On wildflowers

Late July and the birds are quiet, the landscape is parched in many places as drought has tightened its grip, yet along a creek where the last water flows wildflowers are still in bloom the flowers are topped with beautiful butterflies.

While the Checkerspot photographed above is a species we frequently see each summer the butterflies below are ones we either have never seen or perhaps never noticed.

The Black and White species above is anything but black and white sporting iridescence that glows like a rainbow in the proper light. In addition to being beautiful this species was also fairly small measuring about 0.75 inches in length.

Another small and iridescent species measuring just the length of a petal on a wild sticky geranium. This individual was difficult to photograph always darting from flower to flower. Luckily they found what they were looking for on this flower and stayed long enough for a photo.

The smallest butterfly we have seen this summer was perhaps this species which seemed to favor the white sticky geraniums along the creek. Perhaps half the size of the flowers petal, small indeed.

Now that August is near the wildflowers are quickly drying and dying for the season and along with the flower the butterflies go as well. Well, next summer is just around the corner.

Just a handful

A Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Butterfly sips sweet nectar on an August afternoon. While many of the butterflies we see are present in great numbers through the summer there are some we only see a handful of and then only for a few weeks at the most. The Milbert’s is one of them.

Another not so frequent observation is the Red Admiral.

The Pink-Edged Sulphur is always one of the most skittish and elusive of butterflies for us to photograph each summer. They seem to have that sixth sense and fly away even before we can get within range.

Another butterfly we only see a handful of each summer is not a butterfly at all but a moth. The Police-car Moth to be exact.

Monday morning meeting

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Monday morning meeting are no way to start the week unless it’s a nice short meeting with a fine coworker as was the case with this little butterfly. We met out in a field, cup of coffee in hand, had a quick discussion that was completely on point, then got right to work. No, not all meetings are bad.

C is for Comma

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A short pause is in order today to just soak in the beauty of the Comma, butterfly, that is.  One of the earlier butterfly species to grace the skies in our area each summer many of the earlier arrivals we observed actually overwintered as adults. Some finding refuge from the winters freeze deep in crevices of a trees bark.

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Some we found warming themselves collecting minerals from the moist soil on the forest floor.

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Whereas others were often found feeding on the new growth of the trees and shrubs.

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Yes, C is for Comma.

Juniper Hairstreak

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One of the most interesting butterflies found in our area is the beautiful and fancy in a non-fancy sort of way Juniper Hairstreak.  Widely distributed across the United States this butterfly is often seen in old fields, bluffs, barrens, juniper and pinyon-juniper woodlands, and cedar breaks. This one was photographed feeding on biscuit root along the base of a cliff that had several areas of Juniper growing. The male will sit all day upon the ends of juniper branches to attract a female.

Seeking Solutions: E-Butterfly

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Yes it’s winter and for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere butterflies are few and far between this time of year. However summer will arrive soon enough and the skies will  once again graced with these butterflies large and small.

Butterflies are vital pollinators and their populations strongly affected by climate change. Research funding to study how climate change amongst other things effects butterflies is in short supply so researchers have created an online platform called E-Butterfly which allow individuals to log their butterfly sightings and photos into a database much like the platform E-Bird used by many in the birding community.

A recent interview with entomologist Kathleen Prudic the co-director of E-Butterfly was published in the Conversation. The data entered into E-Butterfly is used for numerous research projects including butterfly conservation and much like the data used on E-Bird can be used to visualize the migration of several butterfly species. E-Butterfly also contains informative articles any butterfly enthusiast would find interesting to read. It is a great way for us all to get involved in conservation and another addition to the ever expanding role of citizen science in conservation research.

Browsing the site is a fine way to spend a minute or two on a dreary winter day.

And for more information on Citizen Science visit Citizen Science. org