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Off the Northway: Rare butterfly may be seen early this year

Saturday, April 28, 2012
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Thanks to the mild winter, mosquitoes will be out early and often this year, slurping the blood of all of us who venture outdoors.

The unseasonably warm winter may also mean a more benign insect — the Karner blue butterfly — will emerge several weeks early in Wilton, where hundreds of acres have been tailored for them in recent years.

Officials at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park are planning butterfly walks for mid-May this year, on the theory that our region’s most prominent endangered species may already be out looking for nectar by then. It isn’t something to bet against this year.

“The biologists we work with are saying they just don’t know,” said Margo Olson, director of the preserve. “Everything this spring seems skewed a few weeks early.”

Normally, the first sightings of the ephemeral sky-blue critters aren’t until the end of May or early June. They live only a few days, lay some eggs, and die. Then a second generation hatches in early July, lives a few days, lays eggs, and dies. But again, that’s in a normal year.

This spring, preserve staff have scheduled butterfly walks for Thursday, May 17, and Thursday, May 31, at the Old Gick Farm property off Route 50.

On May 17, “the butterflies may or may not be out but we will be looking for them as they fly looking for nectar and mates in the open pine/oak savannah,” preserve officials said.

It seems certain they’ll be out by May 31. “Last year, they were seen from May 25 until the second week in June,” Olson said.

The walks are held at 4 p.m. and are free, but pre-registration is required at www.wiltonpreserve.org or with a phone call to the preserve office. The website is also where the first sightings will be posted, Olson said.

So get out there. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a swarm of Karner blues circling the blue lupine plants they thrive on.

Now that we’ve covered the impact of climate change on mosquitoes and butterflies, we’ll save the impact on black fly season for another day.

EARLY STARTERS

Not everyone sticks to tea and coffee in the morning. We’re not talking about Coke from the fast-food drive-thru, either.

Local cops, when you catch them in a philosophical frame of mind, will tell you that today’s tough enforcement of anti-DWI laws has scared a lot of casual drinkers off the road.

Which leaves the hard-core drinkers and the youngsters. Drunken drivers can be out at any time of day, Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Ned Rooney noted earlier this week.

On April 18, he said, the Sheriff’s Department made three routine DWI arrests before noon, “and there was nothing extraordinary going on.” One woman, he said, was arrested after going 78 mph through the intersection of Route 9 and Old Post Road in Malta, with a fast-food cup of something other than coffee in the cup holder.

“It seems we’re getting our heavy-duty folks who are out during the day,” Rooney told a meeting of the county’s Traffic Safety Committee. “Just a reminder, it may be harder to detect them because of the higher traffic volumes, but they’re out there.”

LEO RYAN

I’ll take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Leo Ryan, who had a long career with the Saratoga County Department of Social Services and was social services commissioner from 1980 to 1986.

Ryan died last Sunday in Tucson, Ariz., where he has lived in recent years. He was 87 years old.

Ryan grew up in Saratoga Springs, graduated from Siena and served in the Army during World War II. He worked for the county social services office in Ballston Spa from 1950 to 1987, making a career out of steering help to the neediest — not always an easy job given the direction of political winds in Saratoga County.

 
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