Tuesday, June 3, 2014

tailed copper ~ 06/03/14 ~ Pinnacles

For such a plain Jane name, this tailed copper really packs a beautiful design punch in such a small package.  It was surprisingly quick, and I only managed 2 photos before it took flight.  I believe this was a male, if I recall the solid topside leather brown color correctly.  The female topsides have golden-hued window panes that seem to glow in a classic butterfly pattern.  I read their caterpillars eat gooseberry.  And, once again, that's CA buckwheat serving up tasty butterfly energy drinks.

western brown elfin ~ 06/03/14 ~ Pinnacles

western brown elfin
Callophrys augustinus (aka Incisalia augustinus iroides)

I followed a tiny dark shadow through the CA buckwheat patch.  In the bright sunlight, I wondered if it might be a hairstreak, like the mountain mahogany or hedgerow.  Nope.  It was so dark, the flash even went off in the second pic, highlighting the Impressionist painting vibe I get under certain lighting conditions.  It surprised me that it's on the wing now, since I last saw brown elfins at Pinnacles in early March.  This one looks pretty fresh, except for the huge bite out of its left wings - that's probably why I was able to approach it several times to take pictures.  This must be a second generation.  Let's see if there'll be a third, or even a fourth generation this year.

CA kingsnake ~ 06/03/14 ~ Pinnacles

Ah, man!  The truck ahead of me ran over this gorgeously large snake on the road out of the Pinnacles west entrance.  I had to stop and check it out, because I don't get to see as many snakes as I would like, especially ones this large.  I'm sure some of my more squeamish readers will be glad to know I picked the PG-rated head shot; the other side was a bit gruesome with more blood and a cracked eye, which I found totally fascinating.  So, this is my first CA kingsnake I've ever seen... I think.  Certainly, I didn't know what it was until I got home and looked it up.

checkered underside of California kingsnake

I nudged it a little bit.  Dead.  So, I gingerly picked up its tail to flip it over.  It was still quite flexible.  Wow!  Look at that amazing belly pattern, like a checkerboard, kinda.  The way the curvy head scales transition to the orderly rectangular belly scales is amazing.  Reminds me of what they did to Mystique in the X-Men movies, eh-hem, to keep her modesty.

very large California kingsnake (over 3 1/2 feet?)

This has got to be an old snake to be so big, right?  I'm sad to see it become bird food.  I pulled it over to the side of the road, because we certainly don't need turkey vulture (or heaven forbid, condor) roadkill, too.  Does that happen?

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has a downloadable .pdf of the CA kingsnake.  To open it up, click here.