Monterey CA Week 47 . . the end of a Butterfly Big Year?

No new species this past week as continued cool, unsettled weather in s. Texas sent me packin’ for my Monterey home a few days early.  Nothing is certain, but the Yojoa scrub-hairstreak may be my last new butterfly of the year.  At this season, the adult butterfly fauna in my Monterey county, CA home is limited to a few common fall hang-ons and overwinterers.  A report of a lingering cracker or a rare swallowtail at the NABA Butterfly Park in Texas might tempt a return there, but the holidays and long-postponed home duties keep me grounded.

With regrets, this will likely be my last blog, so I’ll do my best to briefly summarize:

FINAL COUNT:  my year species count now stands at 526 (Pelham) or 531 (Opler-Warren).  I expect to lose a couple under critical review (my own resolve is already wavering on the Mexican Sootywing).  

Personal Favorite Species:  among the many candidates - Colorado hairstreak, Blackened bluewing, Emerald aguna, Compton tortoiseshell, Reddish alpine, - my psyche clings to the solitary Chisos metalmark in Big Bend NP.

Target Species Found:  38/50, incl. Colorado hairstreak, Eversmann’s parnassian, Labrador sulphur, Hessel’s hairstreak, Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak, Leona’s little blue, Compton tortoiseshell, Sandia hairstreak, . . 

Target Species Missed: 12/50, incl. Baltimore checkerspot, Arachne checkerspot, Xami hairstreak, Gillette’s checkerspot, several eastern hairstreaks, . . 

Rarest Species:  very hard to judge, but arguably one of the many s. Texas finds, like Telea hairstreak, Yellow-tipped flasher, etc., etc. . . 

Favorite Butterfly Group:  Speyeria frits!! . . (what else?).  The roadside-skippers were also great fun.

Favorite Photographs:  most photos were taken for ID confirmation rather than esthetics, but a few are special, for various reasons (see photos below).

Goals Met:  500+ species, 500+ species photographed, 5 giant-skippers, 10+ national parks, 10+ arctics/alpines, any rare swallowtail, . .

Goals Almost Met:  a butterfly in every state (missed several northeastern states), 20 roadside-skippers (finished with 16), all the Speyeria (missed edwardsii), . .

Favorite Butterfly State:  Arizona.  Honorable mention to Alaska, California, Texas, Tennessee.

Favorite Butterfly Walk:  Sycamore Canyon in s. Arizona, with Alaska’s north slope a close second.

A special thanks to all the wonderful, engaging humans who accompanied me at various stages of this butterfly journey.  It started with Bob Pyle’s inspirational documentary of his 2008 Big Year (Mariposa Road) and his near-weekly responses of encouragement to my blog.  And ended with Marianna and the gang at the National Butterfly Center, whose gardens I walked in search of rarities for over 3 months.  In between, there were too many butterfly-searching amigos to recount here, but their names are sprinkled throughout the blog pages.

I worry sometimes that over-emphasis on total species tally may obscure quality measures of the value of a journey like this.  The quest for new species is really only a gateway to a range of special, unique experiences, across an amazing landscape, where one makes new friends, meets old friends, and sometimes wanders alone in solitary awe.  

In my case, at the age of 70, I initially simply wanted to cram as many new species as possible into a calendar year, before the final door slams shut on my life journey.  As the year progressed, other, perhaps more meaningful, rationale for this trip quickly crystallized.  And so now I can leisurely spend my waning years pursuing my Big Misses (I’ve already had several offers for Baltimore checkerspot.)

Hopefully this blog will inspire others to follow.  If their competitive fires are stoked, they may make a go at 526.  Or they may have their own Big Year motivations, which is how it should be.  Warning . . it can be really addictive!  

- Chris Tenney, Monterey, CA, 2 Dec 2015

New Species:  0    

Total Big Year species:   526 (Pelham catalogue)   

                                          531 (Opler/Warren checklist; Brock/Kaufmann field guide)   

                                          508 (NABA checklist; Jeffrey Glassberg)   

                                          533 (all sources)              

Species Photographed:  521


Hoary comma adrift in a sea of rabbitbrush,  Cedar Breaks, UT


Green comma, lookin’ like lichen on a log, near Missoula, MT


Red-spotted purple in morning sun, Chattanooga, TN


Malachite in a grassy forest glade, National butterfly center, Mission, TX

© Chris Tenney 2014