Thursday, September 15, 2016

Blog updates

In the midst of being swamped with other projects, I'm trying to chip away at a few blog improvements and updates. There will be some changes to the "Pages" links in the bar on the left, so check back occasionally to see what's new. I just finished updating the Locations to visit page. Also, I now have a public email address, also seen at left under How to contact me. I'm very busy so may not respond right away, but will try to answer any questions you have.

Lesser (but not least) Fritillaries

It was brought to my attention a while back by a reader that, while I've posted several items on identifying Greater Fritillaries (Speyeria species), I haven't posted anything on Lesser Fritillaries (Boloria species). To review, please see my Fritillary Frenzy post. You'll notice I mentioned that people were starting to use Argynnis as the genus of greater fritillaries, however that has since been back-tracked, or at least put on the back burner for now, and the official name is still Speyeria. As I wrote in the 2013 article, fritillaries can be divided into two groups: greater and lesser. As the names suggest, greater fritillaries are larger, usually with a wingspan between 1.5 and 3 inches, compared to the 1 to 1.5 inch wingspan of lesser fritillaries.

There are six species of Boloria in the Pacific Northwest. These links will take you to the Butterflies of America page for each species.
Boloria selene Silver-bordered Fritillary
Boloria freija Freija Fritillary
Boloria chariclea Arctic Fritillary
Boloria epithore Western Meadow Fritillary
Boloria bellona Meadow Fritillary
Boloria astarte Astarte Fritillary

Lesser fritillaries are easy to tell apart from each other compared to their larger cousins, therefore I won't go into much detail about each one. As you can see by the images below, the dorsal side is similar between these species, so a clear view of the ventral side is usually necessary for a positive identification.
Ventral (underside) comparison of the six Boloria species found in the Pacific Northwest.

Silver-bordered Fritillary Boloria selene
Although common in parts of Canada and elsewhere in its range, this species is relatively rare and localized in WA and OR and is listed as a State Candidate in WA and Imperiled in OR. It is easily separated from other Boloria species by the silvered spots scattered across the ventral side of its wings.
Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selenemale and female

Freija Fritillary Boloria freija
Freija is primarily found in Canada, but can be found in a narrow strip of high-elevation willow bog habitat in north-central Okanogan County, WA. It is identified by the distinct white tooth or fang-mark on the center of the ventral hindwing and a bold black zig-zag across the median.
Freija Fritillary (Boloria freija) male and female

Arctic Fritillary Boloria chariclea
This species is truly an arctic butterfly, found across the entire northern hemisphere, from Europe and Siberia to northern North America. It is also known as the Purplish Fritillary. In the PNW it is only found in the WA Cascades and Olympic Mountains. It is similar to Freija, but has a pale submedian band without a distinct "tooth" and lacks the dark zigzag median pattern on Freija.
Arctic Fritillary (Boloria charicleamale and female

Western Meadow Fritillary Boloria epithore
These are the most widespread and common of the Boloria species in the Pacific Northwest, found in nearly any forest habitat from the Cascades to the coast, and portions of the north, northeast and southeast edges of Washington and the northeast corner of Oregon. They are identified by the "soft" ventral pattern with subtle shades of purple, pink, brown and orange, mostly separated into an outer purplish band and inner yellowish-orange bands, compared to the checkered and zig-zag patterns of the other species except B. bellona (shown next), which is generally more brownish and has angular wings. 
Western Meadow Fritillary (Boloria epithore), two males

Meadow Fritillary Boloria bellona
Meadow fritillaries are primarily found around the Great Lakes and northeastern United States south to Tennessee, but are also found in portions of the Rocky Mountains and scattered populations in the Blue Mountains of NE Oregon and in eastern and north-central Washington. They are identified by their squared-off wing tip on the forewing, and slightly angular hindwing, compared to the rounded wings of the other Boloria species shown here. The ventral hindwing pattern is a marbled brown and purplish-brown pattern similar to B. epithore (shown above), but lacks the defined separation between the outer purplish band and inner yellowish-orange bands seen on epithore.
Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona), two males

Astarte Fritillary Boloria astarte
Although this species is considered one of the "lesser" fritillaries, it is the size of average "greater" fritillaries such as Zerene or Callippe. It is very uncommon, found in parts of Alaska and Canada, and only in the highest elevation talus slopes of Whatcom, Okanogan and Chelan counties in Washington and Flathead, Teton, and Glacier counties in Montana. The best place to see it in Washington is at Slate Peak on the Okanogan/Whatcom county line, but you must arrive there very early in the day if you want any hope of photographing or catching one, as they warm up quickly on the rocks. I tried to find them for the first time this year in late August; while I did finally get a good look at one, and a few glances at two or three others, I was never able to get close enough to catch or photograph any of them, they're super skittish!
Astarte Fritillary (Boloria astartemale and female

As I noted at the beginning, I wrote this article because of a question from a reader. If you would like to see a species profile for a particular butterfly or group of butterflies, or learn more information about some other Lepidoptera topic, let me know! I have a new public email address specifically for correspondence related to this blog, see the "How to contact me" strip to the left.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

LepSoc 2016 - Days 10 & 11

This was the final full day of my trip and my last chance for butterflies before the wet and cold weather fully set in across the region. While you might think the following photos look rather warm and sunny, it was deceptively cool across the region and everywhere I wanted to stop for butterflies was mostly clouded over.  I still saw a couple Cabbage Whites on my 7 hour drive home the next day, allowing me to keep my record of seeing at least 1 butterfly every day of my trip! I spent this day driving from Evanston, WY across the north corner of Utah and much of Idaho, with a detour through the Sawtooth and Boise National Forests, driving through Sun Valley, Stanley, and Idaho City. The weather had turned wet and stormy the previous day as I drove across Wyoming, so it was mostly cloudy and too cold for very many butterflies, but I managed to find a productive patch of sunny forest north of Idaho City late in the afternoon.

The first stretch was driving around the south end of Bear Lake and through Logan Canyon in Utah.
Informational sign about the Bear Lake Valley
Informational sign about the Logan Canyon area.
Logan Canyon scenic area
View of Bear Lake from the southeast rim.
Panorama of Bear Lake (click to view full size)

After crossing southeastern Idaho, I was eager to get off the freeway for a while, so I turned north towards Sun Valley. This route is along the edge of the large lava beds that make up Craters of the Moon National Monument (another place I need to visit sometime!). I was expecting it to look more like central Oregon, but it actually reminded me a little more of the dry side of the big island of Hawaii!
Interesting history of the area. You can also see a bit of lava rock peaking out from the vegetative cover.
Edge of the lava beds - that dark line on the horizon are large mounds of barren lava rock!
At a viewpoint north of Sun Valley at the edge of the Sawtooths
I thought this was a pretty sign, a little different than the usual forest signs
(which I still like, there's something about brown and yellow signs that make me all warm and fuzzy inside, I love forests!)
Panorama from the viewpoint, looking northwest across the valley (click to view at full size)

Near Elk Creek RV Park
Erynnis icelus Dreamy Duskywing, 1
Papilio eurymedon Pale Tiger Swallowtail, 1
Lycaena editha Edith's Copper, 13+
Satyrium sylvinus Sylvan's Hairstreak, 1
Callophrys behrii Behr's Hairstreak, 3
Phyciodes pulchella Field Crescent, 1
Speyeria cybele Great Spangled Fritillary, 1 male
Limenitis lorquini Lorquin's Admiral, 1 male

The sunny spot I found, where a few flowers were still blooming in the dry forest, attracting several butterflies.
Looking southwest from my "sunny spot"
Pale Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) in the Boise National Forest

The following day I drove the final 7 hours or so back home from western Idaho. All told, I drove a total of 3,701 miles through 7 states (WA, OR, ID, NV, UT, CO, WY) and 12 national forests. I had a blast and look forward to my next big adventure, but am glad to be back home for a while!
Panorama of the Columbia River from eastern Oregon, looking north to Washington - almost home! (click for full size)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

LepSoc 2016 - Day 9

This was a very long day of driving, broken by just a few quick stops in Colorado and a breathtaking scenic drive through the Snowy Range of southeastern Wyoming. I started off early and drove east past Pike's Peak and into Colorado Springs, then headed north through Denver (drove past the mile-high stadium!) with a small detour through Fort Collins to see the beautiful campus of Colorado State University, where I almost decided to go, back when I was making college decisions. I knew the drive across Wyoming to Evanston was going to be very long and monotonous, so instead of getting straight onto the freeway in Laramie, I took a last-minute detour to explore the Snowy Range Scenic Drive, for my third and final time crossing the Continental Divide during this trip. I'm glad I made this decision, as I saw a fair number of exciting butterflies in addition to the beautiful views.

Entering the Medicine Bow National Forest at the Centennial Visitor Center
There were several interpretive signs at the visitor center, including this nice one about pollinators!

Route 130 NW of Centennial, WY - Corner Mtn Trail Head (east side of the pass)
Erynnis persius Persius Duskywing, 1 male
Oarisma garita Garita Skipperling, 1
Papilio rutulus Western Tiger Swallowtail, 1 male
Parnassius smintheus Mountain Parnassian, 1 female
Cupido amyntula Western Tailed Blue, 1
Euphilotes sp. unknown species of buckwheat blue, 1 female
Glaucopsyche lygdamus Silvery Blue, 3
Phyciodes cocyta Northern Crescent, 1 female
Chlosyne palla Northern Checkerspot, 3
Euphydryas anicia Anicia Checkerspot, 2 females
Speyeria hesperis Northwestern Fritillary, 1 male
Coenonympha tullia Ochre Ringlet, 1

On top of the pass
I saw a few gigantic fritillaries cross the road near the pass, which I can only assume were Great Spangled Fritillaries. Unfortunately I didn't see any when I parked, but took a bunch of photos of the fantastic views!
Panorama of Sugarloaf Mountain (left, 11,391 ft), Medicine Bow Peak (ridge in the background, 12,013 ft),
Browns Peak (behind trees on right, 11,709 ft) and Libby Lake (click for full-size view)
Libby Lake, looking west
Libby Lake and Sugarloaf Mountain (11,391 ft), looking northwest
Libby Lake and the east ridge of Medicine Bow Peak (left) and Browns Peak (11,709 ft, right),
the two highest mountains in the Snowy Range.
At the summit
Medicine Bow Peak, 12,013 ft, looking north from the pass summit.
Viewpoint at Libby Flats on the south side of the pass.
One of a few signs at the Libby Flats view point.
I have no idea why the viewing platform was made to look like a small castle, but it was fun if nothing else!
So many alpine wildflowers blooming!
...and even more wildflowers!
Panorama looking south-southeast from the Libby Flats view point. There was a forest fire in the distance.
Panorama looking north at the Snowy Range: Medicine Bow Peak (long center ridge), Sugarloaf Mountain (shorter peak, center right) and Browns Peak (short ridge to the right). Click on photos to view at full size.

Route 130 - NF-255 turnoff E of Ryan Park Campground (west side of the pass)
Pieris marginalis Margined White, 1 male
Colias scudderi Scudder's Sulphur, 4 males, 2 females
Icaricia saepiolus Greenish Blue, 1
Speyeria coronis Coronis Fritillary, 1
Speyeria mormonia Mormon Fritillary, 1
Boloria chariclea Arctic Fritillary, 8
Phyciodes pulchella Field Crescent, 1

LepSoc 2016 - Day 8

On the last full day of the conference, I left early in the morning to drive to Boreas Pass at the recommendation of another lepidopterist. I spent all morning and early afternoon in that area, before heading back to the conference for afternoon activities and the evening banquet. This tied with my day in the La Sal Mountains of eastern Utah for the best butterfly day of my trip. I was so excited about all the butterflies I was seeing that I forgot to take pictures! Google pictures of it, it's breathtaking!

Small meadow between a creek and hillside, early morning
Parnassius smintheus Mountain Parnassian, 1 male
Euchloe ausonides Large Marble, 2 males
Colias eurytheme Orange Sulphur, 1 male
Icaricia saepiolus Greenish Blue, 3
Vanessa virginiensis American Lady, 1
Coenonympha tullia Ochre Ringlet, 1
Oeneis chryxus Chryxus Arctic, 2
Oeneis uhleri Uhler's Arctic, 1

Small meadow further up the road
Erynnis persius Persius Duskywing, 1 male
Colias eurytheme Orange Sulphur, 1 female
Icaricia saepiolus Greenish Blue, 1 male, 1 female

Huge meadow/basin about two miles south of the summit
Erynnis persius Persius Duskywing, 2
Polites draco Draco Skipper, 2-3 seen (very skittish!)
Papilio zelicaon Anise Swallowtail, 1
Euchloe ausonides Large Marble, 2 males
Pieris marginalis Margined White, 1 female, saw at least 2 others
Colias eurytheme Orange Sulphur, 1 male
Colias alexandra Queen Alexandra's Sulphur, 3 males, saw several others
Colias meadi Mead's Sulphur, saw 10+ but couldn't catch, very wary
Nathalis iole Dainty Sulphur, 1
Echinargus isola Reakirt's Blue, 2+
Glaucopsyche lygdamus Silvery Blue, 2+
Icaricia saepiolus Greenish Blue, 3+
Agriades glandon rusticus Arctic Blue, 2+
Euptoieta claudia Variegated Fritillary, 2
Coenonympha tullia Ochre Ringlet, 3+
Erebia epipsodea Butler's Alpine, 30+
Oeneis chryxus Chryxus Arctic, 20+

Summit of Boreas Pass - meadows and willow shrub habitat
Pieris marginalis Margined White, 3+
Colias philodice Clouded Sulphur, 1 male
Colias eurytheme Orange Sulphur, 1 female
Colias alexandra Queen Alexandra's Sulphur, 3+
Colias meadi Mead's Sulphur, 3+
Icaricia saepiolus Greenish Blue, ~10
Agriades glandon rusticus Arctic Blue, 1
Euptoieta claudia Variegated Fritillary, 2
Boloria chariclea Arctic Fritillary, 4 males, 1 female, saw <5 others
Boloria freija Freija Fritillary, 2 males
Aglais milberti Milbert's Tortoiseshell, 1
Coenonympha tullia Ochre Ringlet, 2

History of Boreas Pass
My second time on the Continental Divide!
Looking southeast towards the parking area (center), old buildings (left) and a rail car (right),
with Boreas Mountain (13,082 ft) in the background.
Looking northeast at Bald Mountain (13,684 ft) from Boreas Pass
View east across the willow meadows towards Bald Mountain (left) and Boreas Mountain (center right), click for full size.
Old road through the willow shrubs, where I saw several
Arctic Fritillaries and a couple Freija Fritillaries.

On the way back down, clearing with lots of Potentilla shrubs
Erynnis persius Persius Duskywing, 1
Euchloe ausonides Large Marble, 1 male
Colias eurytheme Orange Sulphur, 1 female, ~5 others
Colias alexandra Queen Alexandra's Sulphur, 1 male, ~5 others
Callophrys spinetorum Thicket Hairstreak, 1
Phyciodes pulchella Field Crescent, 1 male, saw ~5 others
Oeneis chryxus Chryxus Arctic, 1

Monday, September 12, 2016

LepSoc 2016 - Day 7

Once again I only attended a few presentations this day, spending much of it with three other lepidopterists on a trip to Horseshoe Mountain (a famous collecting location in the butterfly world) and Four Mile Creek (the area on the way up to the mountain). Because all the moth-ers had been out collecting the previous night, they were sorting their catch during the morning lectures. I've always been interested in moths as well as butterflies, but because there's so much to know about butterflies and I'm not much of a night person, I haven't pursued collecting them much. It's much easier to hover over the guys sorting moths and pick up a specimen or two that is common to them so they're eager to hand it off to someone else! I guess you could call me an opportunistic moth collector.
One-eyed Sphinx (Smerinthus ophthalmica) I bummed off a generous moth-collecting lepidopterist.

Willow bog about half way up to Horseshoe Mountain
Parnassius smintheus Mountain Parnassian, 2 males
Pieris marginalis Margined White, 1 male
Colias scudderi Scudder's Sulphur, <5
Eurema nicippe Sleepy Orange, 1
Icaricia saepiolus Greenish Blue, 1 male
Phyciodes pulchella Field Crescent, 1 male
Boloria freija Freija Fritillary, at least 1-2, hard to get close enough to see clearly
Erebia epipsodea Butler's Alpine, 5
Looking for fritillaries and sulphurs in a willow bog with Horseshoe Mountain in the background.
Ridgeline south of the willow bog, east of Horseshoe Mountain
Willow bog and Horseshoe Mountain

Near the end of the road at Horseshoe Mountain (at ~12,000 ft; peak is 13,905 ft)
Polites draco Draco Skipper, 3
Pontia protodice Checkered White, 1 male
Icaricia saepiolus Greenish Blue, 2 males
Icaricia shasta Shasta Blue, 1
Agriades glandon rusticus Arctic Blue, 2 males, 1 female
Euphydryas anicia brucei Anicia Checkerspot, 3 males, 2 females, +10 others
Erebia magdalena Magdalena Alpine, 1
Oeneis chryxus Chryxus Arctic, 3
Oeneis melissa Melissa Arctic, 1
End of the drivable portion of the road up to Horseshoe Mountain
Panorama of Horseshoe Mountain (right) and the southern ridge line
Looking northeast from below Horseshoe Mountain
Elegant Death Camas (Zigadenus elegans)
Dwarf Clover (Trifolium nanum) and Elegant Death Camas (Zigadenus elegans)
Purple Fringe (Phacelia sericea)
The remnants of silver mining buildings were scattered across this area
Looking west at the 13,905 ft high rim of Horseshoe Mountain
Looking east away from Horseshoe Mountain at the amazing view and the dark storm clouds lining the ridges.

Large arid meadow near beginning of Four Mile Creek Road
Pontia protodice Checkered White, 1 male
Callophrys affinis Western Green Hairstreak, 1
Euphydryas anicia eurytion Anicia Checkerspot, >10 males and females
Coenonympha tullia Ochre Ringlet, 1
Wildflower-filled arid meadow near the beginning of Four Mile Creek Road
Looking for a subspecies of Anicia Checkerspots (eurytion) that was originally described from this exact location.