Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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.


Jennifer said...

I saw TONS of these on an echium bush across the street from the Cannery Row Antique Mall on the same day. They were all over it! It was so cool. You should check it out - they might still be there!

Imperfect and Tense said...

We mightn't have hummingbirds in the UK, but we do have these beauties!

I'm embarrassed to admit that we've only just figured out what's going on. You see, every year, and sometimes in huge numbers, Painted Ladies would show up, but no-one saw them leave. Where did they go?



Katie (Nature ID) said...

J, that's exactly the spot I saw it back in 2005. I think they're heading NW straight across the Monterey Bay waters to hit land just west of Santa Cruz (just my theory - I should check out Wilder Ranch).

Graeme, that's an awesome article. Whoa, 30 mph!!! Just goes to show how much we still don't know about nature. I wonder if we really know what happens on this side of the world with our painted lady migrations. Nine years is a long time in between, don't you think?

Imperfect and Tense said...

Katie, I think that successful migrations are dependent upon many factors being favourable. Climate, food resources en route and wind direction, to name but a few. With multi-stage migrations, any one hiccup in the process will have a detrimental effect on total numbers, so I guess 'big' years will be less frequent than the norm. Hopefully, the troughs and peaks in the cycle will even out over time. I recall seeing only one Painted Lady in Summer 2013, which was when we were on holiday in Orkney!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Here's hoping you see some this summer at home.

Imperfect and Tense said...