Contests & Special Counts

Butterfly Counts & Updates

2022202020192018 2017 2016 2015 2014


Brown Elfin
photo ©Renee Davis
Click photo to enlarge

Sullivan County Wrap-up

2023 was another exceptional year for butterflies in Sullivan County. A whopping 76 species were seen this year, that’s not bad considering there are 91 species now on our checklist.

Silvery Blue
photo ©John Haas

I don’t know how he does it, but John Haas can cover all of Sullivan County in a flash. Not only is he one of the best birders in the state, but now he has renewed his interest in butterflies and added 6 new species this year to our list! They are Red-banded Hairstreak, Silvery Blue, Tawny Emperor, Leonard’s Skipper, Broadwing Skipper and Dusted Skipper. It’s very exciting to find new species for an area and I can only imagine the elation John felt with each find. What a wonderful feeling! Keep it up John!

Broad-winged Skipper
photo ©John Haas

One of the highlights of the season was the aberrant Eastern Tiger Swallowtail found by Carolyn Summers on her property known as Flying Trillium Gardens and Preserve in Neversink. It was pictured in the last Warblings but it deserves another look. It was pointed out by NABA officials that only one other like it had ever been seen, and that was back in 2014 in Wisconsin!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (aberrant)
photo ©Renee Davis
Click photo to enlarge

It was an exceptional year for West Virginia Whites. 9 were reported on one day and several people from other parts of the state came to see them. Giant Swallowtails popped up at the beginning of August and were reported all over the county. This is a species that is expanding its range and we are happy to have them here in Sullivan.

Six species of hairstreaks were seen this year. That is a family that can disappear for several years and then come back in high numbers. Banded Hairstreaks have made a great showing for the last two years. Brown Elfins were again seen this year for the first time since 2009.

To my knowledge, no one saw a Painted Lady this year in Sullivan. They have had a very poor showing for a couple of years here on the east coast. Almost all of the skippers were seen this year, I can only recall 4 that were not seen that are on our county list.

Overall, it was a great year. As I’m sitting here watching the snow fall, I am already thinking about next year. It won’t come soon enough for me! Renee Davis

Little Wood Satyr photo © Renee Davis
Little Wood Satyr
photo ©Renee Davis
Click photo to enlarge

Sullivan County Count
Have you noticed that the weatherman hasn’t had a very good year in predicting the weather? There haven’t been many days when he can’t get today's weather right, let alone tomorrow’s! The original date for our annual butterfly count was Monday, July 3rd. The weatherman predicted clouds and rain for that day, so I canceled and went to our next date, Wednesday the 5th. Guess what, he was wrong and we could have had a great day in the field that Monday. Fortunately, Wednesday turned out to be a great day too.

Five teams set out to survey the butterflies for our 30th year. We ended the day finding 39 different species, consisting of 1261 individuals. The rarest butterfly was found by John Haas in the Rock Hill area, a Northern Crescent. This was a new species for our list. Lance Verderame in the Hartwood area, found a Northern Oak Hairstreak. We have only had this butterfly twice in 30 years and not since 2011. Both these butterflies are great finds. Many people don’t like Cabbage Whites (they are the little green worms on our broccoli plants) but it was nice to see the numbers up a little this year. Last year we only had 141, this year 272. 135 Clouded Sulphurs were counted and Stu Alexander found 60 of them in the southeast area of the count circle. Great Spangled Fritillaries were up from 55 last year, with 92 being counted this year. Russ Scheirer managed to squeeze out a Monarch in the Monticello area. Not many Monarchs are being seen this year so every one is precious. Pat Cocot and I were able to find 2 of the six Banded Hairstreaks reported. Last year 30 were found. Every year is different so you never know what you’ll find, more or less.

Between all the teams, we walked 15 miles, drove 183 miles, and totaled 28 hours in the field. I think, actually I know, everyone enjoyed themselves as this is a fun project. To see this many butterflies is a great thing too. It hasn’t been since 2012, when we had 1085, that we have had this many. Our highest count was in 2006, with 1683, so our 1261 for this year was very good.

Thanks to all of the above counters for their dedicated work and knowledge in making this such an important part of Sullivan County Audubon and the North American Butterfly Association.
Renee Davis

Buckeye photo © Renee Davis
photo ©Renee Davis
Click photo to enlarge

 Hall's Mills Count
The 21st Hall's Mills Butterfly Count happened on July 8, a warm cloudy day.  The nectar plants and butterflies were ready to go, but you had to go find them.  Stu and Val Alexander met Russel Sheirer at Carolyn Summers' Flying Trillium Gardens and Preserve.  With 3 dogs to help beat the bushes we counted low numbers of about 20 species including Great Spangled and Meadow Fritillaries, Blues and Clouded Sulphurs, a very pale Monarch, and a Banded Hairstreak.

Russel and Cathy continued counting close to 55 butterflies in Neversink.  As the sun came out briefly in the PM they found a Silver-spotted Skipper, and an American Copper. 

Stu and Val headed for Hall's Mills, Blue Hill, and Frost Valley.  We found Aphrodite Fritillary, American Lady, Northern Pearly-eye, and Striped Hairstreak.

Northern Pearly-eye photo © Renee Davis
Northern Pearly-eye
photo ©Renee Davis
Click photo to enlarge

Renee Davis and John Haas walked many miles from Willowemoc to Brown’s Settlement kicking up huge numbers.  Among 4 species of Fritillary they counted 130 Meadow and 31 Atlantis.  With 10 species of Skipper they counted 777 European, Tawny Edged, Crossline, and Northern Broken Dash.  They found American Copper, Eastern Comma, and the only Viceroy.

Totals for the count are 37 species and 1815 adults.  Big numbers were 872 European Sk., 214 Great Spangled, and 145 Meadow Fritillaries.  The ‘Ones’ were VICEROY, Striped Hairstreak, Hobomok, Silver Spotted, and Tawny Edge Skippers. Not bad for a cloudy day!
Stu Alexander

A Rare Find
Carolyn Summers found an aberrant Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on her property in July, 2023. A very rare form! See image below.

Aberrant Eastern Tiger Swallowtail photo © Renee Davis
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail -- Aberrant Form
photo ©Renee Davis
Click photo to enlarge


Monticello Butterfly Count 2022spacePosted 09/14/2022

July 3rd turned out to be a beautiful day. It started out at 63 degrees and warmed to 83 degrees during the day. The clouds cleared out and left us with a perfect day for butterflies.

This year we had 5 teams covering the count area. Russ Scheirer came up with one of the two Pearl Crescents that were recorded. Stu Alexander found the only Indian Skipper, this is only the second time found since 2003! He also found the only Common Buckeye, White Admiral and Crossline Skipper. John Haas found the only Tawny-edged Skippers on count day along with a high count of Banded Hairstreaks. He also had Striped Hairstreak during count week. Lance Verderame had the only Peck's Skipper and Hobomok Skipper. During count week he also found Baltimore Checkerspot, Question Mark and Northern Pearly-eye. Renee Davis had an exciting moment when a Hoary Edge made a brief showing. This was a species that John Haas found at the Bashakill in June that was new to Sullivan County. It was nice to add it to our count.

Our teams racked up 27.4 hours of butterflying while driving 174.8 miles. They found 38 species which was only the second time since 2001. Our high count of 40 species was found in 2006.

Thank you to everyone who participated and made this a fantastic count for us. I know we all had a great day and everyone gets an Atta-boy!

spaceRenee Davis


2020 Monarch TaggingPosted 12/23/2020

Your gut feeling is usually right. This year I was contemplating how many Monarch tags I should order. Monarchs had a relatively good winter in Mexico and moderate numbers were exiting wintering grounds on schedule. All went well on their journey north with many reaching Sullivan County in early June. Then we went into a drought. I've been told that butterflies can survive heat, cold, rain, but not drought. Our numbers should have been going up but instead they plummeted. It seemed that Monarchs disappeared for the summer. A few started showing up again in August, just in time to lay eggs for our migrating population.

In fields in the Beechwoods area, Ruth McKeon and I usually collect hundreds of caterpillars to raise and release, but this year we were hard spent to come up with one hundred. I made several trips and was able to come up with a few more caterpillars. One day Alice Ferber helped me collect caterpillars. She not only handled the caterpillars with the gentlest touch, but she also caught several adults which we tagged and sent south to Mexico. Thanks Alice!

I had to place my order for tags in July and my gut told me it would be an off year. I only ordered 200 tags. Usually I order 500. Last year I raised almost 700 butterflies, but not this year. I only tagged 190, 104 males and 86 females. Now we hope that they have a great winter and spread out far and wide in the spring. We'll anticipate their return!

Renee Davis

AAUY194 SightingsPosted 12/23/2020

Yeah! We had another one of our Monarchs reported. #AAUY194 was a male Monarch that was collected as a caterpillar in the Beechwoods area of Sullivan County. He hatched on September 11, 2019 and I tagged and released him along with 43 others that day. On October 13th Tammy, who lives in Billingsley Alabama, caught a glimpse of him. Here is what she reported on the Monarch Watch database.
"We saw this Monarch, along with about 10 others on the pipeline behind my home at 2:58pm CST. We rode around for about 3 hours and counted 106 in all".

This is the first time we have ever had a butterfly reported on route to Mexico. As far as I could figure he flew a little over 32 miles a day and covered 1037 miles in 32 days. I hope he made it to his wintering grounds and had a great winter. Hopefully, his bloodlines have been passed down and I tagged one of his offspring this year!

Renee Davis


2019 NABA Butterfly Count Posted 9/3/19

Butterfly counters from Sullivan County Audubon set out for our 26th year of doing the North American Butterfly Count. Our results go to the North American Butterfly Association and a report is printed yearly. 

A wet spring is being blamed for the lack of numbers and species this year. April brought us 6.31 inches of rain, May brought us 6.54 inches and finally in June, things dried out a bit with only 2.02 inches. But the damage was already done. Many overwintering butterflies and caterpillars were drowned or could not get out to feed and breed. Many eggs just rotted away. It took several months for “southern” butterflies to make their way north and replenish our supply. The latter half of July and August are looking much better but grass skippers are still in very low numbers along with Fritillaries.

We had four teams this year out in the field and they counted 248 individuals of 23 species. This is our fifth lowest count ever. Pat Cocot, Mary Collier and Valerie Freer came up with the only Clouded and Orange Sulphurs. Ruth Shursky and Ruth McKeon found some of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Cabbage Whites and Red-spotted Purples. Russ Scheirer found Red Admirals along with Silver-spotted Skippers. Afton McGrath, Kate Hyden and Renee Davis found the only Banded Hairstreak, Summer Azure, Great Spangled Fritillary, Question Marks, Appalachian Brown, Little Wood-Satyr, Common Ringlet, Common Wood Nymph and two skippers, Mulberry Wing and Zabulon. All of the teams found  Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Cabbage Whites, and Monarchs. 

Many of the butterflies listed  above are usually found in  large numbers, for instance Great Spangled Fritillaries. This year we had two but in 2016 we had 123.  In 2008 we had 791 European Skippers, this year 43. As you can see, our numbers are way down, but most people are in the same boat as us. I want to thank everyone for their  efforts to keep this project going. We can only hope that next year we will bounce back and things will be back to normal, if there is a normal!

Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2019

2019 Photos below, left to right:
American Lady
© Pat Cocot; Mating Monarchs © Mary Collier; Milbert's Tortoiseshell © Renee Davis

Click each image to enlarge

American Lady, photo © Pat Cocot  Mating Monarchs, © Mary Collier  Milbert's Tortoiseshell, © by Renee Davis



Summer of the GIANT Swallowtail  Posted 9/10/18

Great Swallowtail, photo by LaVerne BlackSeveral SCAS members have reported seeing the Giant Swallowtail this summer.  For some, this was their first sighting of this large spectacular butterfly.

Those who reported seeing this butterfly were: Ruth McKeon, Ann Higgins, Kate Hyden, Valerie Freer, Rick Bunting (in Bainbridge, NY), and LaVerne Black (The photo at right was taken by LaVerne).

If you have seen this butterfly, you can let the editor of the newsletter know via or call 845-647-5496.

Warblings, Fall 2018


The Halls Mills Butterfly Count 7/7/18 Posted 9/10/18

Four teams participated in the Hall’s Mills butterfly count on July 7.
Team I: Stu & Valerie Alexander and Randy Golenboski - 21 species.
Team 2: Russell & Cathy Sheirer - 16 species.
Team 3: Valerie Freer and Mary Collier - 16 species.
Team 4: Renee Davis and Ruth McKeon - 21 species.

The total number of species identified on the count was 30 species. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails were abundant at 207 individuals.  There were in addition 48 Canadian Swallowtails and 184 Hybrid Swallowtails found. The teams also identified 296 European Skippers, 94 Great Spangled Fritillary’s, and 115 Cabbage Whites.

The 9 people on the count traveled a total of 115 miles by car and 4.5 miles on foot.  
Stu Alexander
Warblings, Fall 2018

2018 Sullivan Butterfly CountPosted 9/10/18

On July 2 eight people set out to count as many butterflies as they could within a fifteen mile circle in middle to southern Sullivan County. It is the same circle that we use for the Christmas Count. This is the 25th year we’ve done this. So far we have counted 16,437 butterflies, that consists of 62 species and 1 hybrid.

This year our counters found 312 individuals of 26 different species. Isabel Arter, Mary Collier and Valerie Freer found the only Orange Sulphur, Spring (summer) Azure, Least Skipper, and Little Glassy-wing. Team Ruth (McKeon and Shursky) were joined by Diane VanWagner and found the only Meadow Fritillary, Painted Lady, and Delaware Skippers. Afton McGrath and Renee Davis found the only Spicebush Swallowtail, Eastern Tailed-blue, Eastern Comma, Mourning Cloak, Red Admiral, Northern Pearly-eye, Common Wood-nymph, Northern Broken-dash, and Dun Skippers. All of the teams found  Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Cabbage Whites, and Monarchs. Clouded Sulphurs, Great Spangled Fritillaries, Red-spotted Purples, Silver-spotted Skippers, European Skippers, and Peck’s Skippers were all found by two teams.

Our day started out at 80 degrees and ended at a  hot, hot, hot 95 degrees. Even the butterflies were taking shelter from the heat and sun. Needless to say, we were all melted at the end of the day. The 199 miles driven were our only reprieve in air conditioning, boy did that feel good!

I am looking forward to next year and I hope to see you all there. Good butterflying!        
Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2018

Sullivan's Butterflies   Posted 6/17/18

Here we go again. Another year of butterflies. This spring has left a lot to be desired, April was wet and cold and May offered a few warm days here and there, but not many days in a row to promote hatching and emergence of overwintering adults. I saw my first Mourning Cloaks and Eastern Commas the week of April 4th which is right on schedule, but there were many days after that when cold and wet kept everybody grounded.

As we enter June there have been more sightings but not many numbers. I’ve talked to other butterfliers and asked their opinion as to the low numbers and no one has been able to put their finger on a good explanation. Hopefully things will come around and we will get back to normal, if there is one.

Our butterfly database has over 8000 records of butterflies reported within the county. Last year we produced our updated checklist and added 3 new species since our last printing. If you need any checklists let me know and I’ll get you some (or just download it and print it). We have records of 73 species and 3 subspecies in the county. Hopefully this year we will add more. So get out there and find those butterflies!
Renee Davis
Warblings, Summer 2018


Butterflies in Mid-October…..Really?   Posted 1/18/18

Milbert\'s Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral, photo by Renee Davis
Milbert's Tortoiseshell
& Red Admiral

photo by Renee Davis
Click to enlarge

This report of an especially “rich” Oct. 18, 2017 butterfly sighting in Sullivan County at Rondout Reservoir was submitted to the North American Butterfly Association  by Renee Davis.
Valerie Freer, Marge Gorton and I happened to look down at the flowers after looking at Common Loons off the parking lot viewing area at the Sullivan/Ulster border on Rte 55. Every butterfly was nectaring on the goldenrod. What a pleasant surprise for the 18th of October. This is the first Milbert’s that we have seen in years.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell 1 (the top butterfly in the photo at right)
Painted Lady 3
Red Admiral 1 (the bottom butterfly in the photo at right)
Common Buckeye 2
Monarch 12
Renee Davis
Warblings, Winter 2017-18

2017 Monarch Season  Posted 1/18/18

Tagged and Released Monarchs, photo by Renee Davis
Tagged and Released Monarchs
photo by Renee Davis
Click to enlarge

When I read that Monarchs survived their winter in Mexico and were streaming north in high  numbers this spring, I started to get excited about our Monarch season here in Sullivan County. Many more of the Monarchs leaving Texas headed east this year instead of going north. Maybe they know that we have the milkweed and the midwest has lost most of theirs due to weed control in corn and soybean fields.

Monarchs started showing up in New York state by the end of May this year and I had our first reports in early June, almost a whole month earlier than normal. The females were busy laying eggs and it looked like we would have a terrific year. You could go out for a ride and almost be guaranteed to see one fluttering across the fields.

Ruth McKeon and I started collecting caterpillars in August to raise and tag. We have walked miles and miles through fields and this year we collected hundreds of caterpillars. I bring them home and care for them till they hatch. Every day on my way home from work, I would stop and pick a bucket of milkweed that would be devoured by the next day, all those hungry mouths! People have said to me “Why don't you just let nature take its course”?  Here’s why:  most of the 300+ caterpillars we collected were from fields that were going to be hayed within a day to a week. So I feel that we saved their lives and helped out the Monarch population. All of the farmers we contacted and asked for permission to enter their fields were very gracious, they were happy that we were saving the caterpillars.

Altogether I tagged 450 Monarchs this year, our highest ever. 17 of them were from the Jeff school where several teachers do a wonderful job in teaching the children about all the stages of the butterfly. They are very excited when they release the butterfly and watch it fly away. Charlie and Heather Hadden have raised caterpillars for a few years now so that their children understand the life cycle too. This year they raised 24, good job!  While gardening around my house I tagged several wild ones and the Wurtsboro Airport also produced many this year. That is along the migration route at the bottom of the Shawangunk Ridge.

If you have any spare time check out to see a spectacular show of Monarchs reaching their wintering grounds in Mexico. The skies are full, it’s impressive! Now I hope they have a good winter with no frosts, so all can head north again in February. I’m already looking forward to next year!
Renee Davis
Warblings, Winter 2017-18

4th Of July Butterfly Count in the Monticello Circle   Posted 9/8/17

On July 5th, three parties consisting of 11 people set off for a day of butterfly counting within a circle from Monticello to Wurtsboro to Forestburgh. Their goal was to count individual butterflies for the North American Butterfly Association, a project Sullivan Audubon has done for 24 years.  It was not a banner year due to weather. Many wet and cold days in May and June and even into July, were not exactly the right conditions for our winged wonders. With all of these setbacks the 2017 count was a little less than average for us.  Together all of us counted 316 individuals, higher than the 1994 count when only 61 individuals were counted and much lower than the 2006 count when 1683 individuals were counted.

Ruth McKeon and Ruth Shursky found the only Silver-spotted Skipper, and Atlantis Fritillaries. They also had the highest count of Great Spangled Fritillaries 23, and Red-spotted Purples 4.

The team of  Valerie Freer, Pat Cocot, Gloria Wagenknecht, and Mary Collier found the only Black Swallowtails 3,  Aphrodite Fritillaries 10,  Meadow Fritillaries 8, and a bonus of a Common Buckeye. This is only the second time since 2011 that one has been found on our count. They had the highest count of 4 Eastern-tiger Swallowtails, 26 Clouded Sulphurs, 3 Orange Sulphurs, 4 Monarchs and 8 European Skippers.

Kate Hyden, Truth and Maura Muller and Renee Davis found the only Mulberry Wings. This was super special to us as it was a lifer for all. It has only been seen twice before, and not since 2008. We had the highest number of Cabbage Whites 46, 6 Red Admirals, 4 American Lady’s, 4 Little Wood Satyrs, 3 Common Wood-nymphs, and 7 Dun Skippers, and we tied Valerie's group with 9 Eastern-tailed Blues,

Swift GuideA special treat for all of us was that the new book, A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America by Jeffrey Glassberg, was given to each of the persons doing the count. The books were donated by a member of SCAS.    I have to say that these books came in handy and got their workout that day. The skipper section (sparrows of the butterfly world!) made it easy to narrow species and identify the one you were looking at. If you are thinking of purchasing a butterfly field guide I highly recommend this one, it’s informative and easy to use.

Terrific book. Thanks Jeff!

We had a lot of  “new“ blood doing our count this year. It was fun to see the enthusiasm and interest in learning the individuals species, let alone the “thrill” of the hunt. Spotting them is the first call to duty, identifying second. The more eyes the better, so next year please come out and lend us your “eyes”. I guarantee you’ll have a great time!
Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2017

The Halls Mills Butterfly Count 7/2/17   Posted 9/8/17

The Hall’s Mills Butterfly Count happened on a warm sunny day after a cold, wet, end of June.  The butterflies were hatching and fresh adults were abundant.  Many great photos of Fritillaries, Swallowtails, and others were taken. 

Valerie Freer, Mary Collier, Rick Bunting, Tannar Cliffe, and Melinda Cormier counted from South Hill to Thunder Hill to Hasbrouck.  They found 22 species including 5 Aphrodite Fritillaries, 5 Monarchs, and the only Wood Nymphs, Northern Broken Dash, and Least Skipper counted.

Russel Sheirer, the Barefoot Gardener, counted the Rt. 55 corridor from Neversink to Grahamsville.  He counted Red Admirals, Orange and Clouded Sulphurs, and an Aphrodite.

Stu and Valerie Alexander, and Randy Golemboski counted Hall’s Mills, Blue Hill, Frost Valley, and Claryville.  With our 21 species we found 17 Hybrid Tiger Swallowtails, 2 Pearl Crescents, a Northern Pearly Eye, and a Gray Hairstreak (See photo on color insert.)

Renee Davis, Ruth McKeon, and Ruth Shursky counted from Aden Hill to Willowemoc and Browns Settlement.  Among their 23 species they counted 438 European    Skippers, 34 White Admiral, 35 Atlantis Fritillary, a Black Swallowtail, Little Wood Satyr, and a Silver Spotted  Skipper. 

Big numbers for the day were European Skipper 496, Cabbage White 66, Great Spangled Fritillary 56, Atlantis Fritillary 47, White Admiral 39, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail 32.   Totals for the count were 32 species, 986 adults and one Monarch larva.  Much fun was had by all!!!
Stu Alexander
Warblings, Fall 2017

Photos below, left to right: Viceroy by Rick Davis; Gray Hairstreak by Stu Alexander;
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail by Gloria Wagenknecht;
Northern Pearly Eye
by Stu Alexander; Aphrodite Fritillary by Mary Collier

Click each image to enlarge

Viceroy, photo by Rick Bunting  Gray Hairstreak, photo by Stu Alexander  Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, photo by Gloria Wagenknecht  Northern Pearly-eye, photo by Ken Witkowski  Aphrodite Fritillary, photo by Mary Collier


They're ComingPosted 6/22/17

Yep, that’s right, they’ll be here soon. Monarchs that is. We usually see the first ones here in Sullivan around the first week of July. I have to say that the weather this year has not been the best for butterflying but hopefully it will straighten out by then. We have had Monarchs on every butterfly count for the last 23 years except for 2015, when not one was found on the day of the count. Ruth McKeon did have one in June, 2015 at her place in Woodbourne and others started appearing after July 9th. So far, as we go to print, they have been reported as far north as Maine. Maybe they will be here sooner this year. In our area milkweed is up and looking very good for egg laying females. Our butterfly count is Wed, July 5th with a rain date of Sunday, July 9th. Stu Alexander's Halls Mills count will be on Sunday July 2nd. If you can identify or even spot butterflies we need your help. Please call either of us to sign up. See Coming Events.

Overwintering colonies in Mexico were down slightly this year and covered only 2.91 hectares, last year they covered 4.01 hectares. This is still better than the winter of 13/14 when only 0.67 hectares were covered. A hectare is 2.47 acres. The largest colonies recorded to date covered 18.19 hectares in the winter of 96/97. I hope we can reach those numbers again. 

I will be raising caterpillars again this year so if you find any that you would like me to raise please contact me and I will make arrangements to get them. Like last year I will be tagging and releasing them. Maybe we can make a difference and add to the population.
Renee Davis
Warblings, Summer 2017


The Halls Mills Butterfly Count 7/10/16   Posted 9/16/16

The Hall’s Mills Butterfly Count happened on the rain date of 7/10/16 after an all day soaker 7/9.  It was a cool day with just enough sun in the morning to get the butterflies airborne. 

Renee Davis and Afton McGrath counted Willowemoc and Fir Brook and found the most adults and 18 species.  They had the only Summer Azures.  Ruth McKeon and Ruth Shursky counted Hasbrouck and Thunder Hill to South Hill.  They counted 59 Great Spangled Fritillaries, and saw Clouded Sulphurs, Wood Nymphs, and a Pearl Crescent. Stu and Valerie Alexander counted from Neversink to Blue Hill and Claryville.  We found American Coppers, Spicebush Swallowtail, American Ladies, and Commas.  We found 4 Monarchs in 4 different fields.   Valerie Freer, Mary Collier, Rick Bunting, Isabel Arter, and Tanner Cliff counted from Bradley to Aden Hill to Smith Rd.  They found 16 species including the only Striped Hairstreak.  Russel Scheirer counted while being the Barefoot Gardener.  He got a surprise with a Little Wood Satyr. 

Totals for the day are 26 species and 792 adults.   Not bad for a damp cloudy day and a whole lot of fun!!
Stu Alexander
Warblings, Fall 2016

Monticello Butterfly Count 7/3/16Posted 9/16/16

On July 3rd Sullivan County Audubon conducted its 23rd year of counting butterflies for the North American Butterfly Association annual butterfly count. Three groups set out to cover our count circle area, which is a 15 mile circle with the center being the Neversink Gorge in Monticello. This is the same area for our Christmas Count, but that's another story,  different time, different season! The weather gods were on our side with the morning and early afternoon being sunny and warm. The latter part of the afternoon turned cloudy and put many butterflies to bed for the rest of the day.

Our teams traveled 176.2 miles in their search and came up with 23 species on their lists. Total individuals were down from other years with 309, only 5 other years were lower in numbers. Weather had a major effect on butterflies this year. March and April had warmer temperatures but also lower temps in the teens that took a toll on adults that already had begun to fly. Many were killed before they could repopulate so we saw the effect by fewer numbers. As the weather warmed, and stayed warm, species began filtering in from the south. We are now seeing more numbers with a good variety of species, but still not like it used to be.

Special thanks go out to Valerie Freer, Mary Collier, Ruth McKeon, Ruth Shursky and Afton McGrath for their energy and hard work making this a fun, and great thing we're doing, not only for NABA and Sullivan County, but for ourselves. What a great feeling of accomplishment!   

Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2012

Sullivan Butterflies - 2016

Summer in Sullivan County brings out some of the best things in nature. Wildflowers, birds, amphibians, and one of my favorites, butterflies!

Several species have been reported so far this year: Spring Azure, Mourning Cloaks, Meadow Fritillaries, American Ladies, and Eastern Commas, just to mention a few.  Eastern Tiger Swallowtails have finally begun to hatch and are showing up everywhere.  Memorial Day weekend is one of the best times to see lots of these beauties, especially around the reservoirs, but they continue all summer.

Our butterfly count is coming up on July 3rd with a rain date of the 6th. We are always looking for experienced  Counters, but spotters are just as important, if not more. If you are not sure of the butterfly just bring it to our attention and, hopefully, someone will be able to identify it.  Numbers count so the more eyes we have spotting, the better the count.

All of the records from these counts go into our butterfly database which has 7021 records so far. I know I sound like a broken record, but please send me your reports.

If you are not sure of a butterfly maybe we can figure it out together. Go ahead, give it a try and get me  those sightings.

Renee Davis
Warblings, Summer 2016


DOW Launches a New Assault on Monarchs
NRDC uses a full page in The New York Times to urge us to make our voices heard and stop DOW from moving forward.

Butterfly Count #22    Posted 9/14/15

Tiger Swallowtail, photo by Mary Collier
Tiger Swallowtail
photo by Mary Collier
Click to enlarge

On July 5th eight hardy butterfly counters again headed into the wilds of Monticello to count butterflies for the 22nd year in a row; riding the roads to the tune of 196 miles, hiking trails and trudging through meadows.    
Team Ruth (McKeon and Shursky) found 108 butterflies consisting of 11 species, with the only Atlantis & Meadow Fritillaries and Delaware Skippers.

Tannar with grandfather Rick Bunting, along with Valerie Freer and Mary Collier found 146 individuals of 19 species and the only Monarch caterpillars. No adult Monarch butterflies were seen that day. Their eagle eyes spotted the only Black Swallowtail, Striped Hairstreaks, Aphrodite Fritillaries, Common Ringlet, Least Skippers and Little Glassywings.

Marge Gorton and Renee Davis wound up with 21 species with 412 individuals. We had the only Spicebush Swallowtails, Banded Hairstreaks, Pearl Crescents, Eastern Commas, Mourning Cloak, Eyed Browns and Little Wood-satyrs. 

When all the results were totaled we ended up with 666 butterflies, 31 total species and 3 Monarch caterpillars. I would like to thank everyone who helped out on this project. It is a lot of fun and I look forward to it each year. I can't wait till next year!

This count is done for The National Butterfly Association. Its information is valuable for determination of how each species of butterfly is doing, as a whole, all over the country and world

Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2015

Sullivan Butterflies - 2015

As we go into the fall it is still a good time to spot butterflies. This summer was very good, producing most of the normal species we would expect to see in Sullivan County.

One exciting find was by Rich Kelly and John Collins. On May 17th they were butterflying in the Bashakill and found a Dreamy Duskywing. That is a new species for Sullivan and something for us all to keep an eye out for. Great Butterfly! Thanks guys.

Monarch Caterpillar, photo by Rick Bunting
Monarch Caterpillar
photo by Rick Bunting

Monarchs have been far and few again this year. Reports from around the country vary somewhat. The central part of the US seem to be a little better than last year, while here in the east it seems to be the same if not a little worse. One or two Monarchs were seen in June and a few in July. August seemed better and now we are seeing caterpillars so the adults have been around. Ruth McKeon has dropped off many caterpillars for me to raise and tag. Valerie, Marge and I found four last week and they are growing nicely. Soon they will be on their way to Mexico---Adios amigos!
Giant Swallowtails are also in the area again. I had two so far in my garden, and 1 dead one at Agway. When Ruth dropped off caterpillars the other day at Agway she rescued one trapped behind the door of the greenhouse and sent it on its way. It's nice to see these big southern butterflies in our area. They are expanding their range and are almost reliable every year now. How nice.

Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2015


The Halls Mills Butterfly Count 7/12/14    Posted 9/11/14

American Lady, photo by Renee Davis
American Lady
photo by Renee Davis

Four teams participated in the Hall’s Mills Butterfly count this year. The day was warm with 40% sun in the morning and 50% sun in the afternoon. Wind was slight at 0-5 mph. The temperature was 68 degrees and reached 84 degrees in the afternoon.

The four teams found 32 species and 1133 individuals. Team 4 led with 25 species and 455 individuals.
View complete results.

Team 1 - Hall’s Mills, Blue Hill, Frost Valley, Claryville, Red Hill, 23 miles by car and 2 miles on foot. Stu Alexander and Randy Golemboski. 6 hours.
Team 2 - South Hill, East half Rondout Reservoir, Sundown to Peekamoose, Lackawack Hill, 50 miles. Valerie Freer and Mary Collier. 7 hours.
Team 3 - Rt. 55 Neversink to Grahamsville. 27 miles. Russel and Cathy Scheirer. 5.5 hours.
Team 4 - Thunder Hill to Hasbrouck. Grants Rd. to Aden Hill to Willowemoc and Browns Settlement. 73 miles. Ruth McKeon and Renee Davis. 7 hrs. 
Stu Alexander
Warblings, Fall 2014

Photos below, left to right: Clouded Sulphur and Eastern Comma by Renee Davis; Giant Swallowtail by Scott Baldinger; Giant Swallowtail and Meadow Fritillary by Renee Davis – Click each image to enlarge
Clouded Sulphur, photo by Renee Davis  Eastern Comma, photo by Renee Davis  Giant Swallowtail, photo by Scott Baldinger  Giant Swallowtail, photo by Renee Davis  Meadow Fritillary, photo by Renee Davis


The Halls Mills Butterfly Count 7/14/13Posted 9/12/13

After a rainy early summer, July 14 turned out to be an excellent day to count butterflies. Although not very sunny the warmer, dryer weather brought out big numbers.

Topping the list were 214 Wood Nymphs, 210 Dun Skippers, and 164 Great Spangled Fritillaries. Russ and Cathy Sheirer covered New Age Spa to Rondout Reservoir and found Hickory Hairstreaks and an American Lady. Ruth Shursky and Ruth McKeon covered Mutton Hill, Thunder Hill, and Hasbrouck. They found the only American Copper and Silver Spotted Skippers. Randy Golemboski and I covered Hall's Mills, Blue Hill, and Claryville. We found a Black Swallowtail, Eastern Tailed Blues, Banded Hairstreak, and a Buckeye. Woo Hoo!!! Renee Davis covered Aden Hill to Willowemoc and Browns Settlement. She found the only White Admiral, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Crossline and Dion Skippers.

Total ID species was 35 with 1338 individuals. Only 2 Monarchs were counted after the lowest number on record over wintered in Mexico. We are hopeful they will rebound as tagging season approaches

Stu Alexander
Warblings, Fall 2013

Butterfly Count 2013Posted 9/12/13

Thanks to thunderstorms, our twentieth butterfly count was held on rain date of Sunday, July 7. Prior to our count we had a week of torrential downpours, temperatures in the 90's, with 90 % humidity to go along with it all. Not the best weather for butterflying. Even the butterflies don't like that. Sunday was better, not by much though. At 9 am it was 78 degrees, hot and humid. We ended up with a high of 88 degrees, and a violent thunderstorm ended our count at the Bashakill area early. Ruth McKeon and I sat in my car under trees hoping the hail would not crack my windshield! Trees came down across Rte 209 in the wind, and the butterflies called it quits for the day at 3 pm. I don't blame them. People in the upper part of the circle had better weather and continued until 5 pm with no storms or rain.

Stu Alexander found the only Striped and Hickory Hairstreaks, Baltimore Checkerspot, Northern Pearly Eye, Silver-spotted Skippers, Crossline Skippers, and Long Dash. Valerie Freer, Rick Bunting and Mary Collier found the only American Copper, Eastern-tailed Blues, Question Mark, Eastern Commas, Northern Broken-dash, and Little Glassywings. I was fortunate enough to find a Monarch laying eggs. I couldn't pull myself away, and I watched her lay 30 eggs. She was one of only 5 seen that day.

At the end of the day, when we all wilted away, 31 species were totaled. 592 individuals were seen, which is our lowest count since 2002. I feel it was because of weather and not of a decrease in butterfly numbers or species. The week following was more favorable and many butterflies were out and about. We'll just have to look forward to next year. I can't wait!

Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2013

Sullivan County ButterfliesPosted 7/1/13

It's butterfly season again--WOO HOO! That makes me happy, Very happy. In 2003, thanks to the prodding from Valerie Freer, I started our butterfly database for Sullivan County. Over the years butterfly watchers have reported 5888 records to me, that total 36,807 butterflies seen in our county. It's amazing ... think about it ... that many butterflies.

Keep your eye out for Monarchs this year. They have had the worst season ever. The numbers of overwintering adults in Mexico have been the least amount in history. Experts say that an area less than two football fields is the size of the overwintering population. Although it can't be proven yet, many feel it is because of genetically engineered crops grown in the midwest. I'll have more on that subject in the next issue. In the meantime, if you have a patch of milkweed, please leave it for the monarchs.

It's the only plant that they can raise their caterpillars on. If you don't want it to spread, pick the seed
pods off before they ripen. There are many annual and perennial plants that can be planted in your garden or in pots that will act as host plants for larvae, or nectaring plants to attract other species of butterflies. All you have to do is plant it and they will come!

Red-spotted Purple, photo by Ruth McKeon
Red-spotted Purple
photo by Ruth McKeon
Click to enlarge


Many people pay attention to our winged beauties but have a difficult time identifying them.  I like to take many pictures so I can review them later.  Even the experts misidentify, but they don't give up. When you see a butterfly, keep your eye on it as long as you can. Pay attention to as many details that you can. What color is it, size, wing patterns, any spots, and stripes? Posture, are they sitting with wings open or closed? Flight style, are they fast flapping or do they flap then glide?  What plants are they nectaring on? Every clue may help you narrow down many species and help you identify the correct one.

Once you've done that----get the record to me! It's easy, one way is to report it on our website's butterfly reporting form, or call me before 7 pm, or mail them to me 124 Stump Pond Rd, Livingston Manor NY 12758. Make your record count. Now get out there and find those butterflies!                           

Renee Davis
Warblings, Summer 2013


The Halls Mills Butterfly Count 7/8/12 ResultsPosted 8/28/12

An excellent count was had by all participants on a beautiful, sunny day. Good weather leading up to the count made for very healthy nectar sources and high numbers of butterflies. The 4 teams counted 1635 individuals and 31 ID species. The team of Valerie Freer, Mary Collier, and Rick Bunting covered Aden to Willowemoc and found 25 species. They had the only 4 Tawny Edged Skipper, 31 Meadow Fritillary, 38 Aphrodite Fritillary, and 57 Monarchs. Team Ruth McKeon and Ruth Shursky covered South of 55 from Grahamsville to Hasbrouck. They found the only Eastern Comma and had 17 species. John Haas covered Grahamsville and South Hill to Ulster Heights. He counted the only Spicebush Swallowtail and only 2 Question Mark as well as 177 Little Glassy Wing. John had 20 species and 507 individuals. Team Stu and Valerie Alexander covered Claryville, Hall's Mills, and Blue Hill. We found the only 2 Canadian Tiger Swallowtail and 22 species.

All time high numbers for the count were set for Black Swallowtail - 6, Aphrodite Fritillary. - 40, Meadow Fritillary. - 33, Monarch - 187, Wood Nymph - 108, Little Glassy Wing -196, and Dun Skipper - 143. We can only hope to have as good a day for the count next year.

Stu Alexander
Warblings, Fall 2012

Monticello Butterfly CountPosted 8/28/12

On Wednesday, June 27, ten diehard Sullivan County Auduboners set out for our 19th annual butterfly count for the North American Butterfly Association. Although it was sunny, the wind did us no favor. Early morning started with about 5mph winds and steadily increased to 25mph. Hold on to your hats!! Butterflies can't maneuver in those winds so our count was a little off compared to other years. We ended up with 31 species which is not too far from our high of 40 and better than our low of 17.

Valerie Freer's team of Rick Bunting, Isabel Arter, and Mary Collier added the first Giant Swallowtail to our count. It was at Wolf Brook and was a very, worn adult. We'll take it no matter what condition it's in! I'm glad it lived till at least that day, and it stayed in an area to be seen by those sharp-eyed butterfly stalkers.

Afton Lazier's eagle eyes were quick to call out butterflies faster than I could get on them! She has been my partner for several years now and is becoming a real pro at this. John Haas was excited to find a Striped Hairstreak which was a lifer for him. What a great feeling it is to run across a lifer when you're not expecting one. Congratulations John! Arlene Borko along with John found our only hybrid that day, a Red-spotted Admiral. This is a cross of a White Admiral and a Red-spotted Purple. Ruth Shursky and Ruth McKeon found the only Baltimore Checkerspot that day. That is one of the prettiest butterflies found in our area. Way to go Team Ruth, great find!

We had our best year yet with Monarchs, a total of 70. Our last best year was 2010, when we counted 36, slightly more than half of this year's count. This is a great year for Monarchs, and I'm looking forward to tagging again in September.

Temperatures ranged from 61 to 77 degrees that day but there were a few sheltered spots within the count circle. That allowed us to count 1085 total individual butterflies, not bad considering the wind! Over the years our high counts have been in 2006 with 1683, 2008 produced 1592, and in 2007 we counted 1173. All in all 2012 was a good year in our record books. Thanks to everyone involved. I'm looking forward to next year!

Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2012

Have You Counted the Butterflies? Posted 6/7/12

Red Admiral, photo by Valerie Freer
Red Admiral, photo by Valerie Freer
Click to enlarge

Here We Go Again Yep, it's that time of year again---butterfly season! I've had many reports so far this year and I feel it could be one of our best seasons ever. Warm weather in March and April brought many butterflies out of hibernation early and several species were reported earlier than ever.

Red Admirals have been migrating northward by the thousands in April and May. From my front porch on May 4th, in one hour I counted 366 individuals. Just think, that was going on up and down the east coast and into the Midwest. I counted a dozen females laying eggs on my sting nettle (larval food plant) and I look forward to watching the caterpillars grow. Experts feel the warm winter had a positive effect on wintering populations and most made it through.

I tallied butterflies in years past and came up with fantastic numbers. Through 2011 there have been 32498 butterflies reported in our database. Some of those included in that number are 2186 Eastern Tiger-Swallowtails, 1167 Orange Sulphurs, 1168 Great Spangled Fritillaries, 5279 Monarchs and 7083 Cabbage Whites.

Reporting butterflies is simple, go to our website,, go to butterflies and then click on the online report form. It's very simple, if you don't feel comfortable around computers then please call me with your report at 482-5044 but not after 7 pm. I'll be looking forward to your findings!

Renee Davis
Warblings, Summer 2012


Summer ButterfliesPosted 9/10/11

The last time I reported about our butterflies we had just finished the rainy months of April and May. I have to say the summer did straighten out and gave us some great butterfly days. In June we had 21 species reported with a total of 1743 individuals. Now that’s better! Twelve, new for the year, species were added for that month.

July turned out to be a gem, kind of like the Hope Diamond. We added a new species to our checklist---Giant Swallowtail. This beauty showed up at Bill Cogswell’s butterfly garden in Liberty and hung around for three days. Two weeks later a very worn one also showed up. I’m thinking it was the same one, so for two weeks it flew around the Liberty-Walnut Mountain area. These butterflies have been expanding north and have been reported in Ulster regularly the past three years. I knew it would only be a matter of time before we had them here. Thank you, Bill!

Another butterfly that has been seen this year in good numbers is the Common Buckeye. It too has been expanding its range. Usually one or two might be seen in certain years but not this year! They made it on both butterfly counts and have been seen regularly all season. I had five at my house the other day.

Getting back to how good July was, we had 46 species reported with 1916 individuals. Twenty more were added for the year which now brings us up to a whopping 44 species and one hybrid.

The days are growing shorter and sun’s rays are not as strong but they’re still out there, lots of them. Please take a stroll along a weedy roadside or visit some of the beautiful village gardens in your area and take a look at these winged beauties. They’re only here for a short time, so get going!

Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2011

The Monticello CountPosted 9/10/11

Common Buckeye on Milkweed, photo by Renee Davis
Common Buckeye, photo by Renee Davis
Click to enlarge

I couldn’t wait for July 3rd to roll around as it was going to be our 18th annual NABA butterfly count for the season. I had all the teams lined up like ducks in a row and we were ready---- It rained. It rained a lot. It rained so much that it made a severe impact on the count when we finally had it on Wed the 6th. Many adult butterflies were drowned or killed so most of the ones we dealt with were fresh specimens or very lucky individuals.

We had four groups out scouring the circle and they came up with 36 species along with our orange/clouded sulphur hybrid again. A new species was added to our annual count list, Common Buckeye. These little beauties are popping up all over the county this year. I love ‘em! Oak and Gray Hairstreaks were seen this year, first time since 2006. An Atlantis Fritillary made a showing. This is the first since 2004. Orange Sulphurs were the most abundant with 125 individuals, next were European Skippers with 121 individuals. Delaware Skippers and Cabbage Whites numbered in the 90s. Eastern Tiger-Swallowtails have had a great year with 75 being seen that day.

All the teams ended the day finding 723  butterflies. This number is not far off other years, in 2009 we had 720, in 2004 we had 788, and in 2003 we had 766. Our high count was in 2006 with 1683 butterflies being seen. Weather plays such an important role and I think it bit us this year. The days prior to the count were superb, but it took many days after the count to return to normal. I would like to thank Team Ruth—Shursky and McKeon, Team Scheirer-Russ and Walter, along with Marge Gorton, Arlene Borko and John Haas for all the dedicated work and time they put into this project. I can’t wait till next year!                       

Renee Davis
Warblings, Fall 2011

The Halls Mills CountPosted 9/10/11

Stu Alexander led a very successful Halls Mills Butterfly Count on July 10, with 5 teams searching the northern parts of the county and up to Frost Valley. When all results were combined we had counted 1202 butterflies of 32 different species, with 295 E. Tiger Swallowtail the most common. A total of 40 Atlantis Fritillaries were found by 4 teams. A usually uncommon species, the Buckeye, was found by 3 teams. (The most common species last year, 540 Red Admirals, was not found at all this year!!)

Participating teams included Stu Alexander and Bud Angelotti, John Haas, Renee Davis and Afton Lazier, Ruth Shursky and Ruth McKeon, and Russ and Cathy Scheirer. Many thanks to all!

Valerie Freer and Stu Alexander
Warblings, Fall 2011


Summer ButterfliesPosted 11/30/10

We had a great summer for butterflies in Sullivan County this year. August heat produced 15 different species adding 660 individuals to our year count. September was another story.

On September 2 we were tagging Monarchs in the fields at Wurtsboro Airport when Tannar Bunting-Cliffe found a Wild Indigo Duskywing. That was a new butterfly for Sullivan County. Thank-you Tannar! Also that day, Isabel Arter and Maya Bunting-Cliffe helped tag 5 Monarchs and sent them on their way to Mexico. (See photos in the December 2010 - February 2011 issue of Warblings, showing Renee sharing her tagging knowledge with these young butterfliers .)

September turned in 20 different species and added 867 individuals, bringing our total up to 4961 butterflies for the summer.

My thanks also go out to Valerie Freer, Rick Bunting, John Haas, Kate Hyden, Russ Scheirer, Marge Gorton, Ruth Shursky, Ruth McKeon and Paul Cliffe for all their help with butterfly records for the county.

Up to October we now have 49 species reported for Sullivan, but again no Milbert’s Tortoiseshell this year. Maybe next year we’ll find them again!

Renee Davis
Warblings, December 2010-February 2011


Hall's Mills Butterfly Count 7/11/10Posted 9/3/10

Red Admiral on Dogbane, photo by Valerie Freer
Red Admiral on Dogbane, photo by Valerie Freer
Click to enlarge
Good butterfly weather leading up to and during the 8th Hall’s Mills Count made for a huge butterfly count.  Total individuals counted were 2735 after a previous high in ’06 of 1060.  It was the 4th time in the 8 year history of the count that we had 34 identified species with a high of 38 in ’04.  We had an all time high of individuals of 11 species and one new species.

The highest number for a single species was 540 Red Admirals after 0 last year.  After consulting Cech and Tudor’s Butterflies of the East Coast, the Red Admiral numbers tend to spike about every 10 years and then crash.  The last big year was ’01.  Other big numbers were for Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - 323, Clouded Sulfur – 224, Great Spangled Fritillary – 183, and Pearl Crescent – 393.

Team Ruth, Shursky and McKeon, counted 75 Clouded Sulfur and 75 Pearl Crescent.  Team Sheirer counted 130 Red Admirals, 120 Pearl Crescent, and the only American Copper.  Valerie Freer and Mary Collier counted the only Tawny Edged Skippers, Question Mark, Eastern Tailed Blue, and new to the count a Dion Skipper.  Valerie was quite excited as she was on the lookout for the Dion Skipper with its distinctive “rays” under the hind wing.  Renee Davis and Arlene Borko counted the first Painted Lady since ’04 and 123 Pearl Crescent.  Team Alexander counted    (Continued on page 7) (Continued from page 2) 4 Canadian Tiger, and Delaware Skippers.

Having 5 teams for the first time and great weather helped make this a monster of a count.  We can only hope for the same conditions and participation in ’11. For the full count check                                         

Stu Alexander
Warblings, September-October 2010

June and July Butterflies - 2010Posted 9/3/10

June brought us some nice summer weather and some nice butterflies. We held our 17th annual NABA butterfly count on June 30th. Ten hardy members got out and counted 1087 butterflies of 36 different species. New to our count was Pipevine Swallowtail. We all noticed how many Red Admirals were migrating at this time. It seems that this was an irrruptive year for this species. In Toronto, Canada, they were being counted at over 1000 an hour migrating by one lookout post. The watchers here in Sullivan County reported 402 in June and July. The last time we had numbers like this was in 2004.

June produced 1315 different individuals of 38 species and one hybrid found by Stu Alexander, Valerie Freer, Mary Collier and  Rick Bunting. It seems Clouded Sulphurs are crossing with Orange Sulphurs and producing a white hybrid. Keep your eyes peeled; there may be more to come.

July brought us some of the hottest, muggiest weather we’ve seen in a long time. Good for the butterflies; tough on us! We viewed 1785 butterflies consisting of 32 species along with one more hybrid. White Admirals will cross with Red-spotted Purples and produce Red-spotted Admirals. They are not uncommon and can usually be found with some searching. Valerie Freer and Mary Collier also found a new species to our Sullivan list, a Dion Skipper. They spotted a “larger” skipper on Aden Road wildflowers and recognized it immediately. The week prior they had worked and worked on a skipper that Valerie’s brother-in-law, Rick Bunting had photographed in Bainbridge. It turned out to be a Dion Skipper, so needless to say they were “pros” when it came to this little beauty.

Sullivan’s butterfly list for the year is doing well. We are up to 48 species with a total of 3434 individuals. We are still missing Milbert’s Tortoiseshell this year. No one saw one in Sullivan last year and Stu Alexander has only seen one in Frost Valley this year. My thanks go out to those of you already listed in this article and Ruth Shursky, Ruth McKeon, Arlene Borko, Marge Gorton, Russ and Cathy Scheirer, Valerie Alexander and everyone who has contributed to Sullivan’s butterfly database. Keep up the good work!

Renee Davis
Warblings, September-October 2010


Monarch News - Read about Monarch #344: AKA Bittersweet and more.

September-November Butterflies

As we go to print for this November Warblings I am still getting in reports of butterflies. Not late reports but reports of late butterflies! Who would have thought that we would have butterflies in November, in past years we have had snow by now. It’s amazing what a little warm sunshine can produce!

September produced 218 butterflies of 12 different species. 59 Clouded Sulphurs beat out 56 Cabbage Whites for the highest number of individuals. October produced 102 butterflies with Clouded Sulphurs again being one the most numerous species.

Ruth Shursky and I were able to tag 91 Monarchs this year and Stu and Valerie Alexander also tagged many, but that’s another story. More to come!

This year members saw 47 different species consisting of 2597 individuals of butterflies in Sullivan County. What was interesting is that several common species were missed this year. Compton Tortoiseshell, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and Painted Ladys were not listed by anyone (Milbert’s being my favorite). Less common species missed were several different hairstreaks, Aphrodite and Atlantis Fritillaries, Baltimore Checkerspots, Tawny-edged Skipper, N Broken Dash and Mulberry Wings. I’m sure all the wet weather we had must have affected them. I know it put a cog in my wheel this year. Let’s hope next year will be better!  

Renee Davis
Warblings, December 2009-February 2010

May-June 2009 Butterfly Count

May turned out to be a terrific month for butterflies but June left MUCH to be desired. We actually had sun and warmth in May but a lot of rain and cooler temperatures for June. Still in all butterfly watchers in Sullivan County found 37 species with a total of 931 butterflies. Six new species of butterflies have been added to the checklist so far this year thanks to the efforts of Stu Alexander, Tom Fiore, Christine Wallstrom, Valerie Freer, Marge Gorton and myself. Our overall total number of species found in Sullivan stands at 66, and this year reports have totaled 36 species. Thanks also go to Lois Head, John Haas, Ruth Shursky and Ruth McKeon for their efforts in reporting sightings. Report your sightings here on our website. Now get out there!          View Photos of Some of Our New Species

Renee Davis
Warblings, Early Fall 2009

Butterfly Count #16

Wednesday, July 1, was not our best butterfly count due to the weather. Almost daily thunderstorms left everything very wet and the Bashakill fogged in well into late morning. The sun finally poked its face out and warmed everything up including the butterflies.

Team Ruth, Shursky and McKeon, found the only Viceroy on that day, while Russ Scheirer found the only Long Dash in his area. Marge Gorton and I found the only American Lady, White Admiral, Northern Pearly Eye, and Little Glassywing. Stu and Valerie Alexander hit a gold mine on their route producing terrific pictures of a Crossline Skipper and Hoary Edge Skippers. Both of these are new to our count! They also saw the only Banded hairstreak, Eastern Comma, Red Admiral, and Little Wood-satyr. Among the four teams we drove a total of 173 miles in 20 hours and walked 5 miles to produce 27 species totaling 720 butterflies. And one of the best things------ I can’t wait for next year

Renee Davis
Warblings, Early Fall 2009

2008 CountsPosted 8/30/08

Several SCAS members participated in two separate butterfly counts in Sullivan County during July.   Photos of some of the species found can be seen on the color  insert of the September-October issue of Warblings..

Both of our butterfly count leaders, Renee Davis and Stu Alexander, will be tagging Monarch butterflies again  this year.  See Coming Events and consider joining one of  Renee’s  tagging trips.

Spicebush Swallowtail, photo by Rick Bunting
(Click photo to enlarge)    

Spicebush Swallowtail, photo by Rick Bunting

2008 Christmas Count Circle Butterfly Count

Five teams set out on July 2 to count as many butterflies as they could find within our Christmas Count Circle for the North American Butterfly Association. The 15 mile diameter circle center is within the Neversink Gorge and covers an area from the Bashakill to Mongaup Reservoir, and Thompsonville to Cuddebackville.

Stu Alexander found 4 Hickory Hairstreaks (this is only the third time these have been found on our count) and 18 Delaware Skippers. He had the highest count of 19 Silver Spotted Skippers, and 3 Spicebush Swallowtails.

Team Ruth (Shursky and McKeon) found one of the two, new to our list, Least Skippers. In their travels they also found 45 Cabbage Whites and 14 Clouded Sulphurs. They had the highest count of 6 Peck’s Skippers and 5 Tawny-edged Skippers.

Valerie Freer and Mary Collier found the other Least Skipper along with our only Spring Azure, Baltimore Checkerspot, and Juvenal’s Duskywing (also new to our list).  They found 1 of 2 Common Ringlets and 1 of 2 Eastern Tailed Blues.

John Haas and Arlene Borko combed their area with a fine tooth comb and found 1 of two Aphrodite Fritillaries along with the only American Copper, White Admiral, Long Dash’s, and Mullberrywings. They got into a big hatch of European Skippers and counted 250 on Forestburgh Road and 300 on Baer Road. Their total of Europeans for the day was 697. They had the other Eastern Tailed Blue and Common Ringlet, along with high counts of 9 American Ladies, 35 Orange Sulphurs, 28 Great Spangled Fritillaries, and 52 Dun Skippers.

Afton Lazier and I found a Bronze Copper which was new to our list along with a high number of 45 Little Glassywings. We had 5 Black Swallowtails, 6 Banded Hairstreaks, 8 Eastern Commas, 4 Compton Tortoiseshells and 6 Little Wood Satyrs.

Our day started off a little cool at 65 degrees but warmed up to 85 degrees by midday. Between the ten of us we walked only 3.5 miles but drove 193 miles (that hurt at the gas pump). After spending 28.5 hours in the field we tallied 36 species with 1592 individuals, a little behind our best year of 2006 were we had our highest total of 40 species, with 1683 individuals.    
— Renee Davis

2008 Hall’s Mills Butterfly Count

The 6th Hall's Mills Butterfly Count happened on July 9. This count includes Claryville to Devine Corners, Neversink, Grahamsville, to Sundown.  It was a muggy day but the sun came out just enough to get butterflies airborne.   Four teams and one garden watcher counted 30 species and 688 individuals. Numbers for skippers and smaller butterflies were down.  

Renee Davis and Marge Gorton reported the only Baltimore Checkerspots and found 25 of them!  Valerie Freer and Mary Collier counted 2 Coral Hairstreaks and discovered a new milkweed field where they counted hundreds of adult butterflies.  It was a big day for Fritillaries with 93 Great Spangled, 57 Meadow, 38 Atlantis, and 6 Aphrodite.  One notable omission is zero Red Admirals after counting 109 a year ago.  For information please call Stu Alexander 985-2485.
Stu Alexander
Warblings, September-October 2008

2007 CountsPosted 9/2/07

On June 24, 2007 three Sullivan Audubon teams set out to do the 14th annual Butterfly Count for the North American Butterfly Association. The day started out cool, only in the high 40’s but did get to the mid 70’s by early afternoon. Fortunately the sun was bright and it was a clear day.

Stu and Valerie Alexander covered the western area of the count circle and identified 17 species. European Skippers were the butterfly of the day and they found 163 in that area. They had the only Baltimore Checkerspot, Little Wood Satyr, and Long Dash.

Valerie Freer, Arlene Borko and Mary Collier covered the eastern part of the count circle and found a total of 18 species. They had a whopping 222 European Skippers. They had the only Meadow Fritillary, Compton Tortoiseshell, Little Glassywing, and Delaware Skippers.

Ruth Shursky and I covered the southern part of the count circle and ended up finding 16 species. Our butterfly of the day was the Cabbage White, we found 427 of them. We had the only Eastern Comma, Black Swallowtail, Great Spangled Fritillary, Painted Lady, Northern Pearly Eye, and Silver-spotted Skippers. Amazingly we did not have any European Skippers!

Between all the teams, 96 miles were driven, 3 miles were walked and a total of 13.5 man hours were put into this project. It produced 28 species of Butterflies with a total of 1173 individuals, our highest count ever. This was also our highest count ever of Monarchs, 22 and 1 egg. It’s a good feeling to know that they have made a comeback since the freeze a few years ago that killed many of them in their Mexico wintering grounds. This fall we will be tagging Monarchs on their southward migration (see article on Monarch Watch).

The Hall’s Mills butterfly count coordinated by Stu Alexander was held on July 7th. Four teams racked up 14.5 hours, 89 miles by car, and 7 miles on foot. The morning started out at 68 degrees and warmed up to 82 with the sun shinning all day.

Stu and Valerie Alexander along with Randy and Nick Golemboski found 22 species from Frost Valley to Blue Hill.

Russell and Cathy Scheirer found 9 species in the 1 mile that they walked between the New Age Health Spa and Curry.

        John Kenney totaled 22 species from Hasbrouck to the Rio Reservoir and Arlene Borko and I found 17 species from Aden Road to Fir Brook. When all the totals were compiled 34 species were identified with a total of 889 individuals. The highest count went to the Cabbage White with 159 being seen that day. Amazingly it beat out Red Admiral by only 50. Monarchs totaled 39 for the day.

Renee Davis
Warblings, September-October 2007

2006 CountsPosted 9/11/06

For the fourth year, Sullivan Co Audubon sponsored two very successful “Fourth of July” butterfly counts. The first one, led by Renee Davis & Valerie Freer on July 2 in the southern part of the county, produced 41 species, and the second on July 8 led by Stu Alexander in the northern part found 36 species. Four teams took part in each count.

Both counts featured small butterflies called Hairstreaks this year, as 5 kinds were found on each count including three not found before on these counts: the Coral Hairstreak, Gray Hairstreak and “Northern” version of the Southern Hairstreak.
“Fourth of July” butterfly count results are sent to the North American Butterfly Association which publishes them annually.

see our Warbler insert

Great Spangled Fritillary
photo by Valerie Freer

The most abundant species found on the July 2 count were European Skippers (544 individuals), 193 Banded Hairstreaks were second, and Cabbage Whites third with 183 seen. Some rarer butterflies found that day included a single Northern Crescent and one Striped Hairstreak.

European Skippers (231) were also most abundant on the July 8 count, followed by 161 Delaware Skippers and 98 Little Glassywings. Other interesting species on that count included 19 Canadian Tiger Swallowtails, 29 Atlantis Fritillaries and 2 Hickory Hairstreaks.

Participants in the two counts included Stu and Valerie Alexander, Arlene Borko, Mary Collier, Gordon Czop, Renee Davis, Valerie Freer, Randy Golemboski, John Haas, Jamie Lo, Russell and Cathy Scheirer, Ruth Shursky, and Richard and Marilyn Stein.

Valerie Freer
Warblings, September-October 2006


Sullivan County Butterflies

They’re back! Thank God. This past winter just seemed to hang in there too long for me; we had more than our fair share of cold. But give us a few warm days with the sun’s stronger rays and whammo, there they are, beautiful butterflies! I’ve seen Mourning Cloaks, Spring Azures, Cabbage Whites, and some that are medium in size, dark brown and way too fast a flier for me to identify as of yet! I even had a Question Mark in the greenhouse at Agway in March.

In August of 2003, we started a Butterfly Database for Sullivan County much like the one used for our bird records. Although not all the past records have been input as of yet, I’m still working on them. We already have several hundred records, but I would like to have more. That’s why I’m asking you to help us out. Throughout this summer and fall, if you see a butterfly, jot down the name, date, and location, or call me at 482-5044. If you’re unsure of what it was, maybe we can figure it out. If not, it will be one of many butterflies that just plain got away. The Kaufman Focus Guide on Butterflies of North America is an excellent book that covers all of our butterflies. This has helped me out tremendously. We have 51 species recorded for Sullivan so far.

Our butterfly count will be on Wednesday, June 29th, with a rain date of Sunday, July 3rd. This will be our twelfth count; every year we learn a little more. Call Valerie Freer at 647-5496 and come on out and give us a hand. It’s a fun day and so much is to be learned about the butterflies of Sullivan County.

Renee Davis

2004 CountsPosted 9/11/06

Once again Sullivan Co. Audubon sponsored two “Fourth of July” butterfly counts–one on July 3rd in the same circle we use for Christmas Counts, and the second on July 10 in a circle centered in Halls Mills. Both had good sunny weather, and were very successful.

The first count was held for the 11th consecutive year. Four groups of butterfliers found 37 species altogether, the second highest count we have had in this circle. The team of Bill Cutler, Scott Graber, and Beth Barker led with 25 species, which they found in essentially only three areas: the landfill in Monticello, the Concord ski hill, and Rubin’s Farm. A second team consisted of Stu and Valerie Alexander, Russ Shierer, and Marshall and Nancy Shnider, who searched the Bashakill and Yankee Lake areas. They had a great day, adding a Mulberrywing to our cumulative list. (The Cutler team and the Alexander team each found five Striped Hairstreaks, another new species for our butterfly count list.) The Freer/Collier team went to Rock Hill locations, and they found a Zabulon Skipper and four Atlantis Fritillaries, both new butterflies for this count. Ruth Shursky and Irene Warschauer drove the western part of the circle where they found a good variety, including the only two Black Swallowtails of the day.

The following week the Halls Mills count, organized by Stu Alexander, was held for the second year. Three teams participated, finding a total of 38 species. Stu and Valerie Alexander, Susan, Claire and Leo Sherf, Russell Schierer, and Alex Huncosky and Ashley made up one team. They had a fabulous day at Frost Valley, Claryville and Blue Hill, and came up with a great total of 33 species! Their best butterfly by far was a Buckeye, a wanderer from the south. Russell and Cathy Schierer made up another team, and they searched Wildman Hill, Neversink to New Age Health Spa to find 17 species, including the only Striped Hairstreaks for this count. The third team of Valerie Freer and Phyllis Jones covered Aden Road to Willowemoc, finding 24 species and contributing the only Coral Hairstreaks and Black Swallowtails of the day.

These counts are projects of the North American Butterfly Association, which publishes the results from about 500 such counts from around the continent. Contact one of the leaders if you would like to join us next year, and check our website ( to see an updated list of butterflies of Sullivan County.

Valerie Freer
Warblings, September-October 2004