Spotting a metalmark in flight out of the corner of my eye really gives the impression of a small grey butterfly, and I wondered at first if it was a blue or a copper. However, the bright white spots are glaringly obvious once I can get a good line of sight on them. I don't think there's anything else that looks remotely like them here. They'll zip around the same area for a minute or two, briefly landing at different spots, before completely disappearing. I even saw several pairs swirling in what seemed to be territorial chases, with one always quickly exiting. I found one significantly larger metalmark, and based on published information, I'm assuming it was a female. And therefore, I'm assuming the above smaller version is a male. I could be wrong.
I'm thrilled to have gotten a halfway decent picture of this zippy little butterfly. It's gorgeous (and surprisingly well-camouflaged - see below)! I believe I saw my first metalmark two weeks ago on August 19, but I missed getting a better look as an off-duty ranger and his wife caught up with me on the trail and started a conversation. I do much better tracking butterflies if I'm alone and without other trail travelers. I have to laugh, because I recently overheard another hiker comment about how grouchy I was to her companion after they had passed me. Sound really carries in the canyons. Oh dear.
I found several Mormon metalmarks this day around separate CA buckwheat patches. However, nude buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum) is the reported host plant for this region, so I'm not sure what it's doing on dried CA buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) flower stalks. Certainly the nectar has all dried up. There are a couple other buckwheats just starting to show buds in other locations, but I haven't ID'd them yet. As a note for me later, I'm still not sure of the difference between the two reported CA buckwheat vars. in the area, polifolium or foliolosum. I'm checking into it...
Find the Mormon metalmark among the CA buckwheat.
ps 09/10/14 - I've changed the ID above to foliolosum, even though I believe the hairier and grayer polifolium is also found in the area.