Monday, July 30, 2012

(not quite north)west butterflies

Last week I was in San Diego for a work conference, and was happy to see a few butterflies hanging out in the grounds around the convention center and along the waterfront.  I wasn't able to photograph any of them, so this post will be a bit boring, but I wanted to make a quick report.
One Monarch, possibly two (lost sight of one, saw another shortly after in a slightly different spot).
Giant Swallowtail, my first one in the wild! I've seen a few in tropical butterfly houses, but never wild.
Black Swallowtail, one that liked hanging out in a little green space between the hotel and convention center.
Fiery Skipper, a few males and a couple dozen females in several places along the waterfront, most in a lawn where I saw some females ovipositing (really wish I had my camera at that moment!)
Cabbage White, about a dozen decorating the flowers in Seaport Village
a sulphur of some kind, medium-sized, not sure if it was a dogface, orange sulphur, or something similar.
something gray-blue, most likely a hairstreak.
waving goodbye, a sea lion on a floating dock at the pier near the USS Midway

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Arctic Blue - Plebejus glandon

Another interesting little butterfly that can be found on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area is the Arctic Blue, Plebejus glandon.  They were first discovered there in 2006 by another butterfly surveyor, at approximately 2600' elevation.  This was a record low elevation in Washington for this species that is usually only found above 5000'.  In 2008 I found another one about a mile down the road at 2400' elevation, and this year I found these two (photos below) at the same location as the original sighting in 2006.  So far we have only seen males, but we believe the females must be high up in the rocky slope above the road, close to their hostplant which is also yet to be confirmed.  Larvae of this species are known to feed on plants in the Saxifrage family, but without climbing the nearly vertical rock slope, it will be very difficult to determine exactly where these butterflies are coming from and what they use as their larval host.
Arctic Blue Plebejus glandon - males, dorsal and ventral

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Introducing: Sonoran Skipper

Here are the official photos of the newest member of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area butterfly family!  This cute little guy has a wingspan of 26 mm.  Remember the "wing terminology" post from last month?  Notice the large black patch on the forewings in the photo below? That is the stigma, which indicates this is a male butterfly.
The Sonoran Skipper (Polites sonora) is very similar to but more common than the Mardon Skipper (Polites mardon), a Washington State Endangered Species and a Federal Candidate Species.  The wings of the Mardon are more "stumpy", the forewings being smaller in proportion to the hindwings than the Sonoran Skipper.  Both species fly low to the ground and resemble large houseflies buzzing about, so they often go unnoticed.  Larvae of these species feed on grass, primarily fescue (Festuca sp.).

For more information about the Mardon Skipper, start with the Butterfly Conservation Initiative website, and a quick Google search will point you to many other resources.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sinlahekin Summer 2012: parade of butterflies

Now that I've built up a butterfly collection for the Sinlahekin and myself, I have been adding to my camera equipment and focusing more on photographing the butterflies I see and only collecting butterflies for new records, new locations, or to fill in other gaps in the collections.  It's difficult juggling a large camera with a heavy macro lens, external flash, a small notebook, pen, butterfly net, forceps (flat-tipped tweezers for handling butterflies), and assorted other gear!  So, sometimes I choose one over the other, and therefore may miss photographing a new species because I only have my net, or I miss collecting an important specimen because I only have my camera.  I was quite satisfied with my recent trip to the Sinlahekin though, because I only missed photographing a few of the species on my list, and I was able to collect several important specimens for the collection.  I plan to spread (pin, mount, and dry) those specimens later today, and will post photos of them once they are dry in a few days.

Below is an assortment of some of my favorite photos of live butterflies from my trip.  I have a new program (Adobe Lightroom) that I've been using to add copyright watermarks to my photos.  I noticed that it tends to make the whole picture a little more grainy (particularly in the Behr's Hairstreak photos), even when I turn off the options to convert the photo to different resolutions.  I hope it isn't too distracting, but I've been noticing my photos popping up in Google searches for these species, so I wanted to make sure they aren't being copied elsewhere without credit.  Please bear with me as I learn how to process all my photos!
Common Roadside Skipper Amblyscirtes vialis
Persius Duskywing Erynnis persius
Western Branded Skipper Hesperia colorado
Queen Alexandra's Sulphur Colias alexandra
Queen Alexandra's Sulphurs mudpuddling, Boisduval's Blue in the foreground
Behr's Hairstreak Satyrium behrii nectaring on Eriogonum heracleoides (parsley desert buckwheat)
Behr's Hairstreak Satyrium behrii nectaring on Eriogonum heracleoides (parsley desert buckwheat)
Behr's Hairstreak Satyrium behrii nectaring on Eriogonum heracleoides (parsley desert buckwheat)
Blue Copper Lycaena heteronea, male
Blue Copper Lycaena heteronea, male on Eriogonum heracleoides (parsley desert buckwheat)
Lilac-bordered Copper Lycaena nivalis, male
Lilac-bordered Copper Lycaena nivalis, male
Purplish Copper Lycaena helloides, female on Eriogonum heracleoides (parsley desert buckwheat)
Western Tailed Blue Cupido comyntas, female
Western Tailed Blue (male, center), Boisduval's Blue (left and rear), Cascadia Blue (top right), Lupine Blue (bottom right)
Silvery Blue Glaucopsyche lygdamus, male
Arrowhead Blue Glaucopsyche piasus
Cascadia Blue Euphilotes sp. (new species being described), male
Cascadia Blue Euphilotes sp., mating pair on an old flowerstalk of Eriogonum heracleoides (their larval hostplant)
Boisduval's Blue Plebejus icarioides, male
Lupine Blue Plebejus lupini, male
Anicia Checkerspot Euphydryas anicia - I set my butterfly net aside while photographing dozens of mudpuddling butterflies, and when I turned around, this little guy was sipping up my sweat on the net handle, not to mention it's bright red like a flower!
Anicia Checkerspot Euphydryas anicia
Field Crescent Phyciodes pulchella
Satyr Anglewing Polygonia satyrus, this one was so interested in the weatherstripping on my car door that it flew into my car twice after I shut the door!
Chryxus Arctic Oeneis chryxus, male
Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa, normally these have a yellow border, but they overwinter as adults so this one is quite faded and tattered!
Lorquin's Admiral Limenitis lorquini
Lorquin's Admiral, Blue copper (top R), Cascadia Blue (top L),  Arrowhead Blue (bottom R), and Boisduval's Blues
Common Wood Nymph Cercyonis pegala on an old culvert in a ditch.
Lilac-bordered Copper (left), Field Crescent and Anicia Checkerspot (center), assorted blues
Boisduval's Blues and assorted other species
Boisduval's Blues, Cascadia Blues, Blue Copper (center rear), Lorquin's Admiral (front)

Sinlahekin Wildlife

In addition to 88 species of butterflies, the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area is also home to many other animals.  Some are quite common and often seen, such as whitetail deer, while others are infrequent visitors, such as moose.  While the signs posted at each entrance seem to give a lot of rules, they are intended to preserve the beauty of the wildlife area for subsequent visitors, and protect habitat for its huge diversity of plants and animals.  The Sinlahekin is home to some of the rarest plant species in Washington, not to mention over 40% of the butterfly species in Washington can be found in this 14,300 acre hotspot!
Sign at entrance on Stalder Road
This bullsnake wasn't very happy about me waving my butterfly net at him to get him to move off the road, he reared his head and hissed at me the whole way, but he obeyed!  These and rattlesnakes are frequently killed on the main road through the Sinlahekin, some by accident, some on purpose.
Bullsnake sunning itself on the county road north of the Sinlahekin Headquarters
Bighorn Sheep lambs resting in an area that was controlled-burned in April
The lambs got nervous at me watching them, so started to wander over to the adults, one started nursing.
Five lambs and nine adults, one adult (left) has a radio collar.
Rocky slope above upper Sinlahekin Creek, where the first Arctic Blues (Plebejus glandon) and Pale Crescents (Phyciodes palla) were found - it's even steeper than it looks!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sinlahekin Summer 2012: by the numbers

I arrived at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area at noon on June 28, and left around 10am on July 2. It was a great trip filled with many butterflies, and these numbers tell the story:
42 = total species observed
33 = species seen June 28
30 = species seen June 29
27 = species seen June 30
26 = species seen July 1
  3 = species seen July 2
  8 = species not seen in June before on the Sinlahekin
  1 = species not seen in July before on the Sinlahekin
  1 = new record for the Sinlahekin: Sonoran Skipper (Polites sonora)
  2 = species seen every day: Blue Copper (L. heteronea) and Boisduval's Blue (P. icarioides)
10 = species seen only once: Northern Cloudywing (T. pylades), Sonoran Skipper (P. sonora), Behr's Hairstreak (S. behrii), Echo Blue (C. echo), Greenish Blue (P. saepiolus), Arctic Blue (P. glandon), Callippe Fritillary (A. callippe), Hydaspe Fritillary (A. hydaspe), Green Anglewing (P. faunus), Dark Wood Nymph (C. oetus).
Polites sonora, Sonoran Skipper, first record of this species for the SWA
Species List
Thorybes pylades, Northern Cloudywing
Erynnis icelus, Dreamy Duskywing
Erynnis persius, Persius Duskywing
Hesperia colorado, Western Branded Skipper
Polites sonora, Sonoran Skipper
Amblyscirtes vialis, Common Roadside Skipper
Papilio zelicaon, Anise Swallowtail
Papilio rutulus, Western Tiger Swallowtail
Papilio multicaudata, Two-tailed Swallowtail
Papilio eurymedon, Pale Tiger Swallowtail
Pieris rapae, Cabbage White
Euchloe ausonides, Large Marble
Colias alexandra, Queen Alexandra's Sulphur
Lycaena heteronea, Blue Copper
Lycaena helloides, Purplish Copper
Lycaena nivalis, Lilac-bordered Copper
Satyrium behrii, Behr's Hairstreak
Cupido amyntula, Western Tailed Blue
Celastrina echo, Echo Blue
Euphilotes (on Eriogonum heracleoides), Cascadia Blue
Glaucopsyche lygdamus, Silvery Blue
Glaucopsyche piasus, Arrowhead Blue
Plebejus melissa, Melissa Blue
Plebejus saepiolus, Greenish Blue
Plebejus icarioides, Boisduval's Blue
Plebejus lupini, Lupine Blue
Plebejus glandon, Arctic Blue
Argynnis callippe, Callippe Fritillary
Argynnis hydaspe, Hydaspe Fritillary
Phyciodes cocyta, Northern Crescent
Phyciodes pulchella, Field Crescent
Euphydryas anicia, Anicia Checkerspot
Polygonia satyrus, Satyr Anglewing
Polygonia faunus, Green Anglewing
Nymphalis antiopa, Mourning Cloak
Aglais milberti, Milbert's Tortoiseshell
Limenitis lorquini, Lorquin's Admiral
Coenonympha tullia, Ochre Ringlet
Cercyonis pegala, Common Wood Nymph
Cercyonis oetus, Dark Wood Nymph
Erebia epipsodea, Butler's Alpine
Oeneis chryxus, Chryxus Arctic

I found dozens of Purplish Copper eggs all over this plant near Fish Lake, the first time I've seen the eggs or larvae of this species. I'm waiting to have the plant identified, it wasn't in bloom at the time which makes it difficult.
Purplish Copper ( Lycaena helloides) female and eggs
Purplish Copper ( Lycaena helloides) eggs 
Purplish Copper ( Lycaena helloides) larvae (3) and hatched eggs (5)
I hiked to where we found the Northern Cloudywing colony last year, and found several more eggs, and am also waiting for a positive ID on these (apparently two) species.
Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) egg on Vicia sp.
Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) egg on possible Lathyrus sp. 
Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) egg on possible Lathyrus sp. 
On the last day of my trip (morning of July 2) I spent some time searching for eggs and larvae of Boisduval's Blues (Plebejus icarioides) on lupine in an area that had been burned (controlled) early this year. The lupine was blooming profusely and I found several eggs and one adult female. In another location further south, I found a few more eggs and one larva.