California Sierra to Arizona Week 30

Watching my grandsons play in the sand at the water’s edge of Angora Lake above Lake Tahoe was a great way to unwind after two relentless weeks on the road.  For three days I relaxed with son-in-law Ben, my two daughters Heather and April, and Heather’s sons Max and Oliver, pondering butterflies only on short afternoon walks at Carson and Ebbett’s passes.  


Dana Meadows from Mt. Dana bench

This has been a poor butterfly year in much of the California Sierra - a consensus of butterfly counters at Monday’s Yosemite count concluded that the combined effects of a 4-year drought and an early-July snow-and-hailstorm has shortened flights and depleted numbers of many species.  The Yosemite count recorded over 40 species, but total numbers were quite low, including very few fritillaries and coppers, and no hairstreaks at all.  Happily, the greenish Sierra sulphur was flying strong in upper elevation meadows, and a few Sierra Nevada parnassians patrolled forest edges near timberline, just above these meadows.  Last year Ken Davenport led Liam O’Brien and I up a steep talus slope above Ellery Lake to enjoy a Heather Blue colony in a patch of red and white heather blossoms fringing a rock wall.  This year’s re-visit was no less rewarding.

Enroute to Arizona, fast-flying Carole’s fritillaries entertained me as they zipped along a dry creek bed in Nevada’s Spring Mtns.  A recent split from Speyeria zerene, carolae is found only at this isolated locale.  Along the Grand Canyon’s south rim, a Spalding’s blue nectared on buckwheat, and Mead’s wood-nymphs bounced merrily along the rim drive; one individual entered Chalcedona through the open sliding side door as I nibbled on a peanut-butter sandwich!

New Species:  Sierra Nevada Parnassian Parnassius phoebus behri, Sierra Sulphur Colias behrii, Spalding's Blue Euphilotes spaldingi, Heather Blue Plebejus cassiope, Carole’s Fritillary Speyeria carolae, Mead's Wood-Nymph Cercyonis meadii

New Species:  6    Total trip species:  433   Species Photographed:  420


Spalding’s blue, south rim Grand Canyon, AZ


Purplish copper female, Dana Meadows, Tioga Pass, CA


Chryxus arctic, (two-headed?), Mt. Dana bench, Tioga Pass, CA


Carole’s fritillary, nectaring on Monardella, Spring Mtns., NV

© Chris Tenney 2014