Tuesday, April 8, 2014

habitat ~ 04/08/14 ~ Pinnacles National Park - west

Pinnacles National Park - west entrance

We planned to go the previous Friday while Andy was still on Spring Break, and I even invited a couple people to join us.  However, the weather had its own plans.  This was the second planned hike last week that was cancelled due to rain forecasts; the other was to Henry Coe with another blogger and his wife.  Yay, my rain curse has returned... I can't believe I'm even saying this.  Both mornings it was raining, but by the afternoons, sunny skies.  Who knows, even if there weren't butterflies and opened flowers, I think I would have enjoyed the overcast.  No matter, I went by myself this sunnier day to continue my butterfly quest.  I'm making good use of my $15 annual pass.  It's so cheap!

Other people seem to be more particular about inclement weather, whereas I'm a total heat wimp.  It started in jr. high when I was running track.  All of a sudden I got tunnel vision, my ears rang, I got really cold and dry, and the next thing I knew I was in the nurse's office with an ice pack on my neck.  Was that heat exhaustion?  Ever since, I often get sick to my stomach in extreme heat.  It's not pleasant.  The previous visit to the east side had me feeling faint at only 82.0 °F.  Ooof.  However, I think I'm starting to get acclimated.  With a new sun hat (necessary because my 15-year-old ripped at the brim just days before) and plenty of H2O, I surprised myself and found Pinnacles tolerable at 90.0 °F.  Eh, I know a marine biologist who gets horrible sea sickness, and she manages.  So, maybe I can be a butterfly gal who faints at the sight of butterflies?

The last three photos above are from a section of trail I've been calling the "butterfly highway" for the past 4 years.  I remember editing that particular post quite a bit.  I had an awful group experience shortly after I arrived back in CA, which I wrote about in detail and then deleted.  Given the chance, I tend to blab, but I've been trying to be more responsible and better about not airing dirty laundry in public.  I'm gingerly testing the waters again and so far have had encouraging encounters.  I honestly don't have a plan yet, except to follow the green-lined path at my feet.  I do know I'm having a good time, stretching my legs and brain in ways I haven't in years.  And, I'm grateful.

tufted poppy ~ 04/08/14 ~ Pinnacles


Now, these are not the famous California poppy (E. californica - I always have a hard time spelling Eschscholzia correctly).  The way I know is to look under the flower for a red ring.  If present, then CA poppy; if not, then good luck!  I already guessed these were tufted poppy, because that's just what they look like to me.  I'm not familiar with the miriad of other native poppies to know any differently. Maybe the folks in the Sierras are the ones that call this foothill poppy, but I've never heard that name actually used.  The tufted poppy is the one that gets everyone going gaga at Hite Cove near Yosemite.

As with the woodland star, I asked the CNPS folks 2 days later to confirm.  What I thought was an easy casual question ended up pulling out loupes and keys with a debate over whether it lacked hair.  Honestly, I couldn't follow the conversation, but I think they were trying to decide between tufted poppy and San Benito poppy (E. hypecoides), which is also on the latest Pinnacles plant list.  It's tufted.

Ed Ross advised me once that if given the choice between two flower photographs, always pick the one that has an insect on it.  He said it made it more interesting.  So, there's a bonus unidentified little beetle in the first photo above.  However, I'll admit I often pick pretty over practical.  I do like poppies of all sorts, including the fancy garden ones.  They're so cheery.  I forgive our natives for being yellow.

woodland star ~ 04/08/14 ~ Pinnacles


posted 04/15/14 - I double-checked with the CNPS folks 2 days later whether they considered the calyx here as being V-shaped (obconic), not square (bell-shaped) as with the hill star (L. heterophyllum).  Yes, V-shaped, obconic, woodland star, L. affine.  Note the green stem.  It can also be red.

pale swallowtail ~ 04/08/14 ~ Pinnacles

for more information click here, here, and here

Considering how often I am out, I don't often see butterflies totally consumed with nectaring.  My preferred hiking conditions run cloudier, cooler, and earlier than prime nectar flow, aka prime butterfly sipping activity.  My goal this year is to see more butterflies and to get to know, really know, our local spp.  So, I've adjusted my outings to a little later in the day and for warmer temperatures, which include inland locations away from the coastal cool, like Pinnacles National Park.  Thus far, I've had a fair bit of success in finding more butterflies that hold still long enough for me to take a good look at them and a couple of pictures.  I haven't netted in over a decade, because I know I am not a gentle netter and it pained me to injure butterflies just so I could look at them up close.

For Pinnacles, the only 2 reported spp. of striped, yellowish swallowtails are the pale swallowtail (aka Pterourus eurymedon - why?  someone wanted to make it a thing?) and the western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus).  The slightly twisted tail-detail view from on top and from below don't match and can be visually confusing on a quickly moving animal.  Plus, the tails are sometimes broken off. Here's my cheat sheet to tell the two apart:

pale swallowtail                       
true, creamy butter color (real butter, not what you imagine is a butter color)
often with orange coloring in last crescent next to the tail, sometimes yellow

western tiger swallowtail
deeper yellow, like buttercups
always yellow in last crescent next to tail

I've read that the width of their stripes is thicker in pale versus western tiger, but that's tricky to tell when they're not side-by-side to compare.  Although, they reportedly often fly together.

silvery blue ~ 04/08/14 ~ Pinnacles

 silvery blue nectaring upside down

He must have the hiccups he's trying cure?  Or the violet nectar is very potent, and this is a drunk butterfly?  Take your pick.  I was entertained watching this lone blue butterfly land horizontally across the topmost petal, extend his proboscis, turn down towards the center of the flower (either clockwise or counter-clockwise), and stick his head in as far as possible for a long draught (enough for me to get numerous pictures), and then wipe his proboscis off on a petal before moving on to another violet.  Wash and repeat.  So often, butterflies are quite dainty about their sipping, gently using their feet to taste.  Not this fellow, his proboscis led the way, and he was drinking with gusto.  I was a little surprised he didn't ever topple over. 

Johnny jump up / California golden violet
Viola pedunculata

So, naturally, I tried to stick the flash up in there, too, to see what the fuss was all about.  The violets are by no means tall, even though the flowers do, indeed, jump up away from the leaves.  Holding the camera down there facing a 45° angle up is tricky.  I'm starting to rue the day last fall when we discovered the macro feature on our 10-year-old point-and-shoot.  I want to do everything in macro now.  Macro, macro, macro!  Mwahahaha... but, it burns the battery quickly.  The dark nectar guides are stunning.  I bet they taste sweet to little feet (and probosces).

cute butterfly butt (view from above)

As a final note, the famously extinct Xerces blue butterfly is considered by some to have been a ssp. of Glaucopsyche lygdamus.  Then, there's also the federally endangered Palos Verdes blue butterfly (G. lygdamus palosverdesensis), which is being reintroduced, as Brent @ Breathing Treatment knows first-hand.