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- Butterflies of Oregon | Photos • Biology • Indentification
Butterflies of Oregon Welcome to Butterflies of Oregon, a resource for Oregon butterfly enthusiasts, including photos and species information to help you find and identify all of Oregon's regularly occurring butterfly species. Butterflies of Oregon also shares stories of the author's attempt to photograph all of Oregon's butterfly species in the wilds of Oregon. Thanks for visiting! www.butterfliesoforegon.com Subscribe to Blog Thanks for submitting! Email Us © Copyright Neil Bjorklund
- Arctic Skipper | ButterfliesofOregon
Gallery Prev Next Lookout Cr Rd, Lane Co, May 26 Arctic Skipper Carterocephalus skada Size: Up to 1 inch wingspan Key ID features: Small and boldly marked . Above dark brown with many light orange patches on both wings. Below FW light orange with brown patches, HW darker orange with white or pale yellow spots with dark rims. Similar species: No other similar species (small skipper with orange spots on brown wings) in Oregon. Host plant: Grass species. Habitat: Forest openings, grassy meadows, streambanks, riparian areas--usually near water. Range: NE Blue Mtns, Wallowa Mtns, Cascade Range, northern Coast Range, and isolated Coast Range populations in Coos and Benton counties. Season: Mid-April to early August Abundance: Common Conservation Status: Secure
- Silvery Blue | ButterfliesofOregon
Gallery Prev Next Little Groundhog Mtn, Lane Co, July 4, male Silvery Blue Glaucopsyche lygdamus Size: 1.0 - 1.2 inches wingspan Key ID features: Male brilliant silvery-blue above, with narrow dark wing borders, white fringes, often with marginal row of small black spots. Female gray-brown with some blue scaling. Below gray or blue-gray, with bold median row of round black spots with white rims, and lighter discal cell end bars on FW and HW. Similar species: Boisduval's Blue has variable submarginal markings on HW and FW below. Host plant: Lupine species (Lupinus ). Habitat: Moist, open areas near lakes, streams and wetlands. Range: All of Oregon except north coast. Season: Mid-March to early September Abundance: Common Conservation Status: Secure
Blog Posts (44)
- The iNat Revolution
Welcome to my first Blog post of the year! I can't wait to share some updates from this new butterfly season with you. In the meantime, here's information about a presentation I am giving in April on how iNaturalist.org has transformed my experience of butterfly watching and study, and how it can do the same for you! I plan a blog post on the same topic soon, but in the meantime, I hope you can attend in-person or join this presentation by Zoom. Here are the event details: April 12, 2023, 7:00 p.m. Campbell Senior Center, Great Hall 155 High St, Eugene, OR 97401 For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org To view the presentation remotely, sign up for the live Zoom feed by emailing your name and the presentation title to: email@example.com Are you looking forward to the coming season of wildflowers and butterflies? Dreaming about what butterflies you’d love to see this year? Are you studying up on those hard-to-identify butterfly species? Planning some butterfly watching outings? Are you hoping to learn about new places to watch butterflies? Great! Do you want to find out how to inject more learning and enjoyment into your appreciation of butterflies? Read on fellow nature lovers! Neil Björklund, author of Finding Lane County Butterflies, co-founder of NABA Oregon, and creator of www.butterfliesoforegon.com will share how he stumbled into iNaturalist.org, and how it now enhances and expands the learning and enjoyment in the field. Over 30 years of watching, photographing and documenting, and teaching about butterflies in Oregon, Neil has seen many helpful changes, but he still longed for a way to share information with other butterfliers, and to learn from their observations. Now it’s here! iNaturalist.org, or iNat, as some affectionately call it, has become one of the world’s largest collections of citizen science and photo-documented sightings of wild, living organisms. It has grown rapidly in recent years, and with over 22,000 butterfly sightings now recorded in Oregon, it holds a treasure trove of information you can use to enhance your nature passions! iNat has radically enhanced the nature experiences of thousands of Oregonians, and you may be next! You can practice your ID skills, discover locations near you to watch butterflies, see what other people are finding and where, focus on the most common species or the most rare, find out how you can make important contributions to science, and even see how you rank compared to other butterfly watchers, if you’re into that sort of thing. Its all there on iNat, and its all free. Neil will demonstrate all this live on iNat before your very eyes! And of course you’ll be seeing many of Neil’s fabulous butterfly photos and hearing his stories from the field! Get your butterfly season rolling with Neil Björklund and NABA Oregon! Here's a portal with my recent sightings on iNat, just to give you an appetizer:
- Yes, We have Volcanos!
I've been known to describe my avocation of chasing butterflies in Oregon as a game played on the huge game board of the state of Oregon--"the Big Game Board." There's something about these lines drawn on a map, whether they be county or state boundaries, that inspires me to make up rules for a game in a way that motivates me to get organized, get out of the house, and go find something wonderful in nature on a regular basis. I play this game with both butterflies and birds, and I seem to gravitate most often to playing on the "Little Game Board" of Lane County, and on the "Big Game Board" of Oregon. I use these human delineations of the physical landscape to add an element of fun and challenge to my outdoor adventures. Back in August of 2020, I visited Crater Lake to look for two of our as-yet undescribed Blues, the Pumice Blue ("Square-spotted Blue" on Eriogonum marifolium) and the Shasta Blue (Icaricia on E. pyrolifolium var. coryphaeum). After finding both species at Crater Lake, and full of curiosity, I then hiked up into the pumice flats of Wickiup Plain near South Sister to look there. I wanted to find these species in Lane County if I could, and I did find them, which was a lot of fun. Later that fall, my colleague Lori Humphreys, an excellent butterflier and naturalist, told me she'd seen the Volcano Blue in Lane County, on the top of Twins Peak back in 2011. Ever since she told me that, I'd wanted to go see if the Volcano Blue is still there, in Lane County, and photo-document it--playing the game on the Little Game Board! I started a round of the game late last July, when I made the 3 mile, 1500-foot climb to Twins Peak, at over 7,000 feet elevation. Twins Peak is just east of Waldo Lake, in the central Cascade Mountains. On that visit last July, the weather was less than ideal and there was a lot of wildfire smoke around. The weather changed dramatically almost as soon as I got to the steep cinder fields on the west flank of the peaks, and clouds, wind and finally rain, soon drove me off the peak. I saw one blue that day I thought could be a Volcano Blue, but it was pretty beat up and not what I could call definitive. Undaunted by "losing" that round of the game, I planned this year's visit to coincide with the timing of last year's trip to Crater Lake, which was about a week into August. That timing looked like it might have been the peak of the flight season, so I decided to try that again. I knew that there were a couple of wildfires burning near Oakridge, Oregon and that there was the possibility that there would be too much smoke around Twins Peak to make the hike. I certainly didn't want to be sucking in smoky air while climbing up the peak for 90 minutes, but I also didn't want to wait another year for Round 2 of the game. Indeed as I drove through Oakridge, the valley was thick with smoke, and my heart dropped. But, having come that far, I thought it would be worth it to continue a bit further and see which way the smoke was blowing. When I got to the Waldo Lake Road, I saw blue skies to the north and east. Game on! At least I could make the hike up while breathing fresh air, and see what, if any, butterflies were flying near the summit. I hiked pretty fast through the forest, recalling my last time through, when mosquitoes buzzed, chased and bit me all through the forest. My strategy this time was to not stop and to move quickly enough that the mosquitoes might be able to follow the trail of carbon dioxide I was leaving behind, but not actually catch up to me. In case you didn't know, mosquitoes can detect concentrations of carbon dioxide (which we breathe out), and that's one of the ways they find us, even in the dark. My strategy worked pretty well, as I only got bit a couple times on the walk. I was glad when I got to the part of the trail that starts to rise more steeply towards the peak, as the mosquies tend to thin out there. As I reached the lower portion of the cinder field on the west slope, right away I began to see Marumleaf Buckwheat (Eriogonum marifolium), the host plant for the Pumice Blue. The blooms were past their prime, but still standing. I saw just one small Euphilotes blue hanging around a Marumleaf Buckwheat plant, and got just enough of a look at it to confirm its identity. Based on the location, its association with this buckwheat species and its Euphilotes markings, I knew it was Pumice Blue. It was the only Pumice Blue I would see all afternoon. Likely, I was a bit late for the Pumice Blue flight period at this location. As I moved up into the cinder field, I started to also see scattered Shasta Buckwheat (Eriogonum pyrolifolium var. coryphaeum) plants, which are the host plant for the Volcano Blue. These were in various stages of bloom and senescence, but many were still quite fresh. "Excellent!" I said aloud to no one in particular. Not long after that I spotted a blue on a Shasta Buckwheat bloom. I carefully made my way closer to the plant, negotiating the slip-n-slide cinder so as not to stumble and spook the butterfly. I got my bins on it, and, voila! Volcano Blue! I don't really know why it made me so happy that Volcano Blue was surviving on the Lane County side of Twins Peak, but it did. Sure, I'd "won" this round of the game, but it felt like there was something deeper there, too. Something personal. As I slowly continued working my way up the trail, I got several photos of both male and female Volcano Blues, almost always on their host plant--how convenient! I was headed towards the boundary between Lane County and Deschutes County, which cuts a north-south line just a stone's throw east of the two summits. The red cinder field where I'd found the Volcano Blues lay on the west-facing Lane County side. I was curious to see what else was flying so I continued up the trail towards the summit, crossing into Deschutes County. Closer to the summit of the north peak I found several more species, in very small numbers--several species represented by just one individual. I was surprised to find that Volcano Blues were the most numerous species, at a whopping 7 individuals. Three Hydaspe Fritillaries (Speyeria hydaspe) worked hard to elude identification by consistently landing at an angle that prevented me from seeing their ventral disc pattern. However, with patience I got closer and better angle to see their reddish ventral disc and pinkish submarginal band. A couple of male Anna's Blues (Plebejus anna) working the edges of openings in the forest looked huge compared to the smaller Volcano and Pumice blues. I ate lunch facing a grand view out over the central High Desert, entertained by a Mormon Fritillary (Speyeria mormonia) dancing from flower to flower, and a Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris) who watched me warily from its rocky perch down the steep eastern slope. After lunch, before heading up the south peak, I walked back to the west side to check on the wind and weather conditions. I immediately saw that the smoke plume from the massive Cedar Creek Fire was now headed my way. I passed on the south peak and paused for a moment to ponder what was happening down there, where that smoke was billowing out of the forest, west of Waldo Lake. It was painful to let it sink in... Sigh. Okay, time to skedaddle back down the trail. Last year when I visited Wickiup Plain at the base of South Sister, I had found and photographed Shasta Blue (Icaricia shasta) and Pumice Blue in Lane County. This year, I felt a certain glow of satisfaction to be able to confirm that the Volcano Blue, our other high elevation blue of dry pumice and cinder habitat, is also living in Lane County. It's fun to play the game on these big, beautiful game boards, but that deeper feeling is also there. It has something to do with feeling connected to this land around me. It's important to me, and in some way, I hope to be important to it, to contribute to it. So I learn and share, and I hope to inspire others to know and love and care for this beautiful place we live in. That's more than a game, it's more a way of life. I saw a total of 8 species on the upper slopes of Twins Peak. Interestingly, all the blues were on the Lane County side, and all the other species were east of the line in Deschutes County.
- Wave the Checkered Flag!
I first started looking for the enigmatic Checkered White (Pontia protodice) back in 2004, at Picture Rock Pass, in Lake County. It was, of course, Andy Warren who suggested that I search there, as he had found them there the previous year. It was hot, dry, beautiful high desert landscape--just what Checkered Whites usually prefer. In the past five or six years, more and more online resources have been developed by which people can report butterflies they've seen and photos they've taken of them. In the late summer and fall, I enjoy perusing people's photos and sightings and offering some help with identification of Oregon species that folks are struggling with. Last summer, while poking around on the "Butterflies and Moths of North America" website (www.butterfliesandmoths.org, I was surprised to come upon a photo taken by my friend and former colleague Cary Kerst. I knew he was a real dragonfly enthusiast, but I didn't recall that he was into photographing butterflies. What was more surprising was that the photo was of a Checkered White, taken in Linn County, Oregon! I had known that there were scattered records of Checkered Whites in the northern half of Oregon over the years, but I hadn't realized that there was a documented sighting within 90 minutes drive of Eugene! As you might imagine, when August rolled around, I was duty-bound to make the trip over to Lost Lake to learn check out the area, where Cary had taken that photo, and perhaps find Checkered White. I had been there in early spring for birding once or twice, but never in late summer. I went on the exact date that Cary had found his, thinking that might put me in good timing for the flight period. What I found were many Western Whites (Pontia occidentalis), zipping hither and yon, inviting me to chase them all over the meadow with Hooper, my trusty butterfly net. They were landing infrequently, and it was a gusty afternoon, making them even faster fliers than normal. So when I say that I found many Western Whites, what I actually mean is that out of the many whites flying that afternoon, the only ones I could see well, photograph and identify with certainty were Western Whites, and I assumed they all were. But a couple of them looked iffy to me. Just to be sure, I shared some of my photos with Ken Davenport, one of California's preeminent lepidopterists, who is very familiar with Checkered Whites, as he encounters them frequently down where he lives. "All Westerns," Ken replied. I decided I needed more preparation and study to be able to find and identify Checkered White, so I deferred further searching to 2022. I had studied many photos of Checkered Whites, and picked Ken's brain for identification tips. He noted that the gray markings at the forewing tips of males are generally smaller, lighter, and have more white space between them compared to the very similar Western Whites. I also learned that the veins on the ventral hindwing are more yellow on Checkered, and more greenish on Westerns. And I learned that the dorsal markings on many female Checkered Whites are more brownish-gray than bluish-gray, as you would see on a Western White. I found a little chart graphic that highlighted these field marks and saved it to my phone for reference. I felt more prepared this year. I again planned my visit around the date on which Cary had photographed his Checkered White, but delayed it a week to take into account the late, wet spring. That put my arrival date on August 10. In spite of heavy wildfire smoke in the central Western Cascades, Lost Lake had crystal-clear, blue skies. It was surprisingly cool that day, however, only 70°F, and I saw only one Western White and one Cabbage White (Pieris rapae). I did see 15 other species altogether, including a surprising "clump" of Sylvan Hairstreaks (10 in one small patch of Pearly Everlasting). I concluded that I was a bit early for Checkered White this year, and planned a second visit. I returned to Lost Lake 10 days later, on August 20. Again, I was blessed with clear blue skies, and it made it into the upper 70's in the afternoon. Still very few whites flying. I spotted six whites out in the meadow, and try as I might, I wasn't able to turn any of them into Checkered Whites. Hydaspe Fritillaries (Speyeria hydaspe) and Golden Hairstreaks (Habrodais grunus) were the most numerous species among the 16 that I saw that day. I decided that I would just keep returning to Lost Lake until I felt satisfied that I had adequately experienced the flight period of the whites there or until I found Checkered White, whichever came first. My next visit was six days later, on August 26. Another glorious day and again smoke-free, with temps in the upper 70's, and breezy with some gusts in the afternoon. I wasn't thrilled about the wind, as it can really wreak havoc with butterfly photography. Imagine a small broad-winged insect that weighs virtually nothing, is easily carried off by the wind, perched on a bendy little plant that swings and sways with every breeze. Now throw in an occasional gust of real wind. Not helpful! All that wind-induced flopping around can make it devilishly difficult to get a sharp image! All part of the challenge and the fun. Riiiiight! This trip, I was accompanied by two friends, John and Rich, who are excellent birders, and quite good with butterflies also. The more eyes, the better! We walked out into the meadow adjacent to the lake, and I noticed a few whites flying, but still not the numbers I had seen here last year. Still, I hoped that our timing was better this visit, and that there would be at least one Checkered White somewhere out in that meadow. We noticed that the whites were heavily favoring purple-flowered asters growing in the higher drier parts of the meadow, away from both the water and the woods. The Orange Sulphurs were also going for them. John and I hung out in those dry areas near the asters, trying to photograph every white we could get in our sights. That's when I saw it: a white that was fresh, but with much lighter markings on the dorsal forewing margin. It landed on an aster near me and I snapped a few photos of it. John got on it right away and also got some photos of it. When I zoomed in to view the photo on my camera's LCD screen, I clearly saw those sparse gray forewing markings, and the yellow veins below. It looked good for Checkered White! Could this be it? Did I just photograph Oregon species number 170? I spent the next hour following that White around the dry meadow, getting as many photos of it as I could. I wanted to make sure that, if I was right that it was a Checkered White, I was not going to miss the opportunity to get a decent photo of it! I easily took 100 photos of that butterfly! Luckily, several of my photos came out clear and showed the needed field marks. When I sent them to Ken Davenport, he said "yes, that is Checkered White." Bingo! Shazam! Cue the "Rocky" theme! I was particularly happy to find this butterfly so close to home, saving a lot of gas, greenhouse gas pollution, time, and effort compared to driving all over southern Oregon on numerous search excursions. It has been both pleasing and surprising to finally find several of my "nemesis" butterfly species relatively easily this year after many years of trying in vain. The experience seems to underscore one of my favorite phrases: "you just have to get your reps in." It works for photographing butterflies, and finding birds, and meditating, and a lot of other things. If the goal is to get reps in, that feels very doable. Focusing on getting to the finish line, on the other hand, means you're constantly looking ahead to see where that finish line is, and that makes it seem farther away, and harder to get to. Its almost like you don't notice that you got to the finish line because you were just focused on getting in your reps--so it almost comes as a surprise. On that third trip to Lost Lake we found 21 species, my highest number for that site. Golden Hairstreaks were still numerous, and Great Spangled Fritillaries (Speyeria cybele) were flying. I went back to Lost Lake a fourth time, just two days later. I was hoping to get even luckier, and find a female Checkered White. On August 28, I did find a worn, bird-struck female white that appeared to have the characteristic brown-gray markings, but its hard to tell what it looked like fresh. Possibly a Western White with flight wear making the markings appear brown? That fourth visit was fun, because it felt like the pressure was off. I found 20 species, including 9 fresh Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) and many fresh Hoary Commas (Polygonia gracilis) and Green Commas (Polygonia faunus), and a variety of ladies, fritillaries, and tortoiseshells. It was like a nymphalid festival! What a fun series of visits to Lost Lake! So--now we're down to it: just three Oregon species yet to go (American Copper, Compton Tortoiseshell, and Gillett's Checkerspot). The three hardest for sure, and all three in Wallowa County. Maybe they still breed in Oregon. Maybe some years they don't. All of the recent sightings of Gillett's Checkerspot were smack in the middle of where the Double Creek fire just burned virtually all of Grizzly Ridge in Wallowa County. Perhaps there were some enclaves higher up on Summit Ridge that didn't burn. I don't know. We'll see. I guess I'll be putting some visits to Wallowa County on my calendar for next year! In my four visits to Lost Lake in August, I found these 29 species: