Thursday, July 17, 2014

CA dogface ~ 07/17/14 ~ Podere di Farfalla

male California dogface nectaring on bull thistle
male Zerene eurydice nectaring on Cirsium vulgare

Despite the fact our official state insect seems to fly practically all year around here (Monterey Co. and Pinnacles), I've only ever spotted this yellow butterfly a couple times.  It's frequently reported that its only larval host plant is false indigo (Amorpha californica).  Either that's not entirely correct, or plant folks generally don't bother looking for this native shrub.  I say this because the plant checklists for Podere di Farfalla and San Benito County strikingly do not include false indigo, notwithstanding the reported 10-month flight period of the CA dogface in these same areas.

As a note to myself, I want to be sure to not mistake the CA dogface for the superficially similar orange sulphur (Colias eurytheme), another butterfly I don't often see and have yet to photograph.

acmon blue on seacliff buckwheat ~ 07/17/14 ~ Podere di Farfalla

mating acmon (male left, browner female right) on seacliff buckwheat
mating Icaricia acmon (aka Plebejus acmon) on Eriogonum parvifolium (var. parvifolium)

Having both acmon blue sexes in the same photograph is very helpful, because I've had some difficulty distinguishing between them on their own, since lighting and wing angle can be so variable and deceptive.  Ya, I know, I've been told repeatedly, "Get a photograph of the topside (dorsal), then it's easy to tell them apart."  Ha!  As if it were that easy!  I'm thrilled whenever I can get any photograph at all that's not a total fuzzy blob.  Seriously.  And, after seeing numerous butterflies in a day, I never can remember if the topside of butterfly #34 was blue or brown while it flew away.  Maybe other people have an easier time of it?  This is only my second photo of mating butterflies that I've managed to get all year.  The first were Edith's checkerspots back in May at Pinnacles.  As with the Melissa blues, the female acmon blues have a browner ground color on the underside (ventral).

I'm noting the plant they're perched on while they do their thing, but that may not mean much.  While I do have other photographs of worn female acmons nectaring on seacliff buckwheat, I don't have any photographs of egg-laying on this plant.  It cannot be assumed seacliff buckwheat is the larval host plant of these acmons.  I didn't notice any other buckwheats or lotuses in bloom in the area, which also may not mean much.  In any case, I thought this would be a good time to showcase this lovely local buckwheat...

tight pom-pom shaped multi-colored mature pink blooms

narrow arrow-shaped leaves, cobweb top and felty bottom

seacliff buckwheat from a distance
(it apparently likes "cliffs" with a marine influence)

another pair of mating acmon blues on a drier seacliff buckwheat flower head
(browner female left, male right)

ps 11/21/14 - Jim Reveal confirmed this ID, and if he recognized varieties, he'd call this var. parvifolium.

gray hairstreak ~ 07/17/14 ~ Podere di Farfalla

"Eh?  What's this?  You're going to take my picture?"

"No, please don't.  I'm not ready"

"Hold on a sec.  Let me spruce up a bit."

"OK, I'm ready.  Go ahead and take my picture."
male gray hairstreak perched on seacliff buckwheat
male Strymon melinus pudica perched on Eriogonum parvifolium 

What's not obvious in many of my pictures is how breezy it frequently is, which makes it very difficult to take clear shots of tiny butterflies even when they're perched on a plant.  I took the above set with the pocket camera held still while the buckwheat was waving about in the wind.  Seriously.  I've been loving the auto-macro feature on our 10-year-old Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50.  It's incredibly easy, although it's not as quick as I would like and only has 5 megapixels.  It's a shame it took us 9 years before we discovered this cool feature.  However, I'm worried that because of its age, it might crap out any day now.  I've been looking for a replacement and haven't found anything remotely equivalent.  I field tested other point-and-shoot cameras this summer and was less than pleased with the fuzzy not-really-macro results.  I'd welcome any suggestions for a replacement/addition to our Konica.