|Male Regal Fritillary|
For the second year in a row Sharon and I made the journey to Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County for the Regal Fritillary wildlife event. The Regal Fritillary is a large, orange, and black butterfly that was once found commonly throughout the Northeast. It looks like a Monarch Butterfly dipped in chocolate. Grassland destruction/alteration over the past 30 years has reduced its range and abundance. This is the largest population of this species remaining east of Indiana. 219 acres of Training Areas and Ranges have been set aside at Fort Indiantown Gap to conduct research on Regal habitat. In addition over 75 acres of new habitat has been created. All regal occupied habitat is on an active or inactive military range. Regals LOVE Ranges!!! Habitat is created and maintained by repeated, frequent soil disturbance, patchy fires, and stewardship efforts that create a diverse grassland dominated by native herbaceous vegetation. Population is around 1,000 adults and has been secure since monitoring started in 1998.
We were there on a windy day so the flight was more subdues than last year. We still were able to view a large number of males but in the three hours we were on tour we didn't found a single female. Females hide down in the grasses and the males have to find them in order to mate.
Besides the Regal Butterfly we also found Aprodite and Great-spangled Fritillaries.
Other species of note were Black, Eastern Tiger and Zebra Swallowtails, Cabbage White, Clouded Sulphur and new for me were Coral Hairstreak and Common Sootywing.
|Common Sootywing (Internet photo)|
Just like last year all the volunteers were great. They also pointed out various other flora and fauna such as Box Turtles and Ring-necked Snake.
My favorite part of the trip was when I spotted a Black Rat Snake. I couldn't catch up with it but one of the volunteers managed to grab it and show it to the crowd.
|Rebecca handling the Black Rat Snake|
We were also introduced to many plants and flowers and how they interacted with the butterflies.
The total walk around the fields was about 1.7 miles and lasted about 3 hours. Halfway through the walk we were provided with water. The trip was very well organized and I highly recommend that if you have the chance, sign up. Two more trips are scheduled for July 8th and 9th.
|Sharon and other participants|