Sunday, March 9, 2014

habitat ~ 03/09/14 ~ Pinnacles National Park - west

Pinnacles National Park - west entrance

I had in mind, again, to find a couple butterflies at Pinnacles.  Plus, I was curious to see this year's seasonal progression after a bit of rain.  Hey, at the very least, there is a small amount of running water on each side of the west entrance.  It feels like it's been forever since Andy and I hiked together, even though it's only been 3 weeks since our visit to Los Padres Dam.  He's been busy, stressed, and sick.  And I ended up talking his ear off.  I've never known a more patient man.  He's my rock.  Heavy sigh... I am weary.  I feel as if I am running out of borrowed time.  I have been searching hard, maybe too hard, for some of life's answers.  I wish it were as simple as finding butterflies.

ps 03/14/14 - I am reminded of a vivid dream I had shortly after my mentor Sonja died.  In it, I was running up hill and down dale, chasing after butterflies, loosing my breath, wildly swinging my net, with no success.  Then I heard her voice, "Slow down.  Be patient.  Pick a nice spot to sit.  One that you enjoy.  Wait.  The butterflies will come to you."  In the dream, I did as she told me, and sure enough before too long, butterflies were swarming all around me.  It's taken me a while, but I now recognize I may have had the answer all along.

western brown elfin ~ 03/09/14 ~ Pinnacles

western brown elfin

posted 03/20/14 - Eh, it's not as flashy as its Callophrys cousin, the bramble green hairstreak, but I'll take it anytime.  Upon closer inspection (click pic to enlarge), the pink and purple wing scales remind me of Claude Monet's Grainstack (Sunset).  Butterflies were impressionists way before the art movement.  Plus, orange antennal tips always slay me.  Dip your tips in orange, baby.

bramble hairstreak ~ 03/09/14 ~ Pinnacles


posted 03/18/14 - I should have posted this yesterday, but it slipped my mind that it was St. Patty's Day until I saw all the school children wearing green on the Rec Trail as they headed to the Aquarium.  The way the kids float in and around each other reminded me of butterflies, hence this post.  I've got butterflies on the brain.  Last year I noticed the populations of bramble hairstreaks seemed to be booming everywhere I went.  I'll be curious to see how they show this dry year.

I half joked with Art Shapiro that the common names of butterflies are becoming more reliable than the scientific names.  He agreed with me.  I tend to lean old school, like him.  Oy vey!  It looks like there's quite a heated debate around the taxonomy of this common butterfly, as is evidenced by this BugGuide entry under lotus hairstreak.  I've also read a couple mentions for C. viridis for the coastal version.  Local lep people, including at Pinnacles, seem to prefer C. perplexa.

I think, for a descriptive and recognizable name, I'm just going to call them bramble hairstreaks.  They're the only solid green butterfly reported in this area.  However, the juniper hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus) might be mistaken for a bramble if one doesn't look close enough, and there are very few reports of junipers.  I should note the bramble topside is actually solid brown for both males and females, and it's a flash of green and brown when they fly by.  When all is said and done, I'm charmed by this sweet little green butterfly.

ps - As I was researching links (all the highlighted words above) to embed in this post, I found this odd page for lomatium @ Sustainability in Prisons Project in conjunction with Evergreen State College.  Huh?  Yes, correctional facilities.  I heard Evergreen folks were a little wacky.  Their project is fascinating.

pss 03/21/14 - Ken-ichi Ueda on Flickr came up with a similarly tangled name search.  I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds this confusing to track.

Sonoran blue ~ 03/09/14 ~ Pinnacles

for more information click here, here, and here

Yay!  This is my second visit to Pinnacles in a dozen days to capture a photo of the Sonoran blue.  I actually spotted a couple back on February 25, 2014, but they were too elusive for the camera on the stonecrop rocks.  That sighting is now the first Sonorans for the 2014 Pinnacles butterfly report that Paul Johnson keeps.  I thought this would be another new record of nectaring use for Jeffrey Caldwell and the book he's writing; however, upon closer inspection its proboscis is not sipping.  He's been looking for first-hand accounts, and here I already have a * nectaring label on Nature ID, ready made for him.  I think for him, he especially likes that I have taken the time to ID both the butterfly and the local nectar source.  I'm proud my blog can be useful to someone other than myself.

OK.  Am I nuts to be driving all over the place just to find a tiny animal?  Hey, I have a gas efficient car and the time, so why not?  I'm now officially part of the unemployment statistics. Ugh... I've also been painfully feeling the passage of time, and I'm afraid I'll look back and regret not having done more with my life.  I guess I'm in the midst of the classic midlife crisis.

I have Ken @ Nature of a Man to thank for getting a possible solution started when he sent me a query about a Sonoran blue he found near Mariposa 2 weeks back.  I didn't even have to look this one up, because I already knew about the Sonoran blue even though I have never knowingly seen it in person.  It's a sweet sighting and a unique butterfly.  Then, Ken had the audacity to call me "Butterfly gal" and a "Lepidopterist" with a capital 'L'.  I denied it and said that was from another life in another state.  But, is it, really?  I think I underplay what I have accomplished and what lies in my heart.  To avoid too much public navel-gazing, I'll leave it at that.  Thanks, Ken.

Annaphila decia ~ 03/09/14 ~ Pinnacles

Annaphila day-flying moth nectaring on birch-leaf mountain mahogany
Annaphila decia nectaring on Cercocarpus betuloides

I think I've fallen in love.  This Annaphila is small, maybe 2/3 the size of its larger A. depicta sibling.  In fact, that's how I was introduced to the genus 3 years ago by Chris Grinter.  Its lines are gorgeous.  Look how they line up exactly on both the top and bottom wings, in its natural pose.  Even from the underside, there's full-on orange.  Be still my heart.

Unfortunately, I'm uncertain of its ID.  I queried Paul Johnson from Pinnacles, and we agreed it isn't well represented online.  Come on, look at this horrid picture.  He thinks it's A. decia. Both Moth Photographers Group and Pacific Northwest Moths have spread photos that don't quite match in my eyes.  I used to be quite familiar with Hodges, and I believe it's possible this is a yet undescribed Annaphila species (Hodges 9850-9872), the same as Hartmut Wisch's photos on BugGuide.  I'm asking Jerry Powell and Paul Opler for their opinions, hence why I'm including extra photos in this post.  Then, for Jeffrey Caldwell, yes, I do have additional pictorial evidence of proboscis use on the Cercocarpus betuloides flowers.

Holy cow, btw!  This bush was literally buzzing, which is so strange, because nothing else around it had that kind of activity, not even neighboring mountain mahoganies.  The leaf chews were kind of cute.  Leafcutter bees?

Annaphila decia looking very much like a jumping spider

And finally, you read it here first on Nature ID.  Paul Johnson suggested I could get an Annaphila paper out of the uncanny resemblance to jumping spiders that I noticed in this photo, right down to their striped legs.  The black scales on its shoulders and scruff of the neck look a lot like eyes, don't they?  Of course, I'd need to look at Paul's PNP specimens, observe more, take a lot more photos including local jumping spiders.  Apparently, our crappy 10-year-old point-and-shoot isn't so crappy, since it gets images when Paul's fancier DSLRs scare away the subjects.  Mmm, maybe, I should take on this pet project?  That is, if I don't lose interest first; I am prone to infatuations, after all (don't get me started on salamanders).  At the very least, I should figure out a way to get gas and food supplemented for these kinds of efforts.  For astonishingly hilarious jumping spider videos from down under, check out Jürgen Otto's peacock spiders.  Ha!  LiveScience has an excellent interview with Jürgen of how he came to do this.

ps 03/16/14 - I'm worried I might be a little crazy to believe I may have found a "new to science" moth.  In my defense, I've seen it happen twice for plants at Fort Ord within the last 2 years.  For some wacky reason, land life has not been as well-documented for the greater Monterey area compared to just north by 2 hours.  I think everyone is focused on the ocean life here, instead.

Then the thought process continues to something on my bucket list.  I want to be the person to name and describe a new species.  Crazy, huh?  I already know I would name it after Chris Grinter @ The Skeptical Moth, because of all the help he's provided me with moth IDs since I started my blog 5 years ago.

I've heard back from everyone I've queried.  I feel like I've found my fold with their various personalities.  There was a suggestion that this was A. divinula, which has only a single online reference on the Moth Photographers Group.  Nope.  Yes, yes, I already have in mind to personally check out 5 collections that would most likely have comparable specimens.  And so, my journey continues...

ps 03/21/14 - I've made a firm ID above (until I find out otherwise) and provided an update with comparison to Pinnacles specimens.