Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I'm Doing a Butterfly Big Year

Butterfly #2: this Mourning Cloak at Huntley Meadows.

A lot of birders I know are big into lists. They keep lists of all the birds they’ve seen in their lives (Life Lists), all the birds they’ve seen in a state or county, even separate lists each year for multiple states and regions, like my county list for 2015 vs for 2014 etc. It’s a great way to casually track changes from year to year if you do it long enough.
I love making lists--tasks to do, including sub tasks and sometimes sub-sub tasks for each of those tasks (Zeno’s paradox, anybody??), places I want to see, veggies to grow, etc.—but for wildlife I mostly only keep life lists. Some birders I know keep more detailed lists: yearly ones, or even smaller lists for each state, county, etc. for every single year. Whew! I just keep a bird life list, a butterfly life list, and kind of loosely a reptile/amphibian list. I also keep a yard list for birds, but I haven't kept any year lists before.
I've heard of folks doing a “Big Year” where they try to see as many bird species as possible in a single year. You might have seen the movie a few years back about this. Recently I was reading through a local butterfly blog and discovered that a few years ago, some butterflyers in my area did a butterfly Big Year for Maryland. What a cool idea!
I’ve decided that this year I will try my own Butterfly Big Year, not just in Maryland but anywhere I travel this spring & summer. I expect most overall will come from parks here in Maryland or nearby in Virginia & DC, though. Yesterday while gardening I had three different species visit my yard already: Cabbage White, Mourning Cloak, and Variegated Fritillary. Yay!   This weekend I also spent time down at Huntley Meadows, where I saw only a Mourning Cloak high up in the trees, shown above.
Last year (2014) was a pretty poor year for butterflies in my area: low numbers for most species were reported by nearly everybody I know in the butterfly watching community. Will this year be better? I hope so. Even if not, I think keeping track of my totals will be fun. Wish me luck! I’ll post my progress here periodically, so check back from time to time and follow along.

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