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Week 9

Monterey CA week 9

This week was a planned respite from butterflies, some quality time with family and friends in central CA.  One of the first words spoken clearly, with distinct syllables, by my two-year old grandson was "butt-er-fly.”  Now every morning he wants to look under my overshirt to see which butterfly t-shirt I’m wearing.  

Of course on my daily, mostly urban, walks I unavoidably encountered a few common butterfly species now emerging during California’s early spring.  Although the Sierra Nevada has a seriously low winter snowpack, inexplicably some coastal areas have had near normal rainfall, resulting in one of the better wildflower displays near Monterey that I’ve seen in several years.  Hopefully this will translate into a strong butterfly flight season.

New Species:  Western Tiger Swallowtail Papilio rutulus, Pale Swallowtail Papilio eurymedon, Cabbage White Pieris rapae, Bramble Green Hairstreak Callophrys dumetorum, Brown Elfin Callophrys augustinus, Acmon Blue Plebejus acmon, West Coast Lady Vanessa annabella, Common Checkered-Skipper Pyrgus communis

New Species:  8     Total trip species:  99      Species Photographed:  88


Highlight Species: Bramble Green Hairstreak

Browse any butterfly field guide and you’ll find few green butterflies, despite the obvious camouflage advantages.  One exception are the hairstreaks, like the green hairstreaks, including Callophrys dumetorum (above).  These weak fliers seldom stray far from their larval food plant - lotus, or deerweed.  Photographed in Soberanes Canyon.


Week 8

Mission TX and Monterey CA week 8

My RV campground features a daily “happy hour” ritual of 20-30 folks co-mingling under a palapa at 4 pm to swap stories.  While I chatted golf with neighbor Fred, Lorna asked me (from a few tables away) if I had seen any new butterflies.  She couldn’t hear my first response above the clamor, so I loudly yelled “I saw a TWO-BARRED FLASHER!”  Immediately heads turned my way in puzzled, shocked silence.  Much laughter ensued when I added “uh, OK everyone . . . that’s a butterfly!”

Another cold front zeroed in on Texas, so I nabbed a Tuesday flight to CA to visit family, friends, and pick up a few early flyers in Partington Canyon on the Big Sur coast.  This warm coastal canyon attracts many late winter species and is reliable for the jewel-like Sonoran Blue (below) and, in April-May, Doudoroff’s Moss’s Elfin.

But before leaving TX, two 80-degree days brought in several new species, including the Two-barred Flasher and a rare White Scrub-hairstreak (below).  The hairstreak was fortuitous: in a frenzy of activity I snapped off photos of several butterflies on flowerheads, and discovered my prize only later that evening while reviewing and cropping photos.  I emailed the photo to Mike Rickard for ID confirmation.

In response to a few requests, I now provide a link in the main menu (above) to my species’ photos.

New Species:  Pacific Sara Orangetip Anthocharis sara, Boisduval's Yellow Eurema boisduvaliana, Mimosa Yellow Pyrisitia nise, White Scrub-Hairstreak Strymon albata, Western Tailed-Blue Cupido amyntula, Sonoran Blue Philotes sonorensis, Gabb's Checkerspot Chlosyne gabbii, Mylitta Crescent Phyciodes mylitta, California Sister Adelpha bredowii, Gemmed Satyr Cyllopsis gemma,  'California' Common Ringlet Coenonympha tullia california, Two-barred Flasher Astraptes fulgerator, Mazans Scallopwing Staphylus mazans, Propertius Duskywing Erynnis propertius, Mournful Duskywing Erynnis tristis, Umber Skipper Poanes melane

New Species:  16     Total trip species:  91      Species Photographed:  81


Highlight Species: Two-Barred Flasher, White Scrub-Hairstreak, Sonoran Blue

On name alone, the flasher merits featured-species status.  The tiny scrub-hairstreak nectared inches away from a Great Purple Hairstreak that Don Dunn and I were admiring.  The highly-prized Sonoran blue warrants a better photo to adequately display its ornate qualities.  Photographed respectively at the National Butterfly Center, Resaca de la Palma, and Partington Canyon.

Week 7

Mission TX week 7

As expected, my weekly list of new species is trending downward as a sequence of cold fronts continues to delay spring.  I considered a quick jaunt to Florida, but a telephone chat with Buck Cooper convinced me to wait until April.  In fact, much of the country is in a deep freeze, so Barbara Kingsolver novels will have to entertain me through next week.  

Despite the paucity of butterflies, several nice walks with new and old friends brightened my week.  Today Deb and Bill Marsh from Columbus, OH, acquaintances from last year, made a surprise appearance on Mike’s Santa Ana NWR weekly walk, where we counted 27 species on a cool sunny day.  Tom and Ruth Nix from Michigan (?) were daily companions on several outings.  Tom spotted our year’s first Clytie Ministreak, whose winter form closely resembles the much rarer White Scrub-hairstreak.  But local expert Mike Rickard walked up and dashed our hopes, casually pointing out the diagnostic field marks.

To the envy of many of us attending Rick and May Snider’s Estero Llano Grande walk on Friday, Lorna Graham had a solo encounter with the week’s best butterfly, a Pavon Emperor at the National Butterfly Center.  I spent the next two days trying to relocate this gorgeous bug, an iridescent-blue male.  Jeff Glassburg, President of NABA (North American Butterfly Association) and author of several butterfly ID books, joined the hunt, but to no avail.  

New Species:  Clytie Ministreak Ministrymon clytie, Cassius Blue Leptotes cassius, Curve-winged Metalmark Emesis emesia, Whirlabout Polites vibex

New Species:  4     Total trip species:  75      Species Photographed:  68


Highlight Species: Curve-winged Metalmark

Metalmarks, named for their metallic markings, reside mostly in the tropics.  Last fall a small colony of this species, normally a rare stray, was discovered along the Rio Grande.  Photographed at Rio Rico Rd.

Week 6

Four consecutive days of sunny skies allowed me to chase down a number of species that had eluded me, but no real rareties yet - they’re more likely in the fall.  Perhaps most exciting were the Zebra and Julia heliconians within minutes of each other in the Butterfly Center garden.  A couple from the midwest found the Julia, and ran over to me to show me their photo on the camera monitor.  They wanted confirmation of their find, and were so thrilled they were still exuding enthusiasm an hour later to other visitors and employees in the Butterfly Center office.

And thanks to Lorna for spotting the Soldier at Santa Ana WR.  Actually, we were ready to shrug it off as another Queen until Mike took a closer look and shouted “Soldier,” our first for the year.  

In two weeks I fly to CA for a week with family and friends.  Until then, I expect finding new species here in s. TX will be increasingly difficult, at least until March, when warmer weather following good winter rains will hopefully yield strong flights of many spring species. 

Everyone please note that I have added a “Totals” tab to the main menu above, which includes a species list-to-date and weekly cumulative totals.

New Species:  Great Southern White Ascia monuste, Julia Heliconian Dryas iulia, Zebra Heliconian Heliconius charithonia, Bordered Patch Chlosyne lacinia, Tropical Leafwing Anaea aidea, Soldier Danaus eresimus, Sicklewing Skipper Eantis tamenund, Turk's-cap White-Skipper Heliopetes macaira, Common Sootywing Pholisora catullus, Southern Broken-Dash Wallengrenia otho

New Species:  10     Total trip species:  71      Species Photographed:  65



Highlight Species: Julia and Zebra

These tropical longwings reach the U.S. in our southern states, primarily Florida and Texas.  The larvae feed on passion vines, which contain chemical toxins passed on to the adults, making them noxious to predators.

Week 5

Jan 29-Feb 4

Yet another cold front to south Texas shortened my butterfly week to just two days.  On Thursday Mike and Jenny Rickard chauffeured me to the Falcon Dam area for a few new species, including Red-bordered Pixie, and the next day I joined Rick Snyder’s weekly outing at Estero Llano Grande.  

Since then, during the rain and cold, I’ve read 3 books, played cards with my campground neighbors, attended several yoga classes, and watched Sunday’s entertaining Superbowl on the RV park’s big screen.  Most of us were Seahawk supporters, and we all looked at each other in disbelief and stunned silence after the last interception, as if thinking “Did that really just happen!?!”  Now it’s four days later and sportstalk radio shows (I have no TV) are still chattering about it.

The good news is it’s warming up, with temps near 80 this weekend.

New Species:  Pipevine Swallowtail Battus philenor, Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes, Western Pygmy-Blue Brephidium exile, Red-bordered Pixie Melanis pixe, Elada Checkerspot Texola elada, Texan Crescent Anthanassa texana, Texas Powdered-Skipper Systasea pulverulenta, White-patched Skipper Chiomara georgina, Funereal Duskywing Erynnis funeralis, Sachem Atalopedes campestris, 

New Species:  10     Total trip species:  61      Species Photographed:  54

Highlight Species: Western Pygmy-Blue

The smallest butterfly in North America.  Larvae are “myrmecophilous,” or tended by ants.  The larva exudes a sugar solution eaten by ants, who then protect the larva from predators.  Photographed at Estero Llano Grande.


Week 4

Mission TX week 4

Jan 22-28

My trip species count is growing despite the slow recovery of butterfly populations here in Texas from the early January cold weather.  Highlights this week were scheduled butterfly outings at Resaca de la Palma and Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, the latter led by Mike Rickard, local Texas butterfly expert.  The one lowlight was stepping into what must have been a nest of chiggers at Resaca - by day’s end I counted over 100 bites on my left leg!

New Species:  Sleepy Orange Abaeis nicippe, Dainty Sulphur Nathalis iole, Great Purple Hairstreak Atlides halesus, Silver-banded Hairstreak Chlorostrymon simaethis, Gray Hairstreak Strymon melinus, Marine Blue Leptotes marina, Ceraunus Blue Hemiargus ceraunus, Blue Metalmark Lasaia sula, Vesta Crescent Phyciodes graphica, Painted Lady Vanessa cardui, White Peacock Anartia jatrophae, Common Mestra Mestra amymone, Empress Leilia Asterocampa leilia, South Texas Satyr Hermeuptychia hermybius, Brown Longtail Urbanus procne, Tropical Checkered-Skipper Pyrgus oileus, Julia's Skipper Nastra julia, Southern Skipperling Copaeodes minima

New Species:  18     Total trip species:  51      Species Photographed:  45


Highlight Species: Silver-banded      Hairstreak

Photographed at Resaca de la Palma, 1/26/15.  Unfortunately my pursuit of this green gem took me through tall grass full of chiggers, whose bites will be festering for the next two weeks.


Week 3

Mission TX week 3

Jan 19-21

S. Texas greeted me with t-shirt and shorts weather, approaching 80 deg., so I quickly renewed acquaintances with some of the more common butterflies that survived early January’s extended cold, wet weather.  It was also great to re-connect with friends from last year - Mike Rickard, Lorna Graham, Donald Dunn, Marianna Trevino-Wright - to name a few, and I hope to share some butterfly-chasing adventures with these nice folks and others over the coming months.

My Sportsmobile camper is conveniently situated across the street from Bentsen State Park, just a mile down the road from the National Butterfly Center and its wonderful butterfly gardens, where most of this week's new species were observed.  

New Species:  Checkered White Pontia protodice, Southern Dogface Zerene cesonia, Cloudless Sulphur Phoebis sennae, Large Orange Sulphur Phoebis agarithe, Lyside Sulphur Kricogonia lyside, Mexican Yellow Eurema mexicana, Tailed Orange Pyrisitia proterpia, Little Yellow Pyrisitia lisa, Dusky-blue Groundstreak Calycopis isobeon, Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak Strymon istapa, Reakirt's Blue Echinargus isola, Fatal Metalmark Calephelis nemesis, American Snout Libytheana carinenta, Gulf Fritillary Agraulis vanillae, Pearl Crescent Phyciodes tharos, Phaon Crescent Phyciodes phaon, American Lady Vanessa virginiensis, Mexican Bluewing Myscelia ethusa, Queen Danaus gilippus, White Checkered-Skipper Pyrgus albescens, Laviana White-Skipper Heliopetes laviana, Fawn-spotted Skipper Cymaenes trebius, Clouded Skipper Lerema accius, Fiery Skipper Hylephila phyleus, Eufala Skipper Lerodea eufala

Total trip species:  33      Species Photographed:  27

Week 2

Monterey CA week 2   Jan 8-14

Still no break in the cold Texas weather, so I remain in somewhat warmer Monterey for a 2nd week.  Butterflies have been slow to emerge here following a cool, very wet November-December, not even a cabbage white (Pieris rapae) yet!

The only new species this week was a worn common buckeye (Junonia coenia), likely a winter survivor.  

Week List:  Margined White  Pieris marginalis venosa,  Echo Azure  Celastrina echo, Red Admiral  Vanessa atalanta, Common Buckeye Junonia coenia, Monarch  Danaus plexippus

Total trip species:  8      Species Photographed:  4


Highlight Species: Margined White

Pieris marginalis (above) varies across the west from pale white to heavily marked.  I photographed this male (ssp. venosa) in Partington Canyon, Big Sur, on 1/4/15

Week 1

Monterey CA week1  Jan 1-7

Already a change in plans.  Texas is cool and rainy, so I stayed in sunny Monterey to greet the year’s first margined white in Big Sur’s Partington Canyon.  With luck, I had also hoped for an early Sonoran blue, which normally flies Feb-Apr.  The orange sulphur was a bit of a surprise.  Is it an early hatch, or did it overwinter?

The extended forecast is for continued cool in Texas until at least mid-month.  Florida is in the balmy 80s, but, alas, my camper-van is in Texas.  

I sold my home, so while waiting out the weather, I’m staying with good friends Jody Quintana, Larry and Carole Rose, and my daughter Heather in Oakland.  

Week list:

Margined White  Pieris marginalis

Orange Sulphur  Colias eurytheme

California Dogface  Zerene eurydice

Echo Azure  Celastrina echo

Satyr Comma  Polygonia satyrus

Red Admiral  Vanessa atalanta

Monarch  Danaus plexippus

Total species:  7

Species Photographed:  4

Satyr Comma Polygonia satyrus - Partington Canyon


© Chris Tenney 2014