My wife Ljiljana and I made a trip to Vermont this past weekend. The
plan was to travel up from the Boston area on Friday, stay at White River
Junction, VT (on the Connecticut River along I-89, across the river from
Lebanon, NH), then hike up Killington on Saturday. We would finally stop in
Amherst, MA to visit our younger son at U-Mass Amherst on our way home late
Weather forecast was for partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the
lower 80's, and high pressure to dominate.
Just a quick note on Killington. What is known as "Killington" is
actually a dominant and relatively high mountain range (for the northeast)
located in the middle area of the Green Mountain ranges of the state. The
Killington range is 15 miles east of the town of Rutland, and approximately
40 miles west of White River Junction, where of course, we spent the night.
The range includes five (5) major peaks which exceed 3,000 feet in
elevation. An extensive downhill ski area has been developed on the north
faces of the range. The major peaks are as follows (moving west): Bear
Mountain 3295 ft, Skye Peak 3800 ft, Killington Peak 4241 ft, Snowdon Mtn.
3592 ft, Rams Head Mtn 3610, and Pico Peak 3850 ft. The lowlands in the
valleys below are typical upper Transition Zone forested areas, and as you
ascend toward the base plateau of Killington, you move into typical Canadian
Zone areas. The summits are generally wooded, but with wind-stunted trees
and meadows; there is a small area of Hudsonian Zone vegetation at the
summit of Killington Peak. We had planned to hike Skye Peak, which we have
hiked several times over the past few years.
After continental breakfast at the hotel we started west along Rt. 4
for Killington. We passed through the beautiful town of Woodstock at about
8:30AM, and stopped at a garden shop at the west side of town. In a
streamside field near the center, I encountered a few Indian Skippers,
Inornate Ringlets, and also collected a female Crescent, which may prove to
be a Northern (cocyta). The flight was gliding, rapid, but not long between
stops on her foodplant (asters).
We continued along Rt. 4 toward Killington after 9AM. The
temperature was steadily climbing through the lower 70's; after about 9:15AM
the White Admirals began to appear in good numbers, patrolling and perching
along the road. Roadkills were frequent. I picked one roadkill up: a perfect
male specimen with well-developed reddish ground color below (as compared to
the bluish ground color on the specimens I encountered near Lewiston, Maine
the week earlier).
We reached the Killington Ski Area parking area a short while later.
The elevation here is approximately 2400 feet; thus the vertical distance to
the summit of Skye Peak is approx. 1400 feet. The temperature here was 71F,
partly cloudy skies, fairly humid. We ascended along the main ski trail.
Arctic Skippers were seen everywhere, especially in the grassy swales. They
were encountered from the base to the summit. Canadian Tiger Swalowtails
were also commonly seen patrolling and nectaring everywhere at clovers. A
female specimen was collcetd at the summit. Hobomok Skippers, including
female "pocahontas", were seen particularly on the lower half of the
mountain. On the upper half, Silvery Blues were abundant. These were
especially interesting as the ground color below is very dark gray, and the
dark spots are somewhat reduced, but not absent, always present. They
exhibited the characteristic flight of the species: rapid, flickering,
straight ahead at approx. 0.5 meters above the surface. We observed at least
one pair in mating ritual. I looked hard for the northern Blues (Saepilous
and idas, but neither were, of course, present- all were Silverys
[lygdamus]). Also seen were Clouded Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, and (near the
summit) Red Admirals.
At approx. 300 feet below the summit, the climate changed
drastically; the temperature dropped substantially, and the wind picked up.
It also became quite overcast with rapidly moving mid-level cloud cover. The
black flies were present in abundance; at the summit the trees are stunted,
small and damp alpine meadows occur; dominated by mosses and lichens, quite
wet. At the summit, two Milbert's Tortoiseshells were encountered (I did not
try too hard to get a voucher, and I regret it as I am curious as toiextent
of the orange in the banding above, i.e. were the bands full orange), and a
freshly emerged Atlantis Fritillary. Another Canadian Tiger Swallowtail and
again, numerous Silvery Blues.
We started down after a brief snack at the summit, along with a
long look around (breathtaking views), descending along the dirt and gravel
access road network (also used by mountain bikers). More Atlantis
Fritillaries, Dreamy Duskywing, Arctic Skippers, Orange and Clouded Sulphurs
(no white females) were seen along with Canadian Tiger Swallowtails. I saw
no White Admirals anywhere on the mountain or on the higher base plateau
(only in the lowlands, a bit surprising). A female Black Swallowtail was
seen, presumably in ovipositing mood, on Queen Anne's Lace at el. 2800 feet.
The lowlight of the day was my missing an easy sitting shot, along
the access road just below 3000 feet, on a Pepper and Salt Skipper.
Inornate Ringlets were also abundant everywhere, but they seemed to
be slightly past peak. Very few Crescents were seen - they were also past
peak - I have two specimens including one from east (south) of Ludlow along
Rt. 103 and will try to ID them when spread.; a few Silver Bordered
Fritllaries were seen along Rt. 100 south of West Bridgewater.
We reached the base plateau, and then started back down to look for
someplace to have lunch. After lunch, we headed south toward Amherst, MA to
visit our younger son, who is an Earth Sciences Major. Along Rt. 100 and
103, there were again at elevation, numerous patrolling White Admirals
including a few roadkills. About 20 miles north of I-91 along the
Connecticut River along Rt. 103, we left the Canadian Zone, reached lower
elevations, higher temperatures, and from that point on I saw no more White
Admirals (or any Limenitis).
One species that I had intended to look for was the Silvery
Checkerspot (C. nycteis). It had been seen on a couple of occasions in
central Vermont during mid/late June (Ascutney Ski Area); also Tony Moore
apparently collected one specimen during the third week of June in the
Yellow Bogs near Island Pond, VT. I found neither it, nor the Harris'
Checkerspot (harrissi) which I had found in very large numbers in
south-central Maine the previous week. Apparently, nycteis has had a poor
flight this season, and also the flight had probably ended by the time I got
around to looking for it. One thing: Along Rt. 4, east of the Killington
Mountain Road and toward West Bridgewater (Rt. 100), after you descend into
the lower areas from the higher plateau, there is what appears to be
excellent habitat for Chlosynes, Bolorias (selene and bellona), Phyciodes,
Euphydryas, Lycaena etc. in extensive low, wet meadow/marshy habitat that is
located to the north side of the highway. This area, which extends for a
couple of miles at least, begs inspection next June.
One more thing: further south in western Mass., hybrids between the
White Admiral and Red Spotted Purple abound, in various form. A good place
to find multitudes of these is along Stump Sprouts Rd, West Hawley, near Rt.
8 south of Rt. 2 west of Greenfield, MA. In Vermont, including just over the
MA border, I have only found arthemis (no hybrids). I may get to the area
Next Sunday, I have a trip planned to Mount Washington, NH. Weekend
after that, wife and I have plans for Maine.