Friday, May 23, 2014

variable checkerspot ~ 05/23/14 ~ Pinnacles

variable checkerspot / chalcedon checkerspot
(Shapiro and Tenney)

I love the face she's giving me, as if she's sticking out her tongue.  Technically, what I call "tongue" is her proboscis, a long, coiled and extendable mouthpart that functions like a drinking straw to suck up various liquids, such as nectar from flowers, water from mud, and moisture from poop (or so I've heard - I used to have a volunteer who would travel with domestic cat poo in a baggie for just this purpose...  I wonder how he explained at customs?).  With enough patience and a quick trick, I find butterflies are regularly agreeable to climbing on my finger so that I can take a closer look.  Paul took a picture of me with her on my finger.  I think he found my doing this rather peculiar. 

If it's not obvious from my photos, I prefer not to carry a net.  More traditional lepidopterists use a net to either collect and/or catch and release for a closer look.  This can be a legal issue in public parks or in areas where endangered butterfly species are found.  I'm still solely a collector of photographs (and trailside litter, especially glass bottles).  I'll admit that I've been dragging my feet writing up a request to obtain a collecting permit, which will also cover any primary catch and release activities for my project.  Eh, I'm in no hurry to start hauling around a bunch of collecting crap up and down hot hills.  Carrying enough water for myself is heavy enough, thank you (136 fl oz = 8.5 lbs 4 L >1 gallon 8 hours for me).  Photographs are working just fine for my needs right now.

Note her dark topside, which is very typical of the variable checkerspots found at Pinnacles.  This individual also shows solidly colored pumpkin-orange antennae, compared to the look-alike Edith's checkerspot, which has black-striped stems dipped in various curry colors at the tips. I find it impossible to distinguish the underside patterns between the two look-alikes in photos.  However, when both of these butterflies are on the wing together at Pinnacles and can be seen chasing each other, the variable flashes black and yellow, while the Edith's has a definite reddish background color.

Oh, I should mention that I'm not 100% positive she's a she.  I'm only guessing based on the hefty girth of the abdomen (fatty, fatty).  Honestly, I don't know how to sex most butterflies. Some can be obviously sexually dimorphic, but I have to be careful when there are look-alike spp. found in the same area and flying at the same time (there's a practical distinction between physical and temporal proximity), when one sex looks like the opposite sex of another sp.  It's a strange phenomena that I'm starting to notice.

As a last note, I generally don't use the name chalcedon to ID this butterfly.  It's the Bay Area folks from whom I first heard the name, probably to distinguish it from the federally threatened Bay checkerspot, which they do not call Edith's, btw, even though it is.  Plus, I mangle the pronunciation of chalcedon.


biobabbler said...

Woah. What IS your butterfly whispering secret, sensei? That is a COOL trick.

Lovely butterfly, great shots.

I 100% pronounced chalcedon wrong UNTIL I clicked onto the link you kindly provided. Thanks! =)

GretchenJoanna said...

Wonderful pictures! I imagine the Pinnacles park is pretty hot by now, alright. I always think we must go back in April some year, and then I forget. Do you have a favorite month to go there? Are there more butterflies now than in April?

Katie (Nature ID) said...

bb, it's sweat off my brow ;) I know, right, about the whole chalcedon pronunciation? I've asked every butterfly person since I heard the term, and I've yet to meet 2 people pronounce it the same. Supposedly, there's some historical stuff involved with the name, too.

Gretchen, I prefer to hike in the cooler early spring weather (yes, April), but many butterflies prefer the hot, hot, hot of May and June.

Jennifer said...

The colors are fabulous. Love that orange!
Amazing how you got it to sit on your finger like that.