On Saturday, August 21, the Rivanna chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists hosted a butterfly walk. The outing was organized by John Holden and the hike leader was butterfly extraordinaire, Linda Marchman.
The group of 15+ walked along a gravel road on the west end of the meadows, giving us access to the meadow wildflowers and butterflies on both sides. Some species, notably the red admiral, were enjoying the minerals in the road. Thistle and white snakeroot were in full bloom, and dense patches of these plants provided the most variety.
We quickly exhausted the two hours allotted for this walk. The plan was to take the gravel drive to the woods, pass through a fern meadow forest, and take a meandering route through the heart of the Big Meadow to return to the parking lot. The butterflies had other plans for us!
A few hungry and thirsty die-hards did stick around to complete the hike. Two additional species were spotted, the common wood nymph and the gray comma (a really cool find!).
If you are interested in learning more about the habitats at Big Meadows, visit the links below. Big meadows has the greatest variety of rare plants in the Shenandoah National Park. In fact, it is host to the only existing Northern Blue Ridge Mafic Fen plant community.
The following is a list of butterflies observed today (a total of 22 species):
Horace's duskywing, Erynnis horatius
Wild indigo duskywing, Erynnis baptisiae
Silver spotted skipper, Epargyreus clarus
Common checkered-skipper, Pyrgus communis
Sachem skipper, Atalopedes campestris
Cabbage white, Pieris rapae
Brush-footed Milkweed Butterflies
Monarch, Danaus plexippus
Satyrs and Wood-Nymphs
Common wood nymph, Cercyonis pegala
All photographs by Devin Floyd, unless otherwise noted.
Big Meadows Links:
Comprehensive report on vegetation in the Northern Mafic Fen:
Department of Conservation and Recreation's habitat description: