Monday, August 11, 2008

Appalachian Butterfly Conference

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!
These events would be impossible to pull off were it not for the generosity of experts who donate their time and talents to help others learn. Here we have John Pogacnik scampering about trying to photograph a tiger beetle, while Jim Davidson looks on. That's John's wife, Lisa, probably wondering why John never grew out of chasing bugs like most of the other boys.
Jaret Daniels, author of Butterflies of Ohio among many other things, was our keynote speaker. And much more. Jaret was a topnotch guy and complete field man. He came all the way from the University of Florida to be with us, arriving a day early so he could learn more about the Shawnee region and do some additional butterflying. He also stayed late, and we went into the field some more after the conference. You couldn't ask for a better man - great speaker, mad skillz in the field, and great with people. Every discipline needs more ambassadors like Jaret. Here he kindly signs my book, deep in the heart of Shawnee Forest, at a spot where we had just found an unusual butterfly, the Golden-banded Skipper.
Lots of prep work went into this conference. A bunch of us went out in the field beforehand and identified good butterfly congregation spots, then augmented them with rotten peaches. Many species visit fermenting fruit; kind of like feeding birds. Here, Kevin Bradbury, manager of Shawnee State Park, prepares to tip some peaches, while John Howard apparently is chiding Janet Creamer for trying to nip into the bait. That's Shawnee naturalist Jenny Richards in the maroon shirt.

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.
One of our most beautiful butterflies and an immigrant from the south, the Common Buckeye. This one was seen at Sandy Springs along the Ohio River, along with many other cool species like American Copper, Hayhurst's Scallopwing, and Checkered White.

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.

1 comment:

Rhonda said...

Hi Jim,

I did not make the ABC this year but *plan* (not hope) to come in future years.

Rhonda Pfaltzgraff-Carlson

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