Tuesday, May 14, 2013

lustrous copper ~ 05/14/13 ~ Lang Crossing


Dr. Shapiro sent me a list of butterflies he recorded for Lang Crossing 3 days before our excursion.  I was very disappointed to discover I wouldn't see the gorgeous lustrous copper at Washington and told Art as much.  So, late in the afternoon, parched from the extremely warm day, as the shadows filled in the primo butterfly hangouts, we faced a dilemma: go straight to the Washington Hotel for some much needed liquid refreshment and call it a day, or go 10 miles up the road for me to see my first ever Lycaena cupreus at Lang.  It was Art's wife who suggested doing both, but only after making him guarantee that I would see a copper butterfly.  That guarantee looked like it was going to be a bust, because we failed to find any coppers at the spot Dr. Shapiro saw them previously.  Fortunately, in a moist meadow across the river, we hit the coppery mother lode.  I have so many pictures of this wildly, brilliantly, bold butterfly, including the last one above where a greenish blue wanted to get in on the photo shoot action. Tired as I was, I was extremely glad we made the extra hour and a half round-trip.

Some additional notes - If I hadn't known what to look for, I could have easily brushed off the resting butterfly in the second picture as the more-familiar-to-me acmon blue, with only the underside of the hindwings showing.  It's easy to distinguish when they're flashing their brilliant copper tops or are still in a photograph, but from a distance and hiding in real life, it's not so easy.

There's some question how the lustrous copper larvae feed primarily on the moderately invasive sheep sorrel.  With all the recent heavy bashing of non-native plants [I'm a believer in if it's alive, then why kill it?  Unless it's doing great harm to others, our ever-changing opinions should not be the sole reason for death, which extends to humans and wars.], it's interesting to note that some native butterflies have taken to them and likely depend on them for their survival.  Or do they?  Art wonders if our local sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) has been incorrectly deemed an Old World species, and could be found native through genetics techniques.  Hmm?

What tripped me up throughout the day was mistaking the blue moth (Caenurgina caerulea) for one of the blue butterflies.  Now that I looked it up, it doesn't look blue at all.  Weird.  And finally, I would have had a difficult time figuring out which fuzzy blue butterfly is in the last picture, not to mention yellow mustard-looking plant, if it wasn't for Art's continuing patient guidance via e-mail. Thanks, Dr. Shapiro!

naked mariposa lily ~ 05/14/13 ~ Lang Crossing

naked mariposa lily
Calochortus nudus

posted 06/02/13 - This is my best guess. The other possibility is the Sierra mariposa lily (Calochortus minimus). Ya, I looked at Jepson eFlora for both nudus and minimus, and I can't make heads or tails out of it. Regardless of what it is, I like it! If anyone knows for sure which species, please comment.

habitat ~ 05/14/13 ~ Washington

Have you ever had one of those days, when while you're experiencing it, you know deep down that it will forever influence who you are?  This was one of those days for me.

I want to thank Dr. Art Shapiro for cheerfully accepting my requests to tag along with him at one of his butterfly sites. I initially asked him exactly 3 years ago May 14, 2010. I finally got my act together and bit the bullet to drive through 3+ hours of intense Bay Area traffic to UC Davis to meet him. Little did I suspect, he doesn't drive! Can you imagine doing 40+ years of field work, at multiple sites, every other week without driving? He's utilized public transportation and the assistance of many students. Wow.

I ended up being a very willing chauffeur to him and his wife to go the additional 90 minutes up the hills to get to Washington. They are a lovely couple with a mind-boggling variety of interests that's infectious, including a taste for fabulous food, a love for clouds, dogs, rocks, and local events, keen observations of quirky people and the ethics surrounding news headlines, and a giggle-inducing fixation on a baffling old British license plate game using cadence and rhymes. I had tears running down my eyes from laughing so hard by the time we passed Sacramento on the way down.  I'm proud to say that I had the honor to glimpse a tiny bit of the Shapiros' incredible lives.

Sigh. It's absolutely gorgeous up there, not to mention very, very warm. It was like stepping into an alternate reality, familiar, yet different enough that I questioned its validity. Eh, maybe I'm still exhausted? The day was extremely long, with my getting up at 3:30am and arriving back home through the door a little past midnight and cleanly tucked into bed by 1:30am. But, man, oh man, it was well worth the effort!

Hwy 20 overlook down across Washington to Sierra Buttes, 21 miles away as the crow flies

South Yuba River

metasedimentary-serpentine contact

view from the lovely back porch of The Washington Hotel, notable for sending Muppets to space

Through the journey of this blog, I've learned to go ahead and ask questions from complete strangers, to not be afraid to show how much I really don't know, to be actively curious, and to explore...  

Specific IDs will be forthcoming in future posts.

CA sister ~ 05/14/13 ~ Washington

more information

Dr. Shapiro and his wife joked that this butterfly truly wanted its picture taken since it kept landing right in front of me to mud-puddle. I'm glad I did, since I'm not sure if I have another top view of a CA sister in my photo archives. I consider it fairly common at several of the places I hike closer to home. It's such a stunning butterfly, even viewed from the underside. Art mentioned that both male and female CA sisters mud-puddle, which is unusual considering often only male butterflies do this mysterious behavior. What got me with this post is just now noticing the name change. Erg. A. bredowii is now reserved for the Mexican sister, which per its name is found in Mexico. It does seem like common names are becoming more reliable.

yellow star-tulip ~ 05/14/13 ~ Washington


I was pleased to find yet another Calochortus.  I wonder if these yellow star-tulips might be bigger if they were on better soil, kinda like how fairly lanterns are incredibly small at Fort Ord compared to all the other places I've found them.  It's interesting that the common names seem to divide the genus into globe lilies, mariposa lilies, and star-tulips.  Considering the current enthusiasm for renaming everything under the sun, I'm betting Calochortus will be split apart at some point in the future.

ps - I'm still hoping someone out there knows which x-some deletion causes short pinky fingers.

Nelson's hairstreak and deer brush ~ 05/14/13 ~ Washington


A desire to add new species to my virtual collection has pushed me to use pictures that are heading into the crappy photo category.  The first 2 photos above were taken an hour apart at different spots and are still pretty crappy.  I get frustrated when I just can't manage to get better pictures of what could be now-or-never shots.  I still worry that if I get a fancier camera, I'll spend too much attention attempting to get perfect pictures, instead of focusing on enjoying where I am.  Does that make sense?  It's kind of like how so many people are consumed by their cell phones that they completely neglect the perfectly companionable human sitting right next to them.  I don't want to be like that.

As I was looking back through my entries for hairstreaks or Ceanothus, I noticed how often I've posted various lepidoptera interacting with these ubiquitous bushes: nectaring as shown here, egg laying, larval host, perching.  Cool!  

As two final notes about the deer brush, it was easily the most prolific plant in bloom at Washington, and I noted how not-evergreen the leaves were compared to the Ceanothus found closer to home.

Leichtlin's mariposa lily ~ 05/14/13 ~ Washington


Calochortus are quickly becoming one of my favorite groups of flowers.  They're common enough that I'm rarely disappointed at not seeing any, and they're distinctive enough that they stop me in my tracks.

pale swallowtail ~ 05/14/13 ~ Washington

I generally have such a hard time distinguishing between the yellow and black-colored swallowtails, especially in flight. Sometimes they flutter in wafts high up in the treetops and other times they're spastic through a natural corridor like a crazy cat chasing a laser light. I meant to ask Dr. Shapiro how he tells the difference, but I was already struggling with information overload much of the day. We also spotted western tiger (Papilio rutulus, aka Pterourus rutulus), two-tailed (Papilio milticaudatus, aka Pterourus milticaudata), and anise (Papilio zelicaon, more pictures) swallowtail butterflies.  This distinctively light-colored pale swallowtail was kind enough to be mud-puddling so that I could get a half-way decent picture.

Pacific bleeding heart ~ 05/14/13 ~ Washington

Papaveraceae (formerly Fumariaceae)

This is one of three reported larval host plants for the clodius parnassian butterfly, with the other two hosts being D. pauciflora and D. uniflora.  The last time I saw this flower was at the annual wildflower show at Big Basin Redwoods State Park's coastal Rancho del Oso in Santa Cruz County on April 27, 2013. I can't recall if I've seen it anywhere else, because when I think of bleeding hearts I usually picture Lamprocapnos spectabilis, a very popular garden flower.

clodius parnassian ~ 05/14/13 ~ Washington

Themidaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

Isn't it pretty? Those red spots make me want to pull out my art markers and draw butterfly spots. When I first saw Parnassius about 15 years ago in the Ohio museum collection where I worked, I initially thought someone had grossly misfiled the drawer in the swallowtail (Papilionidae) cabinet. I figured they should be with the whites and sulphurs (Pieridae). Wrong! They are somehow classified along with swallowtails but in their own subfamily Parnassiinae, aka apollos. After looking at the pinned labels and discovered none were found anywhere near OH and several were collected in CA, I wished I had become more familiar with butterflies before I had left my home state. Not thinking I would ever return to CA at the time, I was a little sad at the prospect that I'd probably never see one on the wing. Wrong, again! When Dr. Shapiro mentioned we might spot early seasonal individuals of this high altitude butterfly, I got very excited. There used to be ssp. strohbeeni in the Santa Cruz Mountains closer to home, but it is now assumed extinct. Sure enough, there were numerous P. clodius ssp. sol fluttering about along the South Yuba River. Yeah! I was amazed at how large they appear. This one looks very fresh and notably still slightly crumpled in the wing. As an additional note, it seems whenever Parnassius are mentioned, the butterfly version of a "closed for business" sphragis is also mentioned. For great pictures and a brief discussion of what this means, check this out.

As for the white brodiaea, I kinda surprised myself at how easily I tracked down its ID. Closer to home the coast pretty faces have made an incredible showing this year, and these white flowers reminded me of them as well as dwarf brodiaeas. I guess I'm getting slightly better at recognizing related plants.