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Trail Reports

Insights on trail conditions and the plants and animals you can expect to encounter throughout the seasons.

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Notes and Changes since last report

  • It was 80°F and partly cloudy and breezy with low humidity at 1:45 PM on July 20, 2016.
  • This week's trail report covers the Wappinger Creek Trail side of the trail system.
  • It was a good butterfly day with the back Old Hayfield being the hot spot today.
  • Cicadas had started singing.
  • The major paths were not only mowed, but trimmed on the sides as well... very nice.

The Trails

  • The end of Gifford parking lot had a big patch of crown vetch - a good place to look for wild indigo duskywing, which has actually benefitted from the spread of this invasive as its caterpillars eat it. No luck, but in the adjacent dry, sunny field was an American copper.
  • In the front Old Hayfield at Gifford House, black-eyed Susan had started blooming - maybe last week actually.
  • Along the side, invasive black swallowwort was forming seed pods.
  • It's just past the sign for the Sedge Meadow Trail and is marked for your inspection. It will be removed before the pods mature...
  • The flagging isn't quite as easy to see from the other direction.
  • A single common ringlet showed up today - we are between broods.
  • On the other hand, hummingbird clearwings were numerous. Actually, that looks like a stripe running down from the eye... this could be a problem...
  • Skippers are often a problem, but the mulberry wing has a distinctive pattern and background color, an unusual manor of flight, and an association with wetlands that all together make it a fairly easy ID.
  • The dun skipper is a more typical LBJ (little brown job) in flight and habitat. The male dun, being unmarked solid brown above, is actually easy: most of our other skippers have white dots and/or yellow patches.
  • Ah the monarch - just the glide sets it apart from just about anything else - if you can find one. The N. American population has dropped 70% since the '90s according to the Xerces Society...
  • The Sedge Meadow Trail had been mowed and the overhangs cut back to make for very pleasant walking.
  • Pokeweed was already reaching out into the light.
  • Eastern kingbirds seemed to be everywhere today... and in a hurry to get somewhere else.
  • The back Old Hayfield had even more American coppers.
  • Wild bergamot follows milkweed - in timing and popularity - as a nectar source and was coming into its own... and with it ambush bugs and spiders.
  • The spider was onto me and we played hide and seek for a while.
  • It's always tempting to take down dead stalks in the garden, but they serve the purpose of being perches for things like dragonflies and, here, the wild indigo duskywing.
  • Cool, but sunny days are great for observing skippers because they tend to alternate feeding with the wings closed, and basking with the wings open, so displaying all surfaces for ID purposes. Like this female crossline skipper, I think...
  • Back tracking on the Sedge Meadow Trail, I came face to proboscis with an Appalachian brown.
  • There were a number in the Sedge Meadow itself. I once spent an afternoon trying to see if the similar eyed brown or northern pearly-eye was out there. Nope, so that keeps it simple!
  • Next week: the Cary Pines Trail side of the trail system.
American coppers on black-eyed Susan


  • 1 Turkey Vulture
  • 1 Mourning Dove
  • 1 Barred Owl
  • 1 Downy Woodpecker
  • 2 Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • 3 Eastern Kingbird
  • 1 Blue Jay
  • 2 American Crow
  • 2 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 1 Tufted Titmouse
  • 1 White-breasted Nuthatch
  • 2 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • 1 Eastern Bluebird
  • 2 American Robin
  • 2 Gray Catbird
  • 1 Cedar Waxwing
  • 1 Ovenbird
  • 1 Common Yellowthroat
  • 1 Scarlet Tanager
  • 3 Eastern Towhee
  • 3 Field Sparrow
  • 1 Song Sparrow
  • 1 Northern Cardinal
  • 1 Indigo Bunting
  • 1 Baltimore Oriole
  • 1 American Goldfinch
  • 2 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • 3 Spicebush Swallowtail
  • 9 Cabbage White
  • 2 Clouded Sulphur
  • 2 Orange Sulphur
  • 2 American Copper
  • 14 Great Spangled Fritillary
  • 33 Pearl Crescent
  • 3 Eastern Comma
  • 1 Red Admiral
  • 3 Northern Pearly-eye
  • 5 Appalachian Brown
  • 5 Little Wood-Satyr
  • 2 Common Ringlet
  • 21 Common Wood-Nymph
  • 1 Monarch
  • 16 Silver-spotted Skipper
  • 1 Wild Indigo Duskywing
  • 1 European Skipper
  • 1 Crossline Skipper
  • 14 Northern Broken-Dash
  • 1 Little Glassywing
  • 7 Mulberry Wing
  • 33 Dun Skipper
  • 1 Black-eyed Susan
  • 14 Hummingbird Clearwing
  • 3 Snowberry Clearwing
  • It was 85°F and mostly cloudy and windy at 11:00 AM on July 13, 2016.
  • This week's trail report covers the Cary Pines Trail side of the trail system.
  • The dogbane patch in the Little Bluestem Meadow was the butterfly hot spot today.
  • One long running Fern Glen mystery has been solved while another has surfaced.
  • The aphrodite fritillary made a rare appearance in the Fern Glen today.

The Trails

  • The forecasted heat and humidity called for an early start, but there's no avoiding the peak, so what's the point?
  • A cheerful yellow day lily variety was at one side of the Gifford trail head.
  • On the other side was a tattered musk mallow.
  • I'm quick to blame the deer, but it could well have been a ground hog. At least there were still blossoms left.
  • Something large, black and blue worked the road past the Carriage House. We caught up on some wild basil off the Scots Pine Alleé - it was a female black swallowtail.
  • The big patch of spreading dogbane at the back of the Little Bluestem Meadow was doing great.
  • It hosted two eastern tiger swallowtails, a dozen each of great spangled fritillaries and silver-spotted skippers, half a dozen common wood-nymphs, and a smattering of various grass skippers.
  • In the Fern Glen's Howard Roeller bed, great St. John'swort had started blooming.
  • Likewise, the tall bellflower.
  • Off the high side of the limestone cobble, at a point between flowering and fruiting, stood Valeriana alliariaefolia. This has been a mystery for my dozen years here. A little project - not mine - turned up its ID and source: Russia.
  • On the bottom side of the cobble, familiar old daisy fleabane was blooming.
  • In between, where the deer allowed, lopseed, with its minute, hinged blossoms was blooming.
  • Towards the back of the pond, a lesser maple spanworm moth was just hanging out.
  • Above, summer-sweet or clethra, was getting ready to bloom.
  • Along the side of the pond, Culver's root was blooming.
  • At the front, just a couple spotted jewelweed were open.
  • The lizard's tail and wild mint were both going strong now.
  • Back in the poor fen was a St. John'swort. I thought I had it figured out a couple years ago when it appeared, but now I don't know. The flowers are too large for one kind, with the pistil wrong for the other... a mystery.
  • But then a different looking fritillary landed on swamp milkweed. It was so dark, the silver spots stood out with striking contrast when the sun was right.
  • It was the aphrodite fritillary. Fortune allowed a side-by-side comparison with a great spangled.
  • That made my day! 2010 was the last time I'd seen one here.
  • Helleborine was up in a few places.
  • It's a little, alien orchid with green blossoms.
  • Our native spotted wintergreen is pretty strange too.
  • A few spring azures, or summer azures, were flying around the deck.
  • It's always cool at the deck, and an effort to leave on a day this warm...
  • Next week: the Wappinger Creek Trail side of the trail system.
Great Spangled and Aphrodite Fritillaries


  • 1 Mourning Dove
  • 2 Eastern Phoebe
  • 1 Eastern Kingbird
  • 5 Red-eyed Vireo
  • 1 Blue Jay
  • 1 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 5 Tufted Titmouse
  • 1 White-breasted Nuthatch
  • 1 American Robin
  • 2 Gray Catbird
  • 1 Cedar Waxwing
  • 1 Louisiana Waterthrush
  • 1 Scarlet Tanager
  • 2 Eastern Towhee
  • 1 Chipping Sparrow
  • 3 Field Sparrow
  • 1 Song Sparrow
  • 1 Indigo Bunting
  • 3 American Goldfinch
  • 1 Black Swallowtail
  • 2 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • 2 Cabbage White
  • 3 Spring Azure
  • 23 Great Spangled Fritillary
  • 1 Aphrodite Fritillary
  • 2 Pearl Crescent
  • 5 Little Wood-Satyr
  • 10 Common Wood-Nymph
  • 16 Silver-spotted Skipper
  • 2 Northern Broken-Dash
  • 1 Delaware Skipper
  • 5 Dun Skipper
  • 1 Culver's-root
  • 1 Great St. Johnswort
  • 1 Helleborine
  • 1 Lopseed
  • 1 Musk mallow
  • 1 Spotted jewelweed
  • 1 Spotted wintergreen
  • 1 St. Johnswort different...
  • 1 Summer-sweet
  • 1 Tall bellflower
  • 1 Hummingbird Clearwing
  • 1 Lesser maple spanworm moth


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