Thursday, April 16, 2009

Edith's checkerspot caterpillar ~ 04/16/09 ~ Pinnacles

Edith's checkerspot caterpillar feeding on Indian warrior
Euphydryas editha feeding on Pedicularis densiflora
Orobanchaceae (formerly Scrophulariaceae)

Edited 05/24/14 - I originally posted this as variable checkerspot caterpillar (Euphydryas chalcedona).  When we went back 3 weeks later (from the westside on May 8, 2009, not the eastside as shown here), adult variable checkerspots were everywhere on flowers and mud puddles!  

Then, last year I went out with our local Monterey butterfly guy Chris Tenney, and he recalled Paul Johnson had told him Edith's feeds on Indian warrior, whereas variable is actually variable in its host preferences.  I have since confirmed directly with Paul that he has observed this host difference between these two look-alike local checkerspots. He's quite good at distinguishing adult Edith's from variable on the wing.  I changed the ID above from variable to Edith's.  Plus, I've seen first-hand both spp. flying together, so that May 2009 visit may very well have both on the wing.  Thanks, Paul!
western fence lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis

I know very little about lizards and initially guessed this was the very common western fence lizard. I looked at the range maps, but nothing near Pinnacles looked quite like the one shown above. There's so much variation in appearance within a lizard species/subspecies. Solely based on appearance, I think this could be a southern sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus vandenburgianus). However, this is not the sagebrush subspecies found in the area, nor is the species listed on the official Pinnacles herps list, so I'm keeping the western fence lizard ID.

Don't know if this was hanging around the big pile of poop for a reason or not.

ps 06/25/11 - I've edited the text above to reflect a better understanding of lizard species uncertainty.
Cuscuta sp.
Convolvulaceae (formerly Cuscutaceae)

This parasite is very strange to behold. It feels like slightly moist, stringy plastic strands. It took me until the Pacific Grove Museum's annual wildflower show to even know it was a native plant.

ps 08/03/11 - I've made corrections to the family name above. According to the Pinnacles plant list the 3 types of dodder are: San Joaquin dodder (Cuscuta californica var. breviflora), California dodder (Cuscuta californica var. californica), and canyon dodder (Cuscuta subinclusa). Without the flower there is no way for me to distinguish between species.

Yep, it's not the best picture, but I'm posting for the sake of continuity since I always take a picture of these turtles on Carmel Valley Road.