on Jul 17, 2014 04:52 PM • Views 2506

Volunteers for the 5th Annual NABA count at Sandy Mush Game Land can expect to see common species, such as these Eastern tiger swallowtails and red-spotted purple butterflies (Photo by Doug Johnston)

Media Contact: Jodie B. Owen

ALEXANDER, N.C. (July 17, 2014) — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, along with the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), is conducting the fifth annual NABA Butterfly Count on the Sandy Mush Game Land on Aug. 4 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Volunteers are needed to help Commission personnel and local butterfly enthusiasts count butterflies on the 2,600-acre game land, which is located in Buncombe and Madison counties. Participants will meet at the kiosk parking lot in front of Cedar Hill Baptist Church on 474 Cedar Hill Road in Alexander.

While Sandy Mush Game Land is managed for hunting as part of the Commission’s Game Land Program, it also attracts a wide variety of non-game species, such as birds and butterflies. Commission staff manages the game land for quality early successional habitat and frequently conducts prescribed burns, which help restore the native vegetation not only for game animals, but also for butterflies and other nongame animals that are part of the ecosystem.

Staff has also planted clover food plots, which are good food sources for butterflies. All this management work has made Sandy Mush a hot spot for butterfly diversity, according to Doug Johnston, coordinator of the butterfly count.

“Daily species counts in previous years have exceeded 50, with 66 species seen over the last four years,” Johnston said. “We’ve seen very common species, such as Eastern tiger swallowtails, Horace’s duskywings and Carolina satyrs, and we’ve also seen less common species, such as Delaware skippers, which, although common in other parts of the state, are rarely seen in the mountains of North Carolina.”

The rain date for the butterfly count is Aug. 8.

The NABA was formed in 1992 to promote awareness of butterfly conservation and the benefits of butterfly gardening, observation, photography and education. Like the National Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count, a four-day event where bird watchers count birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations, the NABA butterfly count provides data to monitor butterfly populations in the United States and parts of Mexico. Volunteers select a count area within a 15-mile diameter and conduct a one-day census of all butterflies seen within that circle.

For more information on the count, contact Johnston at wellsteadwest@gmail.com.

For more information on nongame wildlife in North Carolina, visit the Conserving page.

Download a high-resolution of the photo above.