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


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


Rocky Mtn. Parnassian, Jamestown CO butterfly count


Uncas skipper on bull thistle, Black Mesa SP, Oklahoma

anicia checkerspot

Anicia checkerspot, Jamestown, CO butterfly count

© Chris Tenney 2014