Friday, May 31, 2013

habitat ~ 05/31/13 ~ Hatton Canyon State Property

After I first visited Hatton Canyon back on February 4, 2011, I wasn't terribly impressed by the proliferation of non-native plants and haven't had a huge desire to return.  I do remember the auditory intensity of bird songs, which prompted a second worthwhile visit this past March 10. Unfortunately without accompanying photos, it didn't inspire me enough to break out of my winter blogging hiatus to write about the birds.  Then when Monterey County butterfly guy Chris Tenney and I were figuring out where to meet for the first time, he suggested Hatton.  Oh? Turns out this place is a butterfly hot spot.  So, while there are mostly invasive plants, like poison hemlock, nestled adjacent to rare native stands of Monterey pines, the fauna density is quite impressive.  It's amazing what a few short years can do to change my opinions. I was starting to get sucked into nativism, just shy of biological xenophobia, something that's been in the forefront of my consciousness lately.  Maybe it doesn't really matter, beyond the concerns of humans, if the thriving plants originated here or elsewhere?  The animals certainly don't seem to mind too much.  Maybe it's better to let nature run its course?

gray hairstreak ~ 05/31/13 ~ Hatton Canyon

for more information, click here and here

I have a strange compulsion to want to watch hairstreaks and closely related blues rub their hindwings together, similarly to how I like to watch cats clean their faces by licking their paws. It's my understanding that the prevailing hypothesis for why they do this is "false head" complete with eyespots and fake antennae to detract would-be predators from the real deal.  But, what about bramble hairstreaks and blues that do not have eyespots or tails and still rub their wings together?  In any case, I was quite charmed by this little gray hairstreak casually rubbing those rear wings with the tails even getting tangled together.

field crescent ~ 05/31/13 ~ Hatton Canyon

Grrr. All these naming variations are starting to really annoy me.  Once again, the common name is the best identifier.  BugGuide has a succinct explanation for why the multiple sp. names of the field crescent exist.  Based on what Chris Tenney told me, I knew this was the darker field crescent, as opposed to the orange and highly variable Mylitta crescent, which we also saw on this outing. Underside, they're both a patterned pale orange.  However, the orange-tipped antennae (click on pic to enlarge) tripped me up upon closer inspection. Even Jeffrey Glassberg in his multiple books has changed his tune about field crescents always having black antennal tips - they don't always.  It's posts like this that make me question why I'm even bothering with Nature ID.  Sigh.

satyr comma ~ 05/31/13 ~ Hatton Canyon

It's always a thrill for me when I can get close enough to a comma butterfly to actually see the bright white comma mark on the underside of the hindwing.  We also spotted an oreas comma (Polygonia oreas, aka Polygonia progne oreas, more information) at Hatton Canyon, and I had hoped my second picture above was from that sighting.  Nope.  From the topside, the satyr comma has a black spot smack in the center of the hindwing, underneath the two spots along the leading margin.  It's easier to tell the difference between the two from the underside. The oreas is almost dark grey and the comma mark is shaped more like a boomerang, rather than the fish hook of the satyr.  There's really so many subtle variations of Polygonia in North America that these descriptions wouldn't necessarily work when comparing to other spp.

Lorquin's admiral ~ 05/31/13 ~ Hatton Canyon

for more information, click here and here

Lorquin's lacks the black.  Lorquin's lacks the black.  Lorquin's lacks the black.  I made up this mnemonic a couple years ago when I was trying to remember the difference between these admiral butterflies and the very similar looking California sister.  I've repeated it constantly.  Still, it hasn't really helped me differentiate Lorquin's when they're quickly flying past, so this is my first confirmed sighting.  I'm fairly sure I've seen Lorquin's before but usually guess they're the more common CA sister.  The lacking the black refers to the orange going all the way to the wing tips, without a thick dark border as is found on CA sisters.  Both butterflies tend to be in flight at the same time, too. Apparently, Lorquin's are Batesian mimics of the CA sister.