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west rutland’s 20th annual butterfly count

a single Black Swallowtail egg The RCAS West Rutland Annual Butterfly Count took place as on Saturday, July 6, 2013. That in itself was remarkable in the context of an extraordinary persistent rainy season. In spite of temperatures that ranged from a low of 77°F to a high of 86°F participants made every effort to faithfully record the butterfly occurrence or lack of it on this the twentieth count.

The numbers probably tell the story best! As indicated this was the 20th annual West Rutland count and that in itself provides twenty years of data. The number of species recorded over the twenty years has ranged from a low of 20, one such data point which was the first year with only one participant, to a high of 47 species. The number of individual butterflies recorded has ranged from a low of 112, this year, to a high of 2,091. Taking a broader or longer term perspective over the 20 years, the average number of species is 32/count and the average number of individual butterflies is 621/count. Doing the math the species count for 2013 is 34% below the running average while the number count of individual butterflies is 81% below the running average.

Common Wood-NymphWhile there is an understandable disappointment from the participants’ view point in not having the satisfaction of seeing and intercepting a larger number or wider array of butterflies, the effort and data collection is important for the record and future analysis.

The data collected on July 6 for the West Rutland count will be a single snap shot in time and place for the US and Canada that marks its 39th Annual July 4th Butterfly Count sponsored by the North American Butterfly Association.


annual rcas butterfly count - july 6

Great Spangled Fritillary | Photo by Roy PilcherThe RCAS Annual Butterfly Count follows the same protocol as does the annual Christmas Bird Count as to the 15- mile diameter circle and the restriction to a single day of observation. As to timing, the seasons are pretty well reversed, midwinter to midsummer!

The West Rutland count will be the twentieth having been inaugurated in 1994.  The number of species observed has varied from a low of 20 to a high of 47 and individual butterflies from 152 to 2091!  From the first count with only a single observer, participants have varied in number to a high of 15.

Since for some participants this may be their first introduction to the world of butterflies, initially a few butterflies will be netted, placed in a translucent container for identification and then released.

Butterflies tend to start flying when the temperature reaches 60° F so we will delay our meeting until 8:30 a.m. at the West Rutland Price Chopper parking area. Bring a lunch and, if the day is hot, pack plenty of fluids. The day’s results are entered on the North American Butterfly Association [NABA] website with an anticipated donation of $3 per adult.

Sunday will be the rain date if by midmorning Saturday it would appear that the whole day need be cancelled. For further information call Roy at 775-3461.


Our Nineteenth Annual Butterfly Count 

Common Wood Nymphs lived up to their name during our count. Photo by Roy PilcherRutland County Audubon’s nineteenth Annual Butterfly Count was scheduled for Saturday, July 7, but inclement weather intervened and so the count was rescheduled for the following day, Sunday.  

Good fortune dictated a perfect day, Sunday, for the rescheduled count. Temperatures ranged from 73 to 77 degrees with partly cloudy skies and only a gentle northwest breeze.

The four participants managed to tally 688 individual butterflies covering 40 species over a period of 6 hours.  These numbers are well within the range when compared to the eighteen year average of 653 individual butterflies and 34 species.

The butterfly of the day with the highest aggregate was Common Wood Nymph with 92 individuals tallied.  It certainly lived up to the designation, “common”!

While the count circle was adhered to, only three of the five count sites were consistent with past counts hence comparisons are not strictly valid!

Count tallies were entered into the North American Butterfly Association’s country-wide data bank.

Species’ numbers followed by an asterisk indicate a record high for the local count.

Black Swallowtail 15*, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail 29*, Cabbage White 86, Clouded Sulphur 57, Orange Sulphur 60*, Acadian Hairstreak 5, Banded Hairstreak 15, Eastern Tailed Blue 8,

Silvery Blue 2, Azure complex 1, Great Spangled Fritillary 17, Aphrodite Fritillary 1, Atlantis Fritillary 7, Meadow Fritillary 15, Crescent species [Pearl/Northern] 78, Question Mark 2, Eastern Comma 1, Mourning Cloak 1, Milbert's Tortoiseshell 5, Red Admiral 1, American Lady 3, Painted Lady 2, Viceroy 1, Eyed Brown 4, Little Wood Satyr  2, Common Ringlet 17, Common Wood Nymph 92*, Monarch 67*, Silver-spotted Skipper 33*, Northern Cloudywing 1, Least Skipper 8, European Skipper 30, Peck's Skipper 1, Tawny-edged Skipper 1, Northern Broken Dash 1, Little Glassywing 1, Delaware Skipper 1, Mulberry Wing 1, Hobomok Skipper 1, Dun Skipper 15.


watch us Temporarily Lose our Senses – 2012 Butterfly Count

For one day each summer Rutland County Audubon members and friends temporarily lose their senses as they forsake their traditional bird quest for a butterfly quest!  

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly | Photo by Marv Elliott

On Saturday, July 7, at 9:00 in the morning, we will gather at the West Rutland Price Chopper parking area in anticipation of the West Rutland butterfly count. Butterfly counts parallel Christmas Bird Counts in that they occur at a particular time of year and are restricted to a single day in a circle of prescribed 15 mile diameter.  

The West Rutland count was inaugurated in 1994 by the late Monica Gregory, making this the nineteenth consecutive count, one of the longest running in Vermont. We can anticipate a nice variety of butterflies, thirty-four being an average number of species encountered but the number of individual butterflies can vary widely from a low of 150 to a high of 2090 depending upon recent weather conditions and flights. 

The local butterfly counts are part of a larger effort sponsored by the North American Butterfly Association, now in its thirty-eighth year. For those wishing to have their names recorded as participants in the report published by the NABA, there is a $3 donation.       Counting usually proceeds throughout the day with a break for lunch, so bring something to eat and plenty to drink. Since we will be moving through grassy and brushy areas preparedness should be exercised for the probability of encountering ticks!   

Those with butterfly nets will be capturing several specimens that will be temporarily restrained in glass jars for all to see enabling both immediate identification and reference going forward as the count progresses. The learning curve is surprisingly steep and as competence is gained so is the enjoyment and admiration of these delightful winged creatures.

The count otherwise is free and open to the public. If you have a butterfly net, be sure to bring it along. For further information concerning the West Rutland count call Roy at 775-3461.


annual butterfly count, west rutland’s seventeenth

White Admirals on animal scat

Rutland County Audubon undertook its seventeenth annual “July 4” West Rutland Butterfly Count on Saturday, July 3.The North American Butterfly Association’s counts, now in their thirty-sixth year, are organized along the lines of the Audubon’s Annual Christmas Bird Counts within circles of 15 miles diameter that once designated, remain constant.  The first West Rutland count was organized by Monica and Alan Gregory in 1994.

Ten participants took to the field at 9:00 a.m. on a clear but humid morning with a temperature reading of 68° F.  By the time the day was over for the last participant about 3:30 p.m. the temperature was hovering around 87° F. 

The 35 species tallied was in fact equal to the average over the past 16 years while the individual tally was some 116 short of the average.  Looking over the species diversity and numbers, the highs and the lows over the past 16 years, it would appear that there is neither constancy nor predictability although the counts were undertaken in the same areas and almost on the same calendar date.  One variable seems to be the maturity and passage of the season and that of supportive plant growth.

It was nice to record two Dion Skippers, a species included in “Vermont’s Sweet Sixteen.”

For the most part no attempt was made to differentiate between Northern Crescent and Pearl Crescent, hence Crescent sp.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (1), Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (1), Tiger Swallowtail sp. (2), Cabbage White (33), Clouded Sulphur (101), Bronze Copper (2), Coral Hairstreak (1), Acadian Hairstreak (1), Eastern Tailed-Blue (26), Great Spangled Fritillary (27), Aphrodite Fritillary (14), Atlantis Fritillary (4), Meadow Fritillary (172), Crescent sp. (34), Baltimore Checkerspot (3), Question Mark (2), Eastern Comma (2), Painted Lady (1), Red Admiral (6), White Admiral (2), Viceroy (2), Eyed Brown (13), Common Ringlet (5), Common Wood Nymph (12), Monarch (23), Least Skipper (5), European Skipper (60), Indian Skipper (1), Peck’s Skipper (4), Tawny-edged Skipper (1), Long Dash (3), Northern Broken-Dash (7), Little Glassywing (23), Dun Skipper (4), Dion Skipper (2).  Total individuals, (600).  Total species, (35).