This weekend past marked the first - and hopefully not the last - Appalachian Butterfly Conference. This event is something we started thinking about a few years ago, and first met to begin planning about a year back. It was great to see it finally come to fruition. The main organizers and sponsors were the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Shawnee Nature Club, Flora-Quest, and Ohio State Parks. Everyone involved did a stellar job of organization. So did our guides and speakers, and we had some of the best field people to be found. Thank you all.
ABC is breaking new ground in an arena that will probably only grow - butterfly ecotourism. Our venue was Shawnee State Forest, and the butterflying there is every bit as good as the birding and botanizing. It was cool to see about 85 attendees pretty much fill the Shawnee Resort and many of its cabins. I'd say that this one will only get bigger in future years. In addition to Ohioans, there were folks from Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Florida, and Wisconsin. We even had an enthusiast in all the way from the Big Apple - New York City!
The one variable that always gives planners angst at these field trip-based events is the weather. Especially with butterflies, which just won't fly if it is rainy, and don't even show themselves nearly as much if it is heavily overcast. Not a problem and we had a great diversity of many species under sunny skies. Here, a Silver-spotted Skipper alights on the cap of a participant. In all, we tallied 61 species, many in large numbers. Rarest were several Clouded Skippers. There were only a few Ohio records prior to these reports.
A personal favorite is the Red-spotted Purple, which looks very tropical. Many were about.
One of the real highlights was this Golden-banded Skipper. It was a "lifer" for many. They are not common, in spite of the fact that their host plant is Hog-peanut, Amphicarpaea bracteata. This little vining member of the pea family is everywhere.
It was cool to see such a diversity of enthusiasts together and having such a good time. There were newer butterfliers who were thrilled by their first good closeup of the undersides of an Eastern Tailed-Blue, and more advanced people that were elated by the much less showy Clouded Skippers. No matter the level of experience, all seemed to have a good time.
As you may imagine, I got many megabytes of photos at this gig, and will try to share more, later. We also had some spectacular nighttime trips that yielded outstanding moths. I'll try and put some of those up later.
Again, thanks to all who took on leadership roles to make the Appalachian Butterfly Conference a reality, and to everyone that attended.