Tuesday, April 8, 2014

pale swallowtail ~ 04/08/14 ~ Pinnacles

for more information click here, here, and here

Considering how often I am out, I don't often see butterflies totally consumed with nectaring.  My preferred hiking conditions run cloudier, cooler, and earlier than prime nectar flow, aka prime butterfly sipping activity.  My goal this year is to see more butterflies and to get to know, really know, our local spp.  So, I've adjusted my outings to a little later in the day and for warmer temperatures, which include inland locations away from the coastal cool, like Pinnacles National Park.  Thus far, I've had a fair bit of success in finding more butterflies that hold still long enough for me to take a good look at them and a couple of pictures.  I haven't netted in over a decade, because I know I am not a gentle netter and it pained me to injure butterflies just so I could look at them up close.

For Pinnacles, the only 2 reported spp. of striped, yellowish swallowtails are the pale swallowtail (aka Pterourus eurymedon - why?  someone wanted to make it a thing?) and the western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus).  The slightly twisted tail-detail view from on top and from below don't match and can be visually confusing on a quickly moving animal.  Plus, the tails are sometimes broken off. Here's my cheat sheet to tell the two apart:

pale swallowtail                       
true, creamy butter color (real butter, not what you imagine is a butter color)
often with orange coloring in last crescent next to the tail, sometimes yellow

western tiger swallowtail
deeper yellow, like buttercups
always yellow in last crescent next to tail

I've read that the width of their stripes is thicker in pale versus western tiger, but that's tricky to tell when they're not side-by-side to compare.  Although, they reportedly often fly together.


Cindy said...

You are adjusting your hiking preferences just for the butterflies? That's a committed naturalist. I like your cheat notes and they match especially well with these great photos you got. I look forward to more vicarious butterfly hikes with you here at Nature ID (which I can check at any time of day or weather).

Jennifer said...

I love swallowtails

Imperfect and Tense said...

Yeah, right place, right time, for the subject species is crucial. And all the more impressive if not the optimal temperature for the watcher. Dragons are much the same. How we suffer for our science, lol!

And a peedie bit jealous because I've never been able to connect up with a Swallowtail, despite several years of trying. I might have to vicariously bookmark this page!

biobabbler said...

Wow, those are AMAZING shots--made me mumble in admiration out loud. Such a huge, gorgeous species. THANK YOU for the cheat sheet. I spend a WAD of $$ on native milkweed seed, so I'm hoping (after I actually SOW them) to get lots of butterflies this year. Seems that closely tracking your work will greatly benefit me. =)

The most amazing swallowtail experience I had was in a narrow canyon in Capitol Reef NP (a seldom referenced, but AMAZING, freakin' little park). The biggest swallowtail I've EVER SEEN flitted toward us in the narrow space, flitted around, practically blowing our hair, it was so HUGE & close, then continued its way down the canyon. Gobsmacked.

(pardon so long) Finally, I have a friend who studies moths (etc.) and is a night person, so he can work LATE into the night, stumble out of bed at 10 a.m. and be ready to go when his moths are.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Cindy, I might as well adjust since I'm unemployed and have the time. I plan on focusing more on butterflies until the lure of money calls me back inside.

Graeme, no one ever pointed out to me while I was studying insects in college that it really helps to tolerate the same weather as your subject. I'll be curious to see how well I can also capture better pics of dragons and damsels during these excursions. So far, not much luck, even though I have seen a fair number already this year.

Oh, bb, I bet truly local milkweed seed is spendy to purchase. This might interest you: http://thecommonmilkweed.blogspot.com/2014/03/germinating-common-milkweed-asclepias.html. I was really surprised at the number of monarchs I saw already flying around Bass Lake in Madera Co. Mar 22-27, 2014. I'm still seeing a quite a few at home in PG where we have a regular overwintering colony. I'll look up Capitol Reef NP. Thanks!