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  • Arctic Skipper | ButterfliesofOregon

    Gallery Prev Next Deception Creek Rd, Lane Co, July 3 Arctic Skipper Carterocephalus palaemon 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 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

  • 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 covering all of Oregon's regularly occurring, formally described butterfly species. ​ Butterflies of Oregon is also the record of one amateur lepidopterist's endeavor to photograph all of Oregon's butterfly species in the wilds of Oregon. ​ Thanks for visiting! www.butterfliesoforegon.com Email Us

  • Hydaspe Fritillary | ButterfliesofOregon

    Gallery Prev Next Catherine Cr Rd, Wallowa Co, July 8 Hydaspe Fritillary Speyeria hydaspe Size: Up to 2.25 inch wingspan ​ Key ID features: Male deep orange above with black veins, black shading near the body, black irregular lines inwardly, submarginal black spot band and black marking along margin like chain links. Female dark orange above with all black markings bolder. Below ground color of "disc" on HW usually deep maroon to purplish-brown, with creamy to white oval spots, and a submarginal pink or pinkish band, often vague or missing. ​ Similar species: Hesperis has more reddish brown color below, and submarginal band is less pink, more distinct and usually crossed with bold veins. Zerene can have similar coloration, but would have smaller discal spots and more flattened marginal spots. ​ Host plant: Violet (Viola ) species . ​ Habitat: Openings, riparian areas and meadows in coniferous forests. ​ Range: Found throughout Cascades and western Oregon, and in Klamath, Warner, Siskiyou, Ochoco, Wallowa and Blue Mtns. ​ Season: Late May to late September. ​ Abundance: Common Conservation Status: Secure

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Blog Posts (29)

  • Hunting for the Gold

    Isn't it curious how sometimes when we are looking for one thing, we can sometimes find something else that is equally (or more) satisfying? If you've been reading my blog for a while, you've seen me write about this theme before. A key, I find, is "looking," as opposed to "looking for." When we are looking for something very specific, we naturally tend to filter out other things that aren't that one thing, and we can miss a lot. This is why, when I go after one of my target butterflies, I use the target species to choose the destination and the date, but when I get there, I try to look at whatever is there, and to keep my vision broad. It seems when I do this, there are often welcome surprises. Last year about this time, I went to Jackson County for the umpteenth time hoping to find the elusive Goldhunter's Hairstreak (Satyrium auretorum), and much to my surprise and delight, I actually found one and photographed it at Kinney Creek! I'd been looking for it for years, and over those years my annual trip to Jackson County to find it had become a spring ritual. This year, now motivated by my curiosity about the on-going status of the Goldhunter's population at Kinney Creek, I kept the ritual alive, and planned a two-day trip to go down and take a look. My friend and fellow butterfly photographer extraordinaire Rob Santry joined me for the first day. It was a lovely, warm and sunny morning and we started walking up the gravel road at about 10 am. One of the first surprises of the day for both Rob and I was seeing Sara's Orangetip (Anthocharis sara) males stopping for nectar several times. They were full-on posing for us, repeatedly nectaring on Western Verbena (Verbena lasiostachys), a southwest Oregon native, along the side of the road. If you've ever tried to get dorsal photos of this species (or its close "cousin" Julia's Orangetip), you understand why we were surprised. This does not happen often--in 25+ years of watching butterflies, I'd never seen this species nectaring so frequently before. It suddenly occurred to me after seeing this happen a couple of times that I actually didn't have any good dorsal photos of Sara's Orangetip, and that a golden opportunity was being laid in my lap! My photo above attests to my being able to make use of the opportunity. Another butterfly species that is a southwest Oregon specialty in late May is the Columbian Skipper (Hesperia columbia), a small, golden-orange grass skipper. These are small, fast flyers and usually only linger briefly on flowers in the morning. On this morning they were also going to the Western Verbena for nectar. I'd gotten some nice ventral shots last year at Kinney Creek, but hadn't had as much luck with dorsal, spread-wing displays. There was one particularly thick and floriferous patch of verbena that had a couple Columbian Skippers hanging around it, so we paused and watched them. They were only stopping for a few seconds each time, and then zipping away to another flower. Initially, I got a "brilliant" a series of photos of the verbena with no skipper in sight before I was finally quick enough to catch one before it flew. The one in the photo above is a very fresh male--note the long, narrow dark stigmata patch (which only the male has) on the inner wing. Sweet--another photo addition for the website, making it a productive morning already! As we continued up the road, we noticed the half-eaten carcass of a California Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata). The intact tail end of the snake still sported the bold red, black and white bands of this beautiful snake species. Rob surmised that it had been killed by a Red-tailed Hawk that we flushed when we came around the bend. A fresh Callippe Fritillary (Speyeria callippe elaine) was hanging around the carcass, and eventually landed on it. I'd seen butterflies on dead snakes before in South America, but this was the first time I'd seen this in Oregon. Like feces and urine, decaying and dead animals represent a source of minerals that butterflies can imbibe through their proboscis. The accumulated minerals are an important component of what the male passes to the female when they mate, providing nutrients that support the survival of offspring. After Rob left to attend to social commitments, I continued walking the road into the afternoon, and also came back again the next morning. In the afternoon, I encountered a butterfly that was new for me at this site, but likely one that's been there all along, and I just never saw it: the Common Roadside Skipper. It is so small, so dark and so fast that it is very easy to miss. This one just happened to land where I happened to be looking, otherwise I likely would have missed this one also. When I saw the Common Roadside Skipper (not surprisingly, on the side of the road), I was heading up to a spot that I knew was often a good butterfly draw. Its the spot where I found the Goldhunter's Hairstreak the previous year: a patch of blooming Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus). Ninebark is a native shrub with many domes of small white flowers, and under some conditions, it attracts a lot of butterflies, especially in arid environs. I was hoping to get lucky twice and see the Goldhunter's Hairstreak there again. The trick in finding hairstreaks is often to find a habitat feature that attracts them, such as an area of mud or wet sand, or a particularly attractive source of flower nectar. Without this lure, they can be very hard to find. When I arrived at the Ninebark patch, I was rewarded by a gorgeous Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) dancing over the patch, and then occasionally dropping in for some nectar. The afternoon light and the perfect silhouette of the Ninebark flowers' stamens through it's wings was a beautiful sight, reminding me just how thin those scale-covered wings are. After communing with the swallowtail for a few minutes, and watching Northern Checkerspots, California Sisters and Lorquin's Admirals visiting for nectar, I walked further up the road to see what I could see. At a crossing of a tributary stream, I spotted a small, bright orange Arctic Skipper, a couple dusky-looking Boisduval's Blues, and the local and enigmatic Chalcedona/Snowberry Checkerspots. I'm honestly not sure which of the two species I saw. It's possible both species are at this site, but more study is needed to sort that out. If you know of any research in this area, please let me know! Also at the same tributary crossing was a Great Arctic, the third Great Arctic of the day. This was interesting because typically, Great Arctics only fly as adult butterflies every other year, and last year was the primary flight year. So these three were flying in the off year. I'll be curious to see whether Great Arctics are flying at other sites in other parts of Oregon this year as the season progresses. When I walked back down the road, just as I was approaching the famous (to me) Ninebark patch, a small brown butterfly was startled by my arrival. It flew in a fast zigzag pattern to my left towards a Canyon Live Oak tree (Quercus chrysolepsis) on the opposite side of the road. I lost track of it as it flew into the shady area beneath the tree. What's interesting about this sighting is that Canyon Live Oak is believed to be the larval host plant for Goldhunter's Hairstreak at this location. And the Goldhunter's is a small brown butterfly that flies fast in a zigzag pattern. Hmmmm. I never found it again, so I'll never know, but I suspect it was Goldhunter's Hairstreak. Rob had reminded me earlier that there is another small brown hairstreak at this site this time of year, and I saw a couple of them the next day: Hedgerow Hairstreak (Satyrium saepium). This species uses Ceanothus as its larval host plant, and there was plenty of that around to support them. The two individuals I saw had clearly just eclosed (emerged from their chrysalis), as they were absolutely pristine and velvety looking, indicating no wear on the wings at all. There were so many fun surprises over my two days at Kinney Creek that I didn't mind missing a definitive Goldhunter's Hairstreak sighting at all. My only disappointment was that I had not learned anything about the Goldhunter's population status. Not seeing one is not an indication of its absence--its only an indication of its absence where I was looking, when I was looking. Due to its larval host plant being a tree, and the fact that many of the Canyon Live Oak trees were not close to the road I was walking on, it's very possible that there were some, or even many, individuals in the Live Oak trees up the hill. In the end, I left the site tired, sweaty, and quite satisfied with my experience. It's always fun to get out in the field with Rob, and there were many unexpected photo opportunities. When I tallied my list for the first day, I'd seen 29 species. The second day also turned up 29 species, though not all the same ones. My tally for the two days included a very respectable 35 species and many good photos. I think I will hang on to that strategy of looking instead of looking for.

  • Chasing Our Swallowtail

    My 2021 field season started quite a bit later than I'd planned, and sadly I had to skip a trip to the Illinois River in April in search of Spring Whites. That trip wasn't delayed by any of the usual things--not foul weather, nor forest fires, no personal crisis, nothing like that. No--I had walked into the opened-up back hatch of my Subaru and gave myself a concussion. Being tall has its advantages, and... Some of my friends suggested that perhaps in the future I should wear a helmet while packing my car. When my neck and brain finally were healed enough to allow me to get out in the field, I was excited. I had truly been missing my time in nature. This would be my 7th attempt to photograph our state insect, the Oregon Swallowtail (Papilio machaon oregonia). The Oregon Swallowtail is a creature of dry river canyons in Eastern Oregon and Washington. It looks quite similar to the much more common Anise Swallowtail, save for some subtle differences. The Anise Swallowtail has narrow yellow stripes on the sides of the body, whereas the Oregon Swallowtail has very broad horizontal yellow bands. The Anise has small "eyespots" near the tails on the hindwing, with black spots in the center of red spots. On the Oregon, these eyespots have black spots at the edge of the red spots. The Oregon Swallowtail is also larger and slightly different shade of yellow. These differences are not so obvious that you can ID them on the wing unless you are quite close, and know what you are looking for. My friend Rob Santry suggested I try looking at the boat launch at Mack's Canyon Campground, at the north end of the access road that runs along the Deschutes River, north from Sherar's Bridge. He hadn't steered me wrong before, so I headed straight up there. The day was sunny and it was 80 degrees before noon. The light was good and I was feeling optimistic. The first butterfly of the day was a brand-spanking fresh Boisduval's Blue, coming for some beach time, and the sunlight and minerals salts available there. Before long, a fresh Indra Swallowtail flew in, making a bee-line for the wet sand. It was so fresh that I wondered how it was so certain where that wet sandy beach was. Could such a youngster already have been there? Maybe it was born yesterday. I took this early swallowtail sighting was a good sign and hoped for more. I didn't have to wait long for the next swallowtail species to show. In fact, when they showed, the Anise Swallowtails came in numbers. At first glance, from the shady bench where I was watching the wet sand, I thought this could be the Oregon Swallowtail. My pulse quickened. Could I be so lucky as to have it show up in the first half hour? Well, no. As the third and fourth and fifth and sixth Anise came down to the beach, I checked each one for the telltale marks. Nope, Anise. No, not this one. No, this is Anise also. I'm never that disappointed to be in a beautiful place, photographing beautiful butterflies, so not seeing my target was only a dip in the road. Over a couple of days I saw many Anise Swallowtails, and a few more Indra Swallowtails. I focused on photographing them, even as additional species found their way to the wet sand (Juba Skipper, Gray Hairstreak, Columbian Blue, Mourning Cloak), since the swallowtails were so fresh and so cooperative. Later in the day, I took a scouting walk up Mack's Canyon itself. I couldn't recall having walked up that canyon before, so I ventured up. I was pleased to see Pale Crescent, Large Marble, Columbian Blue, Acmon Blue, Silvery Blue, and many Sagebrush Checkerspots. There were wild tarragon plants scattered around the canyon floor, these being the host plant for the Oregon Swallowtail. Wild tarragon doesn't look or smell terribly different from the more familiar culinary tarragon, and it stands out from its gray-green sagebrush cousins by being deep green and finely leaved. The next morning, I went back to the little sandy beach at the boat launch. It was cool and cloudy, but being stubborn, I just sat down and waited for the clouds to part. Luckily, and to my surprise, the clouds did part, and the beach was again bathed in bright sun. Overall, fewer butterflies came compared to the previous day, likely due to the cool, gray morning and delayed warmth. Most of the same species as the day before showed up one after the other. I was keeping an eye on the swallowtails, which were much more active in the early afternoon heat, when a huge Two-Tailed Swallowtail sailed in. It headed right for the spot where a couple of Anise Swallowtails and an Indra were already mud-puddling. Rather than settling in next to them, it repeatedly landed literally on top of one of the Anise Swallowtails. If I were to commit the scientific faux pas of assigning human motives to insects, I would say this huge Two-Tailed Swallowtail was bullying the smaller Anise Swallowtail, simply because "he" could (bullies are usually male, right?). I wanted to smack him upside the head, but refrained. I figured he wouldn't get my point. So I just watched his huge, pristine yellow and black self lording it over the little guys. After about an hour of not seeing any Oregon Swallowtails, the activity on the beach waned and I decided to take a walk up Gert Canyon, a few miles to the south. I like this walk because the upper creek usually has water in it this time of year, which supports both wildflowers and butterflies, and the views are quite lovely. I also just needed some exercise after sitting and kneeling for so long on the beach. On the walk up the canyon, I enjoyed many additional species, including Julia's Orangetip, Large Marble, Echo Azure, and Mylitta Crescent. Near the head of the canyon, I found this Indra Swallowtail nectaring on the plentiful Balsamroot flowers. Okay, our state insect still eludes me, but it's kind of like the game I used to play with my friends. "Hey, can I taste your ice cream cone? I want to see if I like it." "Okay, here, take a bite." Bite # 1. "Hmmm. Not sure if I really like it. I think I need another bite." Bite # 2. "Hmmmm. I think I like it, but I need a larger sample size." Ice cream owner now loudly protesting, and trying to wrest said ice cream cone from my grip. My annual trips to Deschutes Canyon are something I always look forward to. I love the place. I love the smells of sage and river water. I love hearing the Chukars chuck-a-lucking up on the hillsides, and the descending notes of the Canyon Wren song echoing down from above. I love the layers upon layers of red-hued rim rock lining the canyon walls, and the flush of green grass from the spring rains. That's the cake thats on offer there, and I always enjoy it. One day there will be frosting on the cake, and it will taste all the better for the previous efforts that led me to it. Oh, and next spring, I'll try to remember to duck when I'm walking towards the open back of my Subaru. Mack's Canyon Boat Launch List: Mack's Canyon List: Gert Canyon List:

  • Seeking Answers In The High Places

    It's 10 am on August 23, and I've just arrived at the bottom of the tramway that climbs 3,300 feet up to the top of Mount Howard, in the Wallowa Mountains. This will be my third attempt to find and photograph the American Copper (Lyceana phlaeas) at Mt. Howard since 2017, and this time I'll have help. Mike Hansen used to be the Assistant District Biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Enterprise, and I knew he had good field skills. Now that he's retired, like me, he spends a lot more time enjoying chasing birds and butterflies. I hadn't met him in person before, and today we were wearing face masks because of the coronavirus, but we had no problem spotting each other in the parking lot--our binoculars, cameras and backpacks give us away. Mike has also been looking for the American Copper in the Wallowas, and two years ago while I was scouring the south slopes of Mt. Howard, he was searching the other known historical site, near Ice Lake and the Matterhorn. When we compared notes after our 2018 expeditions, we found that we'd had the same experience: plants were dried up, and we saw no sign of American Copper or its suspected host plant, Mountain Sorrel (Oxyria digyna). Mike and I share a desire to find out whether this species is still breeding in Oregon. Mike and his partner Kim had seen American Copper in the Seven Devils Mountains across the Snake River in Idaho in late July, 2016. Interestingly, that copper seemed to be associated with a tall species of Rumex, rather than Mountain Sorrel. According to Andy Warren, Ernst Dornfeld proposed Mountain Sorrel as a possible host for American Copper back in 1980, but I'm not aware that anyone has definitively confirmed this in Oregon. A couple of years back, Don Severns shared details with me from the day he and his son Paul found American Copper on Mt. Howard. They found it in August about half-way down a steep talus slope on the south face of Mt. Howard, near Mountain Sorrel. As far as I know, no one has seen one since then. The only other record in Oregon was from decades earlier, when C.W. Nelson found it at 9,500 feet on the Matterhorn, further west in the Wallowas. Mike and I rode the tram up to the summit of Mt. Howard and then hiked away from the small crowd of other tourists near the restaurant at the top of the tram line. Within minutes we were by ourselves. We had to first hike east, and then south to get to where we could cross a steep side slope over to the targeted talus slope. The talus slope was somewhat treacherous for walking on, as the rock was very loose and prone to sliding as soon as we stepped on it. At some points I had to use my hands and feet to keep my place on the hill. This year there were a few butterfly species flying on the talus slope, visiting the bright purple patches of Coyote Mint. Hydaspe and Callippe fritillaries seemed to be most prominent there. We each chose a spot at different elevations on the slope and zig-zagged our way across, up, and down the slope looking for any sign of the coppers or their host plants. When we met up to check in after about 45 minutes, neither of us had seen any coppers, or any dock or sorrel plants. We decided to try the north-facing rocky slope on the far side of the mountain next, as we suspected it would be more moist, and because Mike thought it was more like a site where he had seen a few Mountain Sorrel plants on a recent hike to the west of Mt. Howard. We spent about an hour on that slope, where we ate lunch and enjoyed several more butterfly species, including many Milbert's Tortoiseshells, Mormon Fritillaries, Northern Blues, Juba skippers and some close encounters with Pikas. The Pikas were very sneakily scrambling amongst the rocks under and around us, and occasionally popping up for a loud "peek!" They were quick and hard to catch with a camera, but both Mike and I got some nice photos of them. The north slope was more a boulder field than a talus slope, which is the habitat type we understood to be used by American Coppers in the Wallowas. In the western US, the American Copper is a denizen of the high country, restricted to life on the high slopes of the Sierras, Rocky Mountains, and perhaps, the Wallowa Mountains. Conversely, in the eastern US, American Coppers are widespread in low elevations and in all kinds of habitats, including weedy fields and vacant lots. We saw no coppers or potential hostplants on the north slope either. We decided to finish off the afternoon by skirting the east rim of the summit and visiting some sage meadows and grassy meadows with wildflowers still in bloom. We found several more species in these areas, including many Blue Coppers and Mariposa Coppers. We'd given up on finding American Coppers for the day, and we contented ourselves with padding our species list for the day. As we walked back towards the tram for the ride down the mountain, we discussed potential next steps in our search. We agreed that we probably needed to search earlier in the season, probably in late July based on Mike and Kim's Seven Devils sighting. We speculated that global warming and drying of the summers here had shifted things, perhaps drying out populations and favoring an earlier flight period. We discussed following up on historic sightings of Mountain Sorrel in the Wallowas from the Oregon Flora Project website. As I rode down the tram (social distancing in my own tram car) I wondered if Mountain Sorrel wasn't our target plant after all. I thought about how helpful it would be if we could connect with a mountain-hiking field botanist who knew the habitats, plants and trails of the Wallowas well. If you know someone like this, please help me get in touch with them! Mike and I both felt good about finding 24 species for the day, even if we missed the main target, and we agreed to talk more about how to proceed with the search next year. With only two documented historical records, it would be somewhat of a long-shot. No one knows whether it is still hanging on in some high rocky meadow in the Wallowas. Yet, with global climate change dialing up the summer heat and drought, if we put it off, we might lower our odds of ever finding it again in Oregon.

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