Thursday, April 17, 2014

habitat ~ 04/17/14 ~ Chews Ridge in the Ventana Wilderness

Chris Tenney took me up to the Chews Ridge Lookout to find hilltopping duskywings and a couple blues.  He's been monitoring this site for butterflies for a number of years.  The weather wasn't ideal with a high cloud haze, which we had hoped would have burned off by noon this far inland from the ocean.  We still had some measure of success when the clouds uncovered the sun for brief bouts.  I'm now confident I can identify a Boisduval's blue (Plebejus icarioides), even though I didn't manage a picture of the numerous ones flying knee high above a grassy slope.  We also saw a handful of Columbian skippers (Hesperia columbia), but I'd have a hard time distinguishing them from other local Hesperiinae.

It's really beautiful up there and completely unfamiliar to me.  The variety of pines and oaks are new to me.  There's also the MIRA Oliver Observing Station down the ridge and plenty of charred evidence from the massive 2008 Basin Complex Fire.

I don't have a local's perspective of the area at all, despite having lived in neighboring Monterey for the past 11 years.  The Ventana Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest is a place I tend to avoid, except for the trailhead at Los Padres Dam.  The scary fire danger and hidden pot farms make me nervous.  It's rugged with long, curvy, dirt roads as the only way in.  I was thankful Chris was driving and knew where to go.  Although, we did get lost on the way back.  How the land in the Santa Lucis Mountains is divvied up is a complete mystery to me.  I have a feeling if I keep going out with Chris to look for butterflies, I will become better acquainted with this remote and unique area.  I think he's an explorer at heart.  I feel like I should brush up on CPR and reevaluate my standard take-alongs, because places like this require preparedness.

goosefoot violet ~ 04/17/14 ~ Chews Ridge


Note the chew marks on the flower petals above.  Violets are well-known caterpillar hosts for all Speyeria spp. butterflies.  Usually the leaves are the reported food source, but I wonder if the tender petals could be easier to eat for the first few instars.  Chris has found callipe fritillary (Speyeria callippe comstocki), coronis fritillary (Speyeria coronis), and unsilvered fritillary (Speyeria adiaste) at Chews Ridge.  True to its name, the unsilvered fritillary lacks the flashy white spots on the underside of the hindwing that many other CA Speyeria spp. have.  I'm hoping to return with him in the next couple months to see these gorgeously large butterflies on the wing.

I never really appreciated the variety of wild violets there are before this year of numerous spring outings.  Calflora lists 46 Viola spp./ssp.  Many of them are yellow, not violet.  We also found yellow violets that had rounder, shinier leaves, which I suspect was V. pupurea spp. purpurea.

ps 05/05/14 - I added callipe fritillary above after Ryan Hill reminded me.  Many people have only heard of the callipe in terms of the subspecies S. callipe callipe because of it's federally endangered status.  There are several recognized ssp. of S. callipe.

duskywing moth ~ 04/17/14 ~ Chews Ridge

Considering we were keeping our eyes out for medium-small dark duskywings, it's no surprise I spotted this subtly decorated day-flying moth.  It has no official common name, but I've heard Jerry Powell calls it the duskywing moth.  Then, I thought about what I'd name it.  I see a face in the wings.  In some pictures, it looks like a winged mouse or an elephant.  It's like that game of seeing shapes in clouds.  Is that a type of pareidolia?  I'm drawing a blank as to a fun common name.  Duskywing moth works just fine for me.

duskywings ~ 04/17/14 ~ Chews Ridge

I find many skippers (Hesperiidae), including the dark duskywings (Erynnis spp.), extremely difficult to tell apart.  I'm conferring with Chris Tenney before I finish placing embedded IDs on these pictures.  More to come...

ps 04/21/14 - Chris confirmed my IDs.  He said we also saw pacuvius duskywing (Erynnis pacuvius callidus, Shapiro, Tenney), but I probably mistook them for the similarly dark sleepy duskywing since ours in CA don't have the white fringe.  These are all hilltoppers for the most part, and we found them either right at the top at the base of the lookout or in a fairly limited radius around the summit.  I don't have any helpful ID notes to offer, because Chris basically pointed them all out to me.

Coulter pine ~ 04/17/14 ~ Chews Ridge


These pine cones are gigantic.  Holy cow!  Reminds me of the time I regretted driving over a gray pine cone.  So, I wondered about the relative sizes of Coulter vs. gray pine cones, even though Wikipedia says, "Coulter pines produce the largest cones of any pine tree species."  I found this handy pine cone comparison on Tree Identification blog.  It looks like Coulter is longer, while gray is wider, and both are huge and heavy.  Chris told me he had a Coulter pine drop on his shoulder once.  He said it beat him up pretty badly.  Ouch.