2016 will soon close the month of June. After trips to Israel, Georgia, Maryland and western New York state we settled in to consider what we have seen, and Why? Needing more field time to further our observations, I went to my favorite trail, Nichol Road in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Three mornings spent on Nichol road trail and the adjoining Doak field (meadow of 100 acres +/-) and the conundrum grew.
Six rolls of film (Fuji Velvia slide, ASA 50 and 100) were shot. The average number of rolls of film shot during 3 mornings in the field, between 1998 and 2013, on sunny mornings without wind, would have been 14 to 18. Yes, I am more discerning now, with a solid library of images going back to the mid 1990’s. No, the exposed film product was not because the butterflies I saw were worn, or bird-struck. Most of what I saw was fresh and 100% intact. The single Wood Nymph I met today was especially fresh and beautiful (though not one exposure of that nervous Lep).
When was I out? The mornings of June 22, 24 and 26. Many butterflies I expected to see did not greet me (American coppers, numerous Wood nymphs, Pearl crescents, Duskywings, Skippers (only saw 3 species across 3 mornings), Sulphurs, Ladies, Hairstreaks, Azures, Eastern tailed blues. The only butterfly I saw much of is one that I rarely see, ever, the Northern pearly-eye. I beg your pardon! That tickled my thinking, that 2016 has begun as a footnote year here in this part of the northeast.
The botany? Here were numerous clues. Butterfly weed? Absent. Common milkweed? Scarce and what was there, diminutive. Teasel? Few. Joe Pye weed? Difficult to find. Bergamot, the bergamot that bedazzled me in 2014? Absent. What I did find was a goodly number of a beautiful wildflower, white Beardtongue (Penstemon). Nichol road trail also had an alarming number of Garlic mustard along much of its length.
2016 then is, is certainly a conundrum. The meadows, forests, trail edges and disturbed ground are covered with lush green botany, but populations of butterflies, bees, darners and others are way down. What triggered this stream of consciousness? There was a certain Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), as beautiful as this one, that stayed with me on Nichol road trail this morning, posing patiently, moving as I moved, returning again later, and again, and I wondered was it a female, and I slipped into a wee bit of melancholia, sometimes triggered by butterflies since that day in 2008 . . . .
Closing thought? 2016 on its way to being: a Conundrum.