Friends' board member and butterfly expert Barbara Woodmansee has been conducting surveys of butterflies on the Lower Suwannee NWR for years. During the first week of September, in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, she did 2 surveys covering both sides of the Suwannee River.
She reported that the south end of the Nature Drive looked like there was storm surge up fairly high, apparently as high as 4 feet. There was no way to know how long the highest water levels remained in place, but all the flowering plants were essentially fried. North of Pond 4 Rd as she and her survey colleagues moved away from the coast, there was some nectar, and by the time they got into the pine forest area near the north end of the Nature Drive there were tons of butterflies. They were delighted to see them since this is normally a peak time of year for Refuge butterflies. Sadly though, the road was being groomed while they were there, and it will be regraded which will eliminate even more nectar. Although that important road work is necessary to provide safe access to the Refuge for visitors, it is always sad to know it will temporarily lessen the nectar for the butterflies.
Her survey on the Dixie Mainline and Willie Lock Mainline during the same week was even more dismal for the butterflies and those of us who love to watch them. The storm surge had risen to at least 4 feet and basically every single flowering plant was destroyed. She and her fellow survey participants saw a drowned pig, snakes, and a dead deer on one of the gate trails where she regularly walks for the surveys. Almost the only butterflies they saw were just a few of the big fast-flyers that can cover a lot of territory in their search for nectar. It was a really discouraging survey day. September/October is the peak time for one of the very rare skippers they monitor and all of their host sedges appeared to be dead. Barbara fears the butterflies will be much less in evidence in their peak October time because there really isn't time for the plants to regrow this year.
We know nature is resilient, but it is sad to see the damage nevertheless.