Monday, August 5, 2013

Reecer Creek to Lion's Rock - Table Mountain Fire Area

On Saturday, August 3, my family and I visited the Reecer Creek area.  Butterflies were abundant at lower elevations, mostly nectaring on tall buckwheat (Eriogonum elatum), thistle, and coyote mint (Monardella villosa).  A large rain cloud to the north darkly shaded the upper elevations (Lion's Rock/Table Mountain area) and butterflies were scarce, only seen on asters and other flowers along the road in sunny patches.  Most of the forest in that area is completely scorched from last year's fire, with very little vegetation left, yet the lupine, arnica, and a few other plants were very abundant popping up through the ash. The rocky meadows were largely left untouched, with a few burned sagebrush scattered throughout.
24-25 species seen
Hesperia juba - Juba Skipper, few dozen
Ochlodes sylvanoides - Woodland Skipper, very numerous everywhere
Papilio rutulus - Western Tiger Swallowtail, 1
Pieris/Pontia - 3 whites seen, one likely Cabbage White, two likely Becker's or Western whites
Colias sp. - 4 sulphurs seen, C. philodice?
Lycaena helloides - Purplish Copper, several dozen males and females
Lycaena nivalis - Lilac-bordered Copper, 1 female slightly faded
Satyrium behrii - Behr's Hairstreak, half dozen or so, all on Eriogonum elatum
Satyrium californica/sylvinus - California/Sylvan Hairstreak, several nectaring on E. elatum and pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)
Euphilotes columbiae - Columbia Blue, half dozen females and a couple males on E. elatum
Plebejus anna - Anna's Blue, several males and females
Argynnis cybele - Great Spangled Fritillary, 1 male nectaring on thistle
Argynnis coronis - Coronis Fritillary, dozens of faded females
Argynnis zerene - Zerene Fritillary, 2 fresh males
Argynnis mormonia - Mormon Fritillary, 3 fresh males
Argynnis hydaspe - Hydaspe Fritillary, at least a couple
Phyciodes mylitta - Mylitta Crescent, 1 faded
Euphydryas colon - Snowberry Checkerspot, 2 very faded/tattered
Polygonia satyrus - Satyr Anglewing, 1
Polygonia faunus - Green Anglewing, 1
Nymphalis antiopa - 2 very fresh adults, 1 very tattered/worn adult, several dozen mature larvae at Garrison Spring (about halfway up between bottom of hill and Lion's Rock), several masses of mid-instar larvae on willow shrubs along the road further north.
Aglais milberti - Milbert's Tortoiseshell, 1 or 2
Limenitis lorquini - Lorquin's Admiral, about a dozen
Cercyonis oetus - Dark Woodnymph - few dozen

The area we visited was affected by the Table Mountain Complex Fire last year, a fire that occurred shortly after the Taylor Bridge Fire was winding down.  The Taylor Bridge Fire was human-caused, started August 13, 2012 and burned 23,500 acres.  The Table Mountain fire was started by lightning on September 8, 2012 and burned 42,312 acres.  I wrote two blog articles about the Taylor Bridge Fire last year:
Aftermath of the Taylor Bridge Fire
How does fire affect butterflies
Most of the Reecer Creek/Table Mountain area was closed until this spring because of the high danger of falling snags.  The area is still dangerous because of the vast number of severely burned trees, but most roads are now open.  A few weeks ago, a local horse club spent a weekend cleaning up some of the trails in the Table Mountain and Haney Meadow area.  It will be a few years before the place starts looking back to normal, but I look forward to seeing the changing landscape and what kind of response the butterflies will have in the burn area.  Below are some photos from my Saturday trip.

Woodland Skipper on thistle
Woodland Skipper on chicory
Western Tiger Swallowtail on thistle
Great Spangled Fritillary (the first of this species I've seen in several years!) on thistle
Zerene or Coronis Fritillary on coyote mint
Juba Skipper
Coronis Fritillary female on coyote mint
Dark Woodnymph on dried leaves of balsamroot
Behr's Hairstreak on leaves of tall buckwheat, Eriogonum elatum
Tall buckwheat, Eriogonum elatum, blooming (outskirts of this meadow were burned; southernmost reach of the fire just below/south of the rock pit where people often target practice)
Anna's Blue (left) and California? (or Sylvan?) Hairstreak on pearly everlasting
Purplish Copper (female) on pearly everlasting
Snowberry Checkerspot
final/5th instar Mourning Cloak larvae on willow at Garrison Spring
final/5th instar Mourning Cloak larvae on willow at Garrison Spring
Mourning Cloak larvae (final/5th instar except for a few 4th instar) on willow at Garrison Spring
Zerene or Coronis Fritillary
Burnt pinecones in the Table Mountain Fire area
Burnt forest in the meadows just before the Lion's Rock turnoff, looking northeast
The fire burned extremely hot in this area, not many plants coming up in the middle of those trees yet (this is looking west, same place as above).
Also same place as above, looking north (before Lion's Rock/Table Mountain), toppled tree with burnt pinecones next to road.
Most of this little meadow burned, unlike the larger meadows nearby.
Vetch, fireweed, and lupine growing in the burn area
Mountain Arnica, lupine, and other plants happily popping up in the burn area
Same location as above, looking southeast along road not far south from where the paved roads turns to gravel
Looking north (south of the above photos), near the outskirts of the burn area
Same as above but looking south, near the outskirts of the burn area, lots of butterflies on the flowers here