Niobrara Valley Preserve 35th annual butterfly count

On July 10th ten individuals gathered at the Niobrara Valley Preserve to conduct the 35th consecutive annual butterfly count. Participants included Neil Dankert, Jonathan and Bennett Nikkila, Jen Corman (NE G&P), and Jojo Morelli, Krystal Church, Sanketh Menon, Kevin Meyer, Paul Stofferahn and Chris Helzer, all of the Nature Conservancy.

This year’s count was held a bit later than usual to accommodate as many participants as possible. As a result, some earlier flying species were less numerous than usual (Little Wood Satyrs). Common Wood Nymphs were the most abundant butterfly with around 100 sighted. The highlight of the count was the discovery of Dion Skippers at multiple locations. This species was previously unreported from the Preserve, as well as Brown and Keya Paha Counties. These records, along with one from the Texas panhandle represent the westernmost populations of this species in North America.

286 butterflies and 32 species were sighted, five of which were NENHP (Nebraska Natural Heritage Program) Tier 1 species (denoted in bold type) and another four being Tier 2 (denoted in italics) Species sighted were Silver-spotted Skippers, Checkered Skippers, Common Sootywings, Delaware Skippers, Long Dash Skippers, Northern Broken-dash Skippers, Two-spotted Skippers, Dion Skippers, Common Roadside Skippers, Giant Swallowtails, Cabbage Whites, Clouded Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, Acadian Hairstreaks, Banded Hairstreaks, Eastern Tailed Blues, Variegated Fritillaries, Regal Fritillaries, Great Spangled Fritillaries, Silver-bordered Fritillaries, Gorgone Checkerspots, Pearl Crescents, Eastern Commas, Questionmarks, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, Buckeyes, Little Wood Satyrs, Eyed Browns, Northern Pearly Eyes, Common Wood Nymphs and Monarchs.

Jonathan and Bennett Nikkila and myself put out lights to attract moths the night before the count and drew in an interesting group of insects. More on them in a future post.

Dion Skipper, Niobrara Valley Preserve, Keya Paha County NE, 10 July 2023, photo by Jonathan Nikkila

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