Tuesday, April 29, 2014

habitat ~ 04/29/14 ~ Pinnacles National Park - west

Pinnacles National Park - west entrance

The forecast from the National Weather Service was 95°F and increasing to over 100°F for the rest of the week.  This is April, right?  Oh my.  Here we go.  What I've been dreading.  Hot, hot, hot.  It hit a high of 92°F.  The heat drained me of energy and turned my stomach through the next day.  Do I really want to do this?  Crazily enough, yes.

Thankfully, there was about a half inch of rain from the previous Friday, which was enough to keep things from drying out, save for the creek along the butterfly highway that had already stopped running the previous week.  In fact, the grass had now grown tall enough that many of the colorful flowers were hidden from view.  This week seemed to show a shift in the dominant flower color from yellow to deep purple, from spring to the beginning of summer.  That was a quick transition.

It was a bit distracting looking for different kinds of butterflies when hundreds of painted ladies were moving through.  The ringlets and Saras were going gangbusters at over 40-50 individuals each.  I saw a couple new butterflies and skippers for the season and will post IDs soon... I hope.  I need a better way to track all my notes (handwritten and electronic) and photos.  It's starting to accumulate  from my multiple excursions in a way that's not easy to remember, let alone retrieve.  How do other people do it?

wind poppy ~ 04/29/14 ~ Pinnacles


Last week, I think I only found 1 wind poppy, and this week, quite a few are showing up on shady slopes.  Wind poppies always seem to look a little wind blown to me.  The petals are so irregular.  They're surprisingly tall for such a small flower.  It's one of my favorites.

painted lady ~ 04/29/14 ~ Pinnacles

The ladies are migrating!  Hundreds, if not thousands!  These mass numbers do not happen every year.  I've seen a steady flow of painted ladies in the area for weeks, but now it's like they kicked it into high gear.  They're the hot rods of the butterfly world, complete with a flame motif on the top side of their forewings. Without a time-keeping device, I estimated one passed by me every 3 seconds in the wide open spaces, spilling down over the Pinnacles rocks (wow!), all heading northwest.  It felt like I was standing in a river of butterflies.  It was phenomenal!  I kept taking pictures, hoping to get something other than painted, even if it was blurry.  They do move rather fast.  All painted, fresh, worn, larger, smaller.  Some of the fresher and larger ones made leisurely stops for mud-puddling or nectaring on blue dicks and other flowers.  The last time I remember a migration like this was St. Patrick's Day 2005 when I played hookey from work.  Eh-hem.  Art Shapiro wrote a nice summary of CA's experience with painted lady migrations.  2005 may have been a bigger migration (3 every second), but I'll be curious to hear what people think about this year's mass migration when all is said and done.  Art quotes they "fly like bats out of Hell."  That's an incredibly good description of what it's like.  Keep an eye out for them, they may be heading your way.

ps 04/30/14 @ 4:00pm - I just heard that this mass migration has only been seen near the coast.  Interior CA hasn't seen much... yet.

pss 04/30/14 @ 6:30pm - The first wave just started hitting Davis, CA, all fresh looking and large.

pss 05/03/14  - It looks like the migration wave has ended here.  I don't know how heavy it ever got in Davis, but I've been told it's done there, too.  The same day I saw these massive numbers at Pinnacles, they were also seen moving heavily through the San Jose area.  Very cool.

Douglas' spineflower ~ 04/29/14 ~ Pinnacles


This is the first time I've noticed this spineflower starting to bloom this year.  Its pinkish color reminds me of the federally threatened Monterey spineflower found at Fort Ord, but Douglas' is upright rather than spreading across the sand like Monterey.