20-29


Michigan to Nevada Week 29

Crazy, stupid crazy.  From upper Michigan across the northern tier states to Montana, then south to Nevada, over 2,000 mi. driving this week, stopping only mid-day for butterflies when wind and rain were no issue.  Some beautiful country, and I DID notice, despite my butterfly obsession.  

In Glacier, the lure of the high country drew me into a 12-mile hike, where, for once, scenery out-competed butterflies for my attention.  As water gushed down rocky rapids and cascaded over falls from receding glaciers, Blue and Mariposa coppers fluttered about in flowery meadows.  This kind of country has special meaning for me . . . I met my wife May on a 30-day High Sierra backpack trip.  In fact next week I’ll be scouring high elevation slopes and meadows from Echo Pass near Tahoe to Tioga Pass in Yosemite for a few remaining target species.  

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Glacier National Park

When rain clouds socked in over the Glacier high peaks and tundra, I moved downslope and south to mid-elevation forests.  Along a side road lined with showy sunflowers, fritillaries and an occasional Western sulphur swarmed over dogbane; just up the road, several flashy Compton tortoiseshells and Green commas flitted about an abandoned campsite. 

Earlier in the week, in Michigan’s Seney NWR, Pink-edged sulphurs and Atlantis fritillaries nectared along roads and trails, while roadside seeps in Minnesota added Dorcas copper and thankfully, one Acadian hairstreak; eastern hairstreaks have been a difficult find all year. 

I’m now sitting in the rain at an RV campground in Winnemucca, NV, a little bummed that storms may have cost me my last opportunity at many high-elevation species in the Rockies.  I did get a brief bit of luck yesterday in Wyoming - the clouds parted for about 30 min., so I jumped out of Chalcedona and danced across the alpine tundra in brilliant sunshine as first Mead’s sulphur, then Theano alpine and Pelidne sulphur flushed from flowerheads and grass tufts.  My best bug may have been a White-veined arctic, first observed last month in Alaska, but with a limited range in the lower U.S.  And that was it . . . as rain persistently dogged me from Glacier NP south into Nevada, where the Ruby Mtns. will have to wait yet another year.  The good news - sunny skies are forecast all next week!

New Species:  Western Sulphur Colias occidentalis, Mead's Sulphur Colias meadii, Pelidne Sulphur Colias pelidne, Pink-edged Sulphur Colias interior, Gray Copper Lycaena dione, Blue Copper Lycaena heteronea, Dorcas Copper Lycaena dorcas, Mariposa Copper Lycaena mariposa, Acadian Hairstreak Satyrium acadica, Atlantis Fritillary Speyeria atlantis, Compton Tortoiseshell Nymphalis vaualbum, Theano Alpine Erebia pawloskii, Peck's Skipper Polites peckius, Long Dash Polites mystic

New Species:  14    Total trip species:  427   Species Photographed:  415


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Compton Tortoiseshell, Swan mountains, Kalispell, MT

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Green Comma, Swan mountains, Kalispell, MT


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Theano Alpine, Beartooth Pass, Wyoming

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Summer Azure, Highway 28, Michigan upper peninsula


MO/IL/IN/MI Week 28

I put the brakes on the hectic pace of the past few weeks and pulled into Nixa, MO for four days of R&R with my brother Jeff and his wife Pam.  Butterflies were active on a few Ozark back roads, but Hayhurst’s Scallopwing was the only new species on our short daily walks.  High heat and humidity kept us indoors much of the time as I caught up on computer work and enjoyed Pam’s home cooking (yummy blueberry pancakes and berry pie!).  

Storms, flooding, and tornadoes chased me from Missouri to Michigan, with few butterfly opportunities due to road and trail closures.  One stop at a prairie preserve in northern IN advertised Regal fritillaries, and, sure enough, a 30 min. break in the weather sufficed to rouse a few of these lovely Speyeria gems aloft in the meadow; sadly, no photos.  

Lansing MI resident Jeff Pavlik has followed my blog and generously offered his time to guide me to a couple of nearby hot spots.  Jeff mentioned that a local lepster had counted 900 (! !) hairstreaks on butterfly bush in the Allegen WGA.  Hard to believe, but by noon that day I had sorted through close to 200, looking for rarities . . . a few Edward’s hairstreaks mingled with Banded and Coral.  Exiting this area, my first American Copper of the year perched along a gravel trail.  That afternoon at two smaller refuges we added Eyed Brown, Black Dash, and Mulberry Wing.  

Before parting, Jeff suggested a stop at Seney NWR in the upper peninsula of MI on my return route back to CA.  I have only 8 days to drive through MI, WI, MN, SD, WY, MT, and ID to a family get-together at Lake Tahoe.  Crazy.

New Species:  American Copper Lycaena phlaeas, Edwards’ Hairstreak Satyrium edwardsii, Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia, Eyed Brown Satyrodes eurydice, Hayhurst's Scallopwing Staphylus hayhurstii, Mulberry Wing Poanes massasoit, Black Dash Euphyes conspicua

New Species:  7    Total trip species:  413   Species Photographed:  402

Poanes massasoit

Mulberry Wing skipper, Rose Lake Natural Area, Lansing, MI

Enodia anthedon

Northern Pearly-eye, Rose Lake Natural Area, Lansing, MI

Satyrium edwardsii

Edward’s hairstreak, Allegen Wildlife Game Area, Michigan


Colorado/Oklahoma/Arkansas Week 27

After last week’s butterfly bounty I rolled into the Centennial state with thoughts of parnassians (Rocky Mountain) and blues (Arctic), but little else, feeling ill-prepared for new species possibilities, now at the halfway point of my big year.  Fortunately Jan Chu, well-organized coordinator of a two-day Cal-Wood butterfly event near Boulder CO, handed me a count-day checklist, and my enthusiasm re-kindled as I perused the list of several potential day-flying delicacies.  Gorgone and Anicia checkerspots, Nevada, Snow’s, and Draco skippersAncilla dotted and Arrowhead blues entertained my camera lens on a scouting day before the count.  Uhler’s arctics were expected, but the biennial Chryxus arctic was off-season, or more correctly off-year, normally flying only in even-numbered years.  I was reminded of my own youthful butterfly pursuits as families with children chased butterflies in flowery meadows.  Cheers to Jan and her clan for hosting this special event!

Earlier this year, Jeff Basham of Tennessee recommended Black Mesa SP in Oklahoma for skippers, and it didn’t disappoint.  Mid-afternoon I stabled Chalcedona in a near-empty campground and walked up a rocky creek bed clogged with mostly dried-up bull thistle.  Atop most of the few remaining flower-heads were abundant Uncas, Green, and Sachem skippers, and one newly-minted Ottoe skipper.  Dotted roadside-skippers darted about in the deep grass, and a few Small checkered-skippers patrolled the edges of an alkali mudhole with hordes of Common checkered-skippers.  Finally, a funny-looking gray hairstreak proved to be a very worn, late Soapberry hairstreak.  My spirits were still high the next day as I pushed hard on a very long, long, long drive across the length of Oklahoma, panhandle to pan, absorbing sights of old, abandoned homesteads, farms, and gas stations, perhaps from the dust-bowl years.

Mt. Magazine, a popular bastion for the highly-sought Diana Fritillary, has been on my radar since last August, when I whiffed on a search for the stunning female during a visit to this Arkansas highpoint with my brother Jeff and Arkansas native Don Dunn.  Don re-joined me this year, but the weather turned foul on the allotted day.  By late morning skies partially cleared, and, as Don and I gawked at dragonflies and Mississippi kites hovering over his lovely lake-side home, Don suggested a drive into Ouachita NF above Hot Springs Village.  At our first stop, Don, finding his camera battery dead, was convinced that meant we would see lady Di today, for sure.  Searching hard for butterflies, we found little activity until about 3 PM, when a stretch of roadside flowers attracted many new species.  Up the road we spotted a large dark butterfly fluttering in the flowerheads.  We expected yet another Diana look-alike - Pipevine swallowtail or Red-spotted purple - but a peek through our binoculars sent emotions soaring at the sight of a lovely female Diana (photo below) dancing from flower to flower!!  We still plan to make the trip to Mt. Magazine, cameras ready, hoping today was only a sneak preview.


New Species:  Rocky Mountain Parnassian Parnassius smintheus, Soapberry Hairstreak Phaeostrymon alcestis, Western Green Hairstreak Callophrys affinis, Ancilla Dotted Blue Euphilotes ancilla, Arrowhead Blue Glaucopsyche piasus, Arctic Blue Plebejus glandon, Mormon Fritillary Speyeria mormonia, Gorgone Checkerspot Chlosyne gorgone, Silvery Checkerspot Chlosyne nycteis, Northern Crescent Phyciodes cocyta, Anicia Checkerspot Euphydryas anicia, Chryxus Arctic Oeneis chryxus, Uhler's Arctic Oeneis uhleri, Small Checkered-Skipper Pyrgus scriptura, Swarthy Skipper Nastra lherminier, Uncas Skipper Hesperia uncas, Ottoe Skipper Hesperia ottoe, Green Skipper Hesperia viridis, Nevada Skipper Hesperia nevada, Draco Skipper Polites draco, Woodland Skipper Ochlodes sylvanoides, Snow's Skipper Paratrytone snowi, Dotted Roadside-Skipper Amblyscirtes eos

New Species:  23    Total trip species:  406   Species Photographed:  395


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Female Diana Fritillary, Ozark Mtns., Ouachita NF above Hot Springs AR

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Rocky Mtn. Parnassian, Jamestown CO butterfly count

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Uncas skipper on bull thistle, Black Mesa SP, Oklahoma

anicia checkerspot

Anicia checkerspot, Jamestown, CO butterfly count


California/Utah week 26

My first foray into mountainous northeast CA figured to significantly bump my species list, especially with three NABA counts scheduled - Lava Beds, Warner Mtns., and Yuba Pass, each followed by an open day to pursue species missed on count day.  In addition to numerous common species were several specialty targets, like Sierra Blue, Great Arctic, and W. Sooty Hairstreak.  Leona’s Little blue, limited to a small area in Klamath Co., flies near the Oregon border.  And at week’s end I pushed hard across Nevada into Utah for Rockslide Checkerspot and Magdalena Alpine, on the upland talus slopes of Mt. Murdock.

The confusing Speyeria (aren’t they always!?) fritillaries of the Warner Mtns. gave us many maddening moments, both in the field and during heated evening discussions as we sorted through photos and vouchers.  Zerene, Great Basin, Northwestern, Hydaspe, Coronis, and Callippe fritillaries zipped past in meadows and along trails, challenging us to identify by size, color, and flight behavior, rarely stopping to nectar.  Added to this bounty were blues (6 species), whites, skippers, checkerspots, and the occasional copper or hairstreak, for a count total of a staggering 89 species!

Special thanks to count organizers Joe Smith and Jennifer Tiehm (Lava Beds and the Warners) and Paul Opler and Evi Buckner (Yuba Pass) for both their coordination skills and assistance with difficult IDs.  Thanks also to the many field companions - Paul J., Dave, Lori, Laura, Candice, Margot, and others - who helped both locate and identify new Big Year species.  

New Species:  Clodius Parnassian Parnassius clodius, Stella Orangetip Anthocharis stella, Queen Alexandra's Sulphur Colias alexandra, Edith's Copper Lycaena editha, Ruddy Copper Lycaena rubidus, Behr's Hairstreak Satyrium behrii, Sagebrush Sooty Hairstreak Satyrium semiluna, Western Sooty Hairstreak Satyrium fuliginosa, Nelson's Hairstreak Callophrys nelsoni, Glaucon Blue Euphilotes glaucon, Leona’s Little Blue Philotiella leona, Anna’s Blue Plebejus anna, Shasta Blue Plebejus shasta, Sierra Blue Plebejus podarce, Zerene Fritillary Speyeria zerene, Great Basin Fritillary Speyeria egleis, Northwestern Fritillary Speyeria hesperis, Hydaspe Fritillary Speyeria hydaspe, Purplish Fritillary Boloria montinus, Rockslide Checkerspot Chlosyne whitneyi, Pale Crescent Phyciodes pallida, Edith's Checkerspot Euphydryas editha, Hoary Comma Polygonia gracilis, California Tortoiseshell Nymphalis californica, Weidemeyer's Admiral Limenitis weidemeyerii, Small Wood-Nymph Cercyonis oetus, Magdalena Alpine Erebia magdalena, Great Arctic Oeneis nevadensis, Mexican Cloudywing Thorybes mexicana, Russet Skipperling Piruna pirus, Garita Skipperling Oarisma garita, European Skipper Thymelicus lineola, Western Branded Skipper Hesperia colorado, Sandhill Skipper Polites sabuleti 

New Species:  34    Total trip species:  383   Species Photographed:  370


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Leona’s Little Blue, Klamath Co., Oregon

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Weidemeyer’s Admiral, Lamb’s Cyn. Rd., near Park City, UT

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Great Arctic, Warner Mtns, NE California

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Edith’s Copper, Warner Mtns., NE California


Alaska/California Week 25

Alaska

What can I say?  The weather continued to be great and the Steese Highway filled in missing target species like Labrador Sulphur and offered more opportunities to photograph Eversmann’s Parnassian (see below).  Finding butterflies near Fairbanks was a greater challenge as flights may have peaked weeks ago following a very warm May.  Cranberry blues were common, but only one very worn Common Alpine . . . on the last hour of the last day!

California

Finally!  Back on the road in my comfortable camper Chalcedona, and hopefully no more flights or motels for many months.  Stretching ahead of me is a summer route across the northwest, a quick sprint through the midwest to the northeast, and back to Arizona for the monsoon butterflies of August.  My trek began over Donner Pass for Pacific Fritillary, Hoffman’s Checkerspot, and the dazzling Lustrous Copper (photo below).

New Species:  Northern Marble Euchloe creusa, Canadian Sulphur Colias canadensis, Labrador Sulphur Colias nastes, Lustrous Copper Lycaena cupreus, Purplish Copper Lycaena helloides, Western Pine Elfin Callophrys eryphon, Northern Blue Plebejus idas, Greenish Blue Plebejus saepiolus, Cranberry Blue Plebejus optilete, Square-spotted Blue Euphilotes battoides, Bog Fritillary Boloria eunomia, Silver-bordered Fritillary Boloria selene, Pacific Fritillary Boloria epithore, Hoffmann's Checkerspot Chlosyne hoffmanni, Green Comma Polygonia faunus, Milbert's Tortoiseshell Aglais milberti,Reddish Alpine Erebia lafontainei, Common Alpine Erebia epipsodea, Early Arctic Oeneis philipi, Sonoran Skipper Polites sonora

New Species:  20    Total trip species:  349  Species Photographed:  336


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White Admiral, Steese Highway, near Fairbanks, AK

Erebia kozhantshikovi* lafontainei 

Reddish alpine, Dalton highway, Alaska

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Eversmann’s parnassian, female, Steese Highway, Eagle summit

Parnassius eversmanni

Eversmann’s parnassian, male, Steese Highway, Eagle summit

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Lustrous Copper, Donner Pass near Norden, Sierra Nevada


Alabama/Alaska Week 24

Alabama:

"Mitchell’s satyrs everywhere!!” I exclaimed to Tommie as our long drive to the Talladega NF was quickly rewarded with multiple looks and great photo ops of this endangered species, our most common butterfly of the day!  No one registered disappointment when we could find no other target species . . later, enroute to a swamp metalmark site, we sadly learned that a flood two weeks ago may have wiped out the entire colony.

Alaska:

OK, no more grumbling about this year’s oddball weather.  My arrival in Fairbanks heralded a forecast of sunny skies, temps in the 70s-80s, for the entire week.  This bit of luck is no small thing - many lepidopterists before me have suffered a week or more of cold, rain, and fog, with few butterflies.  Motoring up the Dalton Highway toward the north slope, multiple stops bagged 12 new species, including 4 snazzy fritillaries of the Boloria genus: Mountain, Freija, Polaris, and Arctic.  My reward was a B&B stay in Coldfoot, AK for a shower, pancake breakfast, and grizzly bear stories from hosts Clutch Hicker and family; a second night of swatting mosquitoes in the back of my Dodge Journey rental was out-of-the-question.

As I chugged over Atigun Pass the next day, a high haze kept temps to a cool 45-50 F until about 2 pm.  Nevertheless, near Galbraith Lake, Ross’s, Banded, Disa, and Four-dotted alpines flushed from the treeless terrain as I walked what seemed like miles of ankle-breaking peat bog tundra.  At 11 a.m., as the sun poked briefly through the haze, several Arctic whites, fritillaries, and a frazzled Sentinel Arctic simultaneously rose from the turf.  Minutes later, a large yellow flyer swerved upslope toward me, appearing to be first a swallowtail (not likely!), then a large sulphur.  It landed some 30m away and I gasped, nearly choking on my butterfly bins at a bright yellow male Eversmann’s Parnassian!  Thus mesmerized, I forgot to take a photo, and a 2nd male barrelling past me did not grant me another chance.

After 2 p.m. the haze cleared and butterflies became more active.  The base of slopes seemed especially productive, but, remembering Bob Pyle’s lament (in his big year book - Mariposa Road) about dawdling too long in the valley, I re-traced my route back to the pass, adding several beauties like White-veined, Melissa, and Polixenes arctics, and a Mt. Mckinley alpine at the base of a rocky chute.

Returning down the Dalton Highway, Giant sulphurs flying in a roadside meadow capped my first leg of the trip, 34 total species, over 40% of Alaska’s butterfly fauna.

Addendum:  with ID assistance from the Butterflies of America website, Booth’s sulphur is now added to the list!

Next, the Steese Highway. . . 

New Species:  Eversmann's Parnassian Parnassius eversmanni, Old World Swallowtail Papilio machaon, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Papilio canadensis, Arctic White Pieris angelika, Giant Sulphur Colias gigantea, Palaeno Sulphur Colias palaeno, Booth's Sulphur Colias tyche, Unsilvered Fritillary Speyeria adiaste, Mountain Fritillary Boloria alaskensis, Dingy Fritillary Boloria improba, Polaris Fritillary Boloria polaris, Freija Fritillary Boloria freija, Arctic Fritillary Boloria chariclea, Mitchell's Satyr Neonympha mitchellii, Ross’ Alpine Erebia rossii, Disa Alpine Erebia disa, Taiga Alpine Erebia mancinus, Mt. Mckinley Alpine Erebia mackinleyensis, Banded Alpine Erebia fasciata, Red-disked Alpine Erebia discoidalis, Four-dotted Alpine Erebia dabanensis* youngi, White-veined Arctic Oeneis bore, Jutta Arctic Oeneis jutta, Sentinel Arctic Oeneis alpina, Melissa Arctic Oeneis melissa, Polixenes Arctic Oeneis polixenes, Arctic Skipper Carterocephalus palaemon, Common Branded Skipper Hesperia comma

New Species:  28    Total trip species:  329   Species Photographed:  316


Neonympha mitchellii

Mitchell’s Satyr, Talladega NF, central Alabama

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Jutta Arctic, Dalton Highway near the Yukon River, Alaska

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Old World Swallowtail, Murphy Dome, Fairbanks, AK


California/Tennessee Week 23

After adding two wood-nymphs - Common and Great-basin - on the last two Monterey butterfly counts, it was off to Tennessee.  The best part of this week would be the camaraderie of reunion with Jeff Basham and Tommie Rogers, two locals who guided me to many eastern species this past April.  Are we too late for Baltimore checkerspot, too early for Diana?

The absence of Baltimores at a small wet marsh was softened somewhat by Jeff’s sighting of a few Dion Skippers.  The Baltimore was to remain elusive through the week.  After lunch, one sparkling male Diana (photo below) raised our spirits as it mingled with numbers of Great Spangled and at least one Aphrodite Fritillary.  The day ended with a puzzling dark skipper which, after study, we concluded must be a Yehl, missing a few spots on the HW below (see photo).

The next day Jeff took us to a backwater of the Tennessee River where, in water up to our knees, we watched Broad-winged skippers fluttering slowly among the grassy reeds along the water’s edge.  Jeff speculates their low flight enables them to evade the grasp of roving dragonflies.  This bug was an unexpected surprise, its occurrence here beyond the published range of the species.

On Wednesday Tommie and I, with her two grandsons, Joshua and Matthew, crossed the border into Georgia, following Tommie’s butterfly count route with a short list of a few potential new species.  But butterflies were scarce, as they have been these past few days (despite the respectable list of new species), possibly due to heavy rainfall in recent weeks.  So tomorrow we head south into Alabama, on a quest for Mitchell’s Satyr . . .


New Species:  Coral Hairstreak Satyrium titus, Banded Hairstreak Satyrium calanus, Summer Azure Celastrina neglecta, Appalachian Azure Celastrina neglectamajor, Diana Fritillary Speyeria diana, Great Spangled Fritillary Speyeria cybele, Aphrodite Fritillary Speyeris aphrodite, Northern Pearly-eye Enodia anthedon, Appalachian Brown Satyrodes appalachia, Common Wood-Nymph Cercyonis pegala, Great Basin Wood-Nymph Cercyonis sthenele, Hoary Edge Achalarus lyciades, Crossline Skipper Polites origenes, Little Glassywing Pompeius verna, Yehl Skipper Poanes yehl, Broad-winged Skipper Poanes viator, Dion Skipper Euphyes dion

New Species:  17    Total trip species:  301   Species Photographed:  290


Speyeria diana 

Diana Fritillary, male, Bakewell Mtn., Chattanooga, TN

Papilio glaucus

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, female, Chattanooga, TN

Poanes viator

Broad-winged Skipper, ovipositing female, Chattanooga, TN

Poanes yehl

Yehl Skipper, Bakewell Mtn., Chattanooga, TN



California Week 22

While enroute to the White Mtns. in the AZ highlands, all the colds, flu-bugs, and other ailments I’ve avoided this year apparently conspired to clobber me simultaneously.  Survival instinct thus drove me downslope for refuge at my sister Lynn’s place near Phoenix, despite the likely loss of some 5-10 target species.  I returned to CA the next day.  

Strategically, I should be back east now, chasing species like Baltimore checkerspot, but four Monterey butterfly counts are scheduled this first week of June.  The first of these at Pinnacles NP count gave me Anise swallowtail, and pre-count scouting efforts added Coronis fritillary, Pacuvius duskywing, Smith’s dotted-blue, and Oreas comma.

Unexpectedly missed was the Unsilvered fritillary (Speyeria adiaste).  For the past four years I’ve monitored one of the few remaining colonies of this rarity, now a virtual endemic to upper pine-grasslands in Monterey County, CA.  This species flies late May-Aug, but cool weather this May likely has delayed its flight.  I will certainly add this species on a later June survey, but with growning concern over a 4-year dramatic decline in numbers (coincident with the drought) and reduction in length of flight season.

Sunday, June 7th I leave for Tennessee and hopefully some 20+ new eastern species . . .

New Species:  Anise Swallowtail Papilio zelicaon, Pacific Dotted Blue Euphilotes enoptes smithi, Coronis Fritillary Speyeria coronis, Oreas Comma Polygonia oreas, Pacuvius Duskywing Erynnis pacuvius

New Species:  5    Total trip species:  284   Species Photographed:  272


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Smith’s dotted-blue, on Eriogonum fasciculatum, Malpaso Canyon, Carmel, CA

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Coronis fritillary, Chews Ridge, Monterey county, CA

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Mylitta crescent, female, Hatton Canyon, Carmel, CA




Arizona Week 21

Memorial Day weekend was a welcome family break from my butterfly obsession, but by week’s end I had compiled a list of some 25 new species possible in n. Arizona, where the weather forecast didn’t include words like “cold,” tornadoes,” or “flooding.”

So off to the desert and canyons between Phoenix and the Mogollon Rim.  The first two days were slow, but with quality bugs like Gold-costa skipper and Ilavia hairstreak.  The 3rd day featured a hike up the Colonel Devin Trail to the top of the rim, beginning in the hills just north of Payson, AZ.   The day was mostly cloudy, with cold winds up on the rim.  The lower areas got some sun and, with clumps of flowers about, my list for the day soon reached 30 species.  Two special additions were Afranius duskywing and Viereck’s skipper.

New Species:  Ilavia Hairstreak Satyrium ilavia, Ares Metalmark Emesis ares, California Patch Chlosyne californica, Gold-costa Skipper Cogia caicus, Afranius Duskywing Erynnis afranius, Viereck's Skipper Atrytonopsis vierecki

New Species:  6    Total trip species:  279   Species Photographed:  268


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Ilavia Hairstreak, on oak, Rackensack Canyon near Phoenix

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Mourning cloak, Verde River, colonel Devin Trail

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California patch, Cave Creek, Spur Cross Ranch


California/New Jersey Week 20

A cold air mass settled in over much of California, giving me sound reason to hop a flight to New Jersey and chase down some really cool hairstreaks.  After the grizzled skipper quest last month in Virginia, Matt Orsie of New Jersey (?) gave me precise directions to Frosted Elfin, Hoary Elfin, and Hessel’s Hairstreak, all near Cape May, NJ, and all lifers.  Two days would be sufficient, since little else would be flying in the early NJ spring.  

The elfins (photos 2-3 below) were easy, right where Matt had described, but the Hessel’s (photo 1) took some work.  Three afternoon hours searching the area with another lepidopterist came up empty.  As I sat in my car at 5 PM, googling a motel room for the night, Garry and Annie Kessler of Massachusetts pulled up and we agreed to extend our search.  Stepping into the forest, a Hessel's immediately flushed and landed atop a sand myrtle flowerhead.  I snapped off a couple of photos and briefly turned my head to beckon the others over, but when I returned my gaze to the flowers, the butterfly had disappeared!  We searched another 15 min., then I left, feeling both uneasy (that the others had missed the Hessel’s) and puzzled that it had vanished so mysteriously.

By late the next day the mystery was solved.  Garry and Annie returned to the same site and, at 5:15 pm, a Hessel’s flew out of the trees onto the same flowerbed, then moved UNDER the flower and disappeared from view.  Efforts to dislodge the butterfly failed.  One wonders if this behavior is typical of the Hessel’s, possibly to evade predators, or was it simply finding a roost site for the night?  

Goldhunter’s Hairstreak and Mahogany Hairstreak can be difficult-to-find species in my home county of Monterey.  Late in the week I drove to a warm, sheltered location on Fort Hunter Liggett, where a few years earlier Goldhunter’s had nectared on Eriogonum fasciculatum.  The buckwheat was alive with butterflies: first, a Mahogany, then a mix of California, Sylvan, and Goldhunter’s hairstreaks, followed later by a Brown Elfin.  Five hairstreak species on the same plant!  Add to those the Hedgerow hairstreak earlier that day, and the Moss’s Elfin later on the coast . . .  seven hairstreak species in one day!  Append to that the three eastern species, and it’s a 10-hairstreak week!!

New Species:  Tailed Copper Lycaena arota, Gorgon Copper Lycaena gorgon, Gold-hunter's Hairstreak Satyrium auretorum, Mountain Mahogany Hairstreak Satyrium tetra, Moss’ Elfin Callophrys mossii, Hoary Elfin Callophrys polios, Frosted Elfin Callophrys irus, Hessel's Hairstreak Callophrys hesseli, Holly Azure Celastrina idella, Callippe Fritillary Speyeria callippe, Little Wood-Satyr Megisto cymela

New Species:  11     Total trip species:  273    Species Photographed:  262


P1010093

Hessel’s Hairstreak, on sand myrtle, near Warren Grove, NJ

P1010057

Frosted Elfin, Lizard Tail Swamp Preserve, power line cut at county road 652, NJ

P1010084

Hoary Elfin, Beaver Dam road, near Warren Grove, NJ



© Chris Tenney 2014