Pearly Eyes which are normally much more difficult to find. How could this be? Puzzled and looking to salvage the day I decided to stop at some wetlands on the way home. First stop was a wet road ditch and marsh north of Worms in Merrick county where I’d had some success in the past. After about a half hour of looking I came across a single Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene ssp.) – new for the “Big Year”. Somewhat reassured and with the day not being a total loss (which it never is if you are out in the field) I made one last stop at a wetland between Boelus and St. Michael in northeast Buffalo County. It looked awesome with the roadsides lavished with milkweeds. But once again no new “Big Year” species. I’ll need to come up big in the next couple of weeks when most of the marsh inhabitants will be on the wing. As for the Little Wood Satyr the Niobrara Valley Preserve is my last chance or it will be one of those that got away. Day 1 – one new “Big Year” species. YTD total = 88

Silver-bordered Fritillary – Two subspecies of this wetland inhabitant, B. s. nebraskensis in the east and B. s. sabulocollis in the west inhabit most of the state north of the Platte River Valley. They may have up to three generations in our area – being found roughly in spring, mid summer and fall. Larvae feed on violets and adults rarely stray far from wetland/riparian areas. This is a NENHP Tier 1 species (see June 14 post)

Day 2 – Saturday July 4th Jen and I set our sights on the Arogos Skipper (Atrytone arogos) which we had found at a couple of Waterfowl Production Areas (managed by the U S Fish and Wildlife Service) back in 2018 when doing regal fritillary surveys. The first we checked was Youngson WPA in eastern Kearney County. We spent the better part of an hour there checking milkweed flowers. Finding no Arogos skippers (but several regals) there we moved on to Macon Lakes WPA in Franklin County. Along the way we stopped to check an alfalfa field and found a Franklin County record – a snout butterfly (see July 2 post). Arriving at Macon Lakes we had barely parked and gotten out of the vehicle when Jen announced she had caught a skipper. Upon close examination it was indeed a male Arogos Skipper. Seeing several more skippers flitting around but with no need to disturb them we contemplated our next move and headed south to check the rugged hills adjacent to the Republican River to see if we couldn’t scare up an Ottoe Skipper. We found a passable road south and west of Franklin leading up into the hills and disembarked to begin prowling the road ditches looking for milkweeds in bloom. What should Jen find but another Arogos skipper (which I sometimes bill as the rarest skipper in the state). Having proven that thesis wrong we resumed our search for Ottoe Skippers but came up empty. However we did feel somewhat validated that we actually found something we were looking for where we were looking for it. Another day – another single “Big Year” species. YTD total = 89.

Arogos Skipper – This diminutive orange skipper has become increasingly difficult to locate as it’s prairie habitats have diminished in both numbers and quality. Records come from scattered locations across the state. Larvae feed on prairie grasses including big bluestem. There is one main flight in mid June extending into July but records as late as August 25 indicate a second generation may occur as well. This is a NENHP Tier 1 species (see June 14 post).

Day 3 – We decided to head back to Box Elder SWMA area in Lincoln County to try to find Ottoe skippers which had been found there in the past. We had waited to set out to arrive after the heat had set in and the butterflies were actively seeking nectar. Right off the bat – there it is, another Arogos Skipper. Man I was really getting tired of seeing these “rare” skippers. Ignoring several more that we saw we concentrated on a few other skippers taking nectar from the verbena and found several Crossline Skippers (Polites origenes) that we had not yet come across this year. Not the glamour bug we were looking for but still not shabby either. After traversing the hillsides several more times we resorted to our favorite past time – roadhunting. After an bit of that with no success we crossed the river and town of North Platte to an entirely different environment – wetlands. We snooped around several of those looking for oddities but found only Silver-bordered Fritillaries which two days ago we would have been thrilled to see. With time left for one last stop we located a State Wildlife Management Area (Muskrat Run) we’d never been to. It was unproductive as well so we wrapped up the day with one new “Big Year” species (albeit not the one we were looking for). YTD total – 90

Cross Line Skipper – This skipper is named for the shape of the stigma (black marking) across the dorsal forewing of the male. Individuals in the field can be identified by the faint band on the ventral hindwing. Records from late May to late August would seem to indicate the occurrence of two broods. This skipper has been found at scattered locations across the state. It is somewhat versatile in that it has been found in lower moister areas in eastern Nebraska while farther west it inhabits upland prairies. Larvae feed on bluestems and Tridens species including Purpletop Grass. This is a NENHP Tier 2 species (see June 14 post).

So we put in three days of searching a lot of different habitats and found three new “Big Year” species. At 90 total species we’ve pretty much picked the low hanging fruit and I don’t anticipate many more days of multiple sightings. But the adventure continues…

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