Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Working on my "Life List"

Most lepidopterists maintain a "life list", a list of all the butterfly and/or moth species they've seen or collected during their lifetime. I've kept random checklists for as long as I can remember, but haven't kept track of exactly when or where I saw most of the species. This year, I decided I wanted to start targeting specific locations at certain times of the year in order to find the remaining butterfly species that occur in Washington that I haven't seen yet. The first, Desert Marble (Euchloe lotta) was checked off my list in a big way last weekend, when I observed over 100 of them flying in the shrub-steppe west of the town of Vantage in central Washington (see post here). Once I have a chance to spread the specimens and photograph them and the more widespread Large Marble (Euchloe ausonides), I plan to write a blog post comparing the two similar species.
There are currently 152 recognized butterfly species in Washington. This number fluctuates depending on the taxonomy and range of a few species. The Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) is included in this number, but has yet to be irrefutably recorded in the state. Of the remaining 151 species, I have collected or seen 121 in Washington and 9 in other states, leaving only 21 species to complete my life list (or 30 if I want to be very particular about the location).

By the numbers:
119 species collected in-state
2 species observed in-state but not collected (Mardon Skipper, Polites mardon, which is state-protected, and Northern White Skipper, Heliopetes ericetorum, which I saw once but was unable to catch)
9 species observed and/or collected out-of-state:
Alpine Checkered Skipper Pyrgus centaureae, collected in Utah
Checkered White Pontia protodice (stray in WA), seen/photographed in Utah, unable to collect
Dainty Sulphur Nathalis iole (rare stray), collected in Oklahoma
Edith's Copper Lycaena editha, collected in Oregon and Idaho
Western Pygmy Blue Brephidium exilis (rare stray in WA), collected in California, seen in Hawaii
Eastern Tailed Blue Cupido comyntas, seen in Oregon, unable to collect
Variegated Fritillary Euptoieta claudia (rare stray in WA), collected in Texas, seen in Oklahoma
Great Basin Fritillary Argynnis egleis, collected in Idaho and Utah
American Painted Lady Vanessa virginiensis, seen in Oklahoma and Texas
21 species left to find!
Garita Skipperling Oarisma garita (pictured below)
European Skipperling Thymelicus lineola (pictured below)
Common Branded Skipper Hesperia comma (pictured below)
Peck's Skipper Polites peckius (pictured below)
Tawny-edged Skipper Polites themistocles (pictured below)
Long-dash Skipper Polites mystic
Yuma Skipper Ochlodes yuma
Labrador Sulphur Colias nastes (pictured below)
Lustrous Copper Lycaena cupreus (pictured below)
Golden Hairstreak Habrodais grunus (pictured below)
Johnson's Hairstreak Callophrys johnsoni
Hoary Elfin Callophrys polios (pictured below)
Lucy's Azure Celastrina lucia
Dotted Blue Euphilotes enoptes
Viceroy Limenitis archippus (pictured below)
California Sister Adelpha californica
Atlantis Fritillary Argynnis atlantis
Astarte Fritillary Boloria astarte (pictured below)
Oreas Anglewing Polygonia oreas (pictured below)
Northern Checkerspot Chlosyne palla (there is confusion between this and the Sagebrush Checkerspot C. acastus, which I have definitely collected. I may have seen the Northern, but not sure)
Melissa Arctic Oeneis melissa (pictured below)

Desert Marbles!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit my old stomping grounds in central Washington, between Kittitas and Vantage. It was gorgeous weather and the spring flowers were in full display tucked among the sagebrush. Between the two days, I recorded the following species:

Anise Swallowtail Papilio zelicaon, 1
Becker's White Pontia beckerii, 5+
Spring White Pontia sisymbrii, 7+
Large Marble Euchloe ausonides, 3
Desert Marble Euchloe lotta, 100+
Sara's Orangetip Anthocharis sara, 15+ males, 4 females
Clouded Sulphur Colias philodice, 1 female
Sheridan's Green Hairstreak Callophrys sheridanii, 10
Western Pine Elfin Callophrys eryphon, 2
Gray Hairstreak Strymon melinus, 3
Silvery Blue Glaucopsyche lygdamus, 2 males
Gray/Zephyr Anglewing Polygonia gracilis, 1 female, possibly saw 2 others

This is the first time I've seen and collected Desert Marbles, so it was quite exciting! I also had the opportunity to watch a pair of Desert Marbles courting, flying around the sagebrush for about a minute before settling to mate, which allowed me the only opportunity to photograph this species without capturing it, as they seem to fly continuously, only stopping for a few seconds to nectar, never long enough to focus a camera!

My very first Desert Marble (Euchloe lotta)!
Mating pair of Desert Marbles (Euchloe lotta), female is larger, on left, male is on right.
Mating pair of Desert Marbles (Euchloe lotta), female is larger, on left, male is on right.

Also, here is a selection of the wildflowers that were blooming...

Sagebrush violets Viola trinervata
Sagebrush violets and cushion phlox (Phlox hoodii)
Cushion phlox (Phlox hoodii)
Dry-ground lupine (Lupinus aridus) (maybe, not sure)
Woolly-pod locoweed (Astragalus purshii)
As near as I can tell, this is either hanging-pod locoweed (Astragalus arrectus) or thread-stalk locoweed (A. filipes)
Some kind of green paintbrush
Hooker's Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza hookeri)
Assortment of shrub-steppe spring flowers in Kittitas County
Buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.)
A half-grown Pygmy Short-horned Lizard, it was barely an inch long snout to vent.
Catching butterflies (dad) and photographing flowers (mom) in the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area