Results of the 20th annual Iowa City Butterfly Count
by Rick Hollis
The 20th annual Iowa City Butterfly Count was held Monday, 7/23. It was shifted from the normal Saturday date because of the weather.
Frank Olsen and Chris Edwards conducted the annual Iowa City Butterfly Count as part of the North American Butterfly Association’s [NABA] 4th of July Butterfly Count Program. They visited Kent Park, Hawkeye Wildlife Area, Macbride Nature-Recreation Area, Lake Macbride State Park, Turkey Creek Preserve, and also counted along roadsides including several alfalfa fields. The long-term average for the count is 33 species and 1153 individuals. This year in 10.5 hours they found 33 species and 1952 individuals.
Species seen in significantly above-average numbers:
Viceroy (record high)
Monarch (record high)
Silver-spotted Skipper (record high)
Least Skipper (record high)
Tawny-edged Skipper (record high)
Species seen in significantly below-average numbers:
Black Dash (missed)
Dun Skipper (missed)
They found 4 Monarch caterpillars on swamp milkweed.
From the NABA site, “Three of the main goals of NABA’s Butterfly Count Program are to (1) gather data that will monitor butterfly populations, (2) give butterfliers a chance to socialize and have fun, and (3) raise public awareness by hosting events that will increase general interest in butterflies.” To meet these goals, NABA requires a minimum of four observers and six party-hours. If it’s mostly cloudy or completely overcast, Chris waits for a sunny day because the butterflies are a lot less active and harder to find in cloudy conditions. In the rain, it is almost impossible to find butterflies.
Author’s note: Many people in Iowa City know Chris as birder, a birder with great ears — he was the main ears for the bird part of the Ciha Fen Multiple Species Inventory and Monitoring Program. During many of my experiences in the field with Chris, I do not remember him taking an interest in butterflies. I asked him about this and he said, “I spent one summer when I was eight collecting butterflies, then mostly forgot about them. When I became a birder in my 20s I started to notice them again.”