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  • Western Branded Skipper | ButterfliesofOregon

    Gallery Prev Next Mtn Lakes Wilderness, Klamath Co, August 14 Western Branded Skipper Hesperia colorado Size: Up to 1.25 inch wingspan ​ Key ID features: Above, male orange with very light jagged line of orange spots, narrow dark brown edges (not toothed), bold dark stigmata on FW. Above female brown with jagged row of light orange spots, some almost white spots near wing tip, also with dark brown edges, like teeth pointing inward . Below greenish gray with disjointed white bands, sometimes small or missing, lowest patch of white on outer band not displaced inwardly. ​ Similar species: On HW below Nevada Skipper has the lowest segment of the outer white spot band strongly offset. Juba Skipper is larger, has dark jagged "teeth" on FW above. Uncas Skipper and Sandhill Skipper have prominent light veins below. ​ Host plant: Various grass species. ​ Habitat: Broad range of grass dominated habitats. ​ Range: All of eastern and southwestern Oregon. ​ Season: E arly May to late September ​ Abundance: Common Conservation Status: Secure

  • Edith's Copper | ButterfliesofOregon

    Gallery Prev Next Bristow Prairie, Lane Co, July 8 - female Edith's Copper Tharsalea editha AKA Lycaena editha Size: 1.1 - 1.25 inches wingspan ​ Key ID features: Female above gray-brown with black spots and orange "arches" along upper HW trailing margin. Male above gray, with only a few small spots along HW trailing margin. Below HW grayish brown with brown spots outlined with darker brown, and submarginal white band. Female with darker, bolder spots on VFW and bolder orange line along VHW trailing margin. ​ Similar species: Great Copper is larger, dorsal ground color often lighter, and HW spots smaller and further apart. Great Copper also often has a more noticeable tail. Tailed Copper has a prominent tail. Host plant: Dock (Rumex ) species and Knotweeds (Polygonum ). ​ Habitat: Meadows, open areas along streams, roadsides. ​ Range: Widespread in Siskiyou Mtns, Klamath Mtns, Warner Mtns, Southern Cascade Mtns, Ochoco Mtns, Blue Mtns. Wallowa Mtns. ​ Season: Mid-June to early September ​ Abundance: Common Conservation Status: Secure

  • Northern Crescent | ButterfliesofOregon

    Gallery Prev Next Izee Rd, Grant Co, June 25 - male Northern Crescent Phyciodes cocyta Size: Up to 1 inch wingspan ​ Key ID features: Small. Male above, orange with black spots, checks and borders, sometimes with large open orange area on FW with black patches at the four "corners." Female above orange and light orange bands, separated by black. HW above with submarginal band of small black dots circled with orange, often with wide orange band just above. Male HW below creamy yellow with light brown irregular lines, and bright marginal crescent below midpoint, surrounded with brown. Female HW often with darker irregular brown lines, and lighter brown patch around crescent. ​ Similar species: Female Field Crescent has light vertical bar in cell at leading edge of FW above (Northern lacks this). ​ Host plant: Aster species, likely including Cascade aster (Eucephalus ledophyllus ) and alkali aster (Symphyotrichum frondosum , in lower areas) . ​ Habitat: Wetlands, meadows, streambanks, dry grasslands. ​ Range: Snake River basin, Burnt River basin, Strawberry Mtns . ​ Season: Late April to late September ​ Abundance: Common Conservation Status: Secure

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Blog Posts (47)

  • The Lone Wanderer

    It was wicked-hot, dry, desolate, and extraordinarily beautiful in the desert near the Owyhee River in Malheur County, where I spent a couple days in late July. Jospeh Campbell would likely have imagined my trip as a hero's journey, a sojourn into the desert, a time to find some lost part of myself in that wild, inhospitable landscape, while attempting some heroic deed. That's how he looked at life, in terms of grand mythological narrative and symbolism. In my mind, my quest was a bit more pedestrian and tangible. I was looking for a rare butterfly. I owed this quest to my recently burgeoning relationship with iNaturalist.org. Since getting the iNat "bug," I'd periodically spent down-time in the summer perusing the recent photos of butterflies submitted from Oregon, with special attention to the species that aren't seen very often. During one of those perusals, as I was scanning through the many Western Tiger Swallowtails, Lorquin's Admirals and other common species, my eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw a gorgeous photo of a Reakirt's Blue! Reakirt's Blue had never been previously documented in Oregon - incredible! As soon as I saw that photo, I knew I'd be dropping whatever I'd planned for the next week, and making the journey to Birch Creek Canyon, northwest of the small town of Jordan Valley. I immediately had to rearrange my schedule and reorganize my brain. Birch Creek Canyon is a 9-hour drive from where I live in Eugene, in the south end of the Willamette Valley. Gas and drinkable water sources are scarce out there, and the heat can be intense. Complicating my travel was a nerve/tissue injury that prevented me from driving hours at a time. I'd need a good plan for everything to go smoothly. It took me almost a week to get everything organized and packed. I knew it would be a long shot for the Reakirt's Blue to still be there a week later, but I was up for the adventure either way. My plan was to break the long drive into two days of driving to spare my body the wear and tear of a mad 9-hour rocket run. On the first night I camped just east of Pine Mountain under some Ponderosa Pines bordering a large sage meadow and enjoyed a beautiful and peaceful evening. The next day I was up early. I made a quick breakfast, took a short birdwalk to get the blood moving, and then I packed up the tent and my gear and headed east on Hwy 20 towards Burns. The drive was uneventful, thankfully, and my body held out well with the driving. I arrived in the town of Jordan Valley about 2:30 pm. I pulled over, and got my phone out to plot my best route to Birch Creek Canyon. No cellphone service. None. Whatsoever. I had assumed that there would be a cell signal in Jordan Valley to help me navigate. Nope. Okay, I thought, no problem, I'll get out my Oregon gazeteer mapbook. Shit! I didn't bring it! Hmmm... Plan C... I just have to remember the details of that article I read yesterday online about Birch Creek Canyon. There was a description of how to get there... What the heck did that article say? Then I remembered that I have map apps on my phone that run directly from GPS signals and don't require a cell signal. Boom. This will be easy, I thought. I opened my digital Gazeteer, and immediately I saw a route from Hwy 95 up Ackerman Road that looked like a direct route to Birch Creek Road. Perfect. I followed the GPS-enabled map, and soon came to several diverging roads very close together, and I took the one that looked the most promising. It dead-ended at a ranch house. Okay, it must be one of the other two. Nope - those led to dead ends also. Next I tried a route up to Birch Creek Canyon from further west, via Cow Lakes Road. I drove up the road that the app showed connecting through to the north via a short jeep track. I had to drive through a long stretch with about 18" of water where Cow Creek had flooded the road. Thankfully, my Subaru performed like a champ and I happily cruised back onto dry land. Just past the creek flooding, huge roadside "hedges" of Sweet White Clover (Melilotus alba) lined the roadsides, and they were absolutely packed with Purplish Coppers. I estimated there were at least 250 of them. After stopping for some photos, I eventually got up to Cow Lakes where the mapped jeep track was nowhere to be found. I turned around. Again. It was getting to be late afternoon, and I'd hoped to set up camp before it got dark. The next route option I found in the Gazeteer was north of Jordan Valley, so I headed that way. As I drove through town I stopped and asked a couple people for directions. Both were visitors like me, and had never heard of Birch Creek. So I headed north out of town anyway and followed the map onto the Jordan Craters Road, which, like the others, looked like it should lead me to Birch Creek Canyon. When I came to a sign pointing to Birch Creek Canyon, I knew I had found my route. Finally! A road that actually goes somewhere! As I was driving west on Blowout Reservoir Road in the late afternoon sun, I saw a gray fox running parallel to me through the sage, almost keeping up with me. I smiled at him, and it seemed that he glanced over at me, before disappearing into the sage. When the sun was low in the west, I stopped not far from the junction with Birch Creek Road and set up a camp in a very small clearing next to a small side road. After a quick meal I sat down and noticed how tired I was after all that driving and navigating. As I settled into the big silence of the desert twilight and became still, I became aware of a subtle feeling that was not familiar. I was alone in the desert, far from home and friends, without cell service, a long drive from the nearest town, yet I didn't feel lonely. Instead I experienced something very different. The evening air was cooling but I had a warm feeling that was both inside me and all around me, as if I was being held by this place, this desert. It was a feeling akin to companionship and connection, but to something other than people. It was palpable, all around me. Later, as I lay in my tent relaxing toward sleep, I reflected on the loneliness that I had experienced during the COVID pandemic, when I couldn't safely connect with friends and loved ones. I noticed there were tears in my eyes as I lay silently with this presence that felt so close, so welcoming. I really can't convey in words what it was like to feel held in this warm embrace, all alone in the desert. In the morning, I woke to a beautiful clear sky. Immediately I recalled the feeling I had the night before, and I felt a warmth and an appreciation for that place in the desert. I had my usual oatmeal with Indian spices, repacked the car and headed west toward Birch Creek Canyon Road with anticipation. Could the Reakirt's Blue still be there? As I headed down into the canyon, I took in the gorgeous, blue, cloudless sky, and the rocky canyon before me. "What surprises await me down there?" I wondered. On the way down I came upon a roadside patch of gumweed that was alive with butterflies, especially whites. I immediately picked out a Becker's White, and needed to get a bit closer to ID the others. When I got closer I saw that they were Checkered Whites, and there were several of them. This is a species that I sought for years before finally finding a single male at Lost Lake in Linn County in 2022. Here in Birch Creek Canyon, I had several fresh males and females more or less in my lap. As I continued the descent into the canyon, I saw many bright yellow Queen Alexandra's Sulphurs on roadside blooms. I continued down the steep and winding gravel road into the canyon, until I came to what at first looked like a big puddle in the road. It turned out to be Birch Creek running across the road. I knew that Michael had found the Reakirts' Blue at one of these creek crossings. I pulled off the road as best I could, and loaded up with binos and cameras, hoping for the best. There were several butterflies around the wet edges of the creek and along the road, and I began to sort through them: Great Spangled Fritillary, Painted Lady, Monarch, Great Basin Woodnymph. Then I spotted a small blue. My heartbeat quickened. I got my binos on it and, sigh, it was Acmon Blue. I'd see quite of few of those in the canyon that day. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a small dark butterfly zipping lickety-split across the road. It landed on a leaf just above the water: Common Sootywing. Juba Skipper and Western Branded Skipper were around, along with Orange Sulphur, Gray Hairstreak and Anise Swallowtail. After I felt satisfied that there was no Reakirt's Blue at this creek crossing, I headed further down the road. There were two more creek crossings just down the road, a small tributary creek and a second crossing of Birch Creek. The third one is where Michael found the Reakirt's Blue. I stopped and thoroughly searched each of them. Each crossing had its own group of butterflies drawn to the wet sand. Reakirt's Blue was not among them. I wanted to be thorough in my search, so I continued further down Birch Creek Road, eventually all the way to the edge of the Owyhee River. Along the way I found a patch of a small, weedy goosefoot growing in the roadbed, where, with careful searching, I spotted 4 or 5 tiny Western Pygmy Blues. I had forgotten how tiny these guys were! Crazy small! Still carrying the contented feeling from my evening commune with the sage desert, I was completely unperturbed by my "failure" to find Reakirt's Blue. I kept looking, and spent some time poking around the old Birch Creek Ranch near the river, which was devoid of butterflies. I was a bit surprised that even where the road crossed Birch Creek again near the Owyhee, there were literally no butterflies. I decided the best strategy to further my chances of finding something interesting would be to drive back up the road and stop at all the wet spots again. I spent another hour searching along the road, especially around those three upper creek crossings. After carefully noting all the species I had already seen on my way down, I decided to head up and out of the canyon, before the temperature got hot enough to melt my tires. At the head of the canyon, I turned around and thanked Birch Creek Canyon for being there. Its a really beautiful place. I felt a kinship with it owing in part to my last name, Bjorklund, which means Birch grove in Swedish. I was heading west from Jordan Valley when I realized I still had time to make a stop along the way, and started to think about a visit to the Ana River near Summer Lake. I had hopes of getting photos of Mojave Sootwing, including some better shots of the male, and I knew this was about the right timing for their flight period. While taking a stretch stop in Burns, I got a text from my friend John, who was up on Winter Rim with his wife Laura, having a "killer day" with the butterflies up there. I suggested that we meet at the Ana River later in the day and he thought that could work. He had never seen Mojave Sootywing or Yuma Skipper, and I promised to help him find them there. Luckily we found both! The weedy patches of thistle were the hotspots, where we found both species and got good photo opportunities (though not without a lot of thistle pokes). After our success with Yuma Skipper and Mojave Sootywing along the Ana River, we decided to meet again up at the north end of the Winter Ridge road to check out the roadside patches of blooming Rabbitbrush. There we found hundreds of Great Basin Woodnymphs and Western Branded Skippers, with a good number of Hedgerow Hairstreaks, and a few Mountain Mahogany Hairstreaks and Sylvan Hairstreaks tucked in among them. When I parted with John and Laura in the late afternoon, we went in opposite directions: they were headed up Winter Rim to continue exploring the butterflies, and I was headed back to the Willamette Valley. A couple days earlier, on my drive towards Malheur County, I had imagined the thrill of being the second person to find Reakirt's Blue in Oregon. Now, on the drive home, I reflected on receiving a gift that was even more meaningful. That feeling of connection that I experienced in the sage flats near Birch Creek Canyon was unlike anything I'd felt before. I might not have that experience again, but I now feel a connection to that place that will likely call me back again. I don't know why it happened, and I like it that way. Joseph Campbell might have smiled had he listened in to these thoughts as I flew up Hwy 31 towards home. Bless the mystery. Here is the species list from Birch Creek Canyon in Malheur County: And the species list from the Ana River and Winter Rim in Lake County:

  • A Very Little Big Deal

    Last summer, I wrote about a visit I made to the pumice desert east of Crater Lake, to check up on our population of Leona's Little Blue, the tiny blue that is Oregon's only endemic butterfly species. It was a brief visit, and I left the site with more concerns than hopes, and more questions than answers. In my blogpost, I shared some of these concerns and questions about this tiny, relatively unknown blue. What followed over the next 9 months was just what I'd hoped for. My piece on Leona's Little Blue was based on a single afternoon site visit and with virtually no contact with others who might know more about the status of this tiny blue and its unique habitat. I knew I was thinking in a vacuum, but I wasn't sure who had their finger on the pulse of Leona and her range-limited population. That blog post helped connect me with just the people I needed to learn from. One of the first connections came via an email from Dr. David James, a Monarch expert from Washington State University, who had done repeated transect surveys for Leona over several years. He shared his view that the tree removal, which may have looked damaging while it was happening, actually was probably enhancing the habitat for Leona by creating more suitable open, meadow habitat for its larval hostplant, Spurry Buckwheat (Eriogonum spergulinum). Ecologically, that made a lot of sense to me, but I hadn't considered it when I saw what looked like habitat devastation from tree removal in the field in 2022. That contact led me to OSU Entomologist Dana Ross, who I'd known for years, but didn't realize had done many of the early surveys when Leona's Little Blue was proposed for listing under the Federal Endangered Species Act in 2010. Dana, in turn knew Debbie Johnson who had gathered and mapped important data about the landscape of Leona and its unique characteristics. Debbie introduced us to Alta Harris, a biologist for the Klamath Tribes, whose ancestors had stewarded this land for thousands of years. We learned that in 1954 the Klamath Termination Act was passed by the US Congress, which took 1.8 million acres of land from the Tribe through condemnation, including the lands where Leona resides. As each person helped connect me and the growing group to additional concerned scientists, academics, agency staff, butterfly watchers, and land managers, the group expanded and we all learned more. The group, now known as the Leona Working Group met four times in 2022-2023, sharing information, and thoughts on how to go about providing on-going stewardship for this rare butterfly and its habitat. How rare is Leona's Little Blue? It may just be the most range-restricted butterfly on the planet, according to Dr. James. The entire known range of the butterfly comprises just 15 square miles. And remember this is not a subspecies--this is the range for the entire species. It is found nowhere else on the planet. Over our series of four online meetings, the group decided that a meeting in the field, within the Leona's Little Blue habitat, would be a good next step. We hoped to bring in folks from additional agencies and non-profits as well as representatives from the company that owned most of the land, to help them learn more about our rare and endemic blue. We also hoped to entice the Oregon Field Guide staff from Oregon Public Broadcasting to film the meeting, the butterfly and the habitat for a program highlighting the rarity and unprotected status of the Leona's Little Blue (they expressed interest, but weren't able to schedule filming this year--we are hoping for next year). The field meeting took place on July 6, 2023. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day in the pumice desert. We met adjacent to Sand Creek, which flows through the pumice deposits that blew out of an exploding Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago. About a mile away was an area of recent tree removal, where felled trees were stacked among the clearings. Looking to the east, Mount Scott towered above the high desert pumice flats, with bright yellow Sulphur Flower Buckwheat in the foreground. A mile to the east, Hwy 97 roared with its constant flow of trucks and cars. Fifteen people drove from one to several hours from various parts of the Northwest to attend the meeting. Seven members of the Leona Working Group made it: Sue Anderson (Oregon Chapter of NABA), Neil Björklund (ButterfliesofOregon.com), Amanda Egertson (Deschutes Land Trust), Alta Harris (Klamath Tribes), David James (WSU), Debbie Johnson (Applegate Forestry), and Dana Ross (OSU). Our guests included: Chris Johnson (Shanda Corp.), Aidan Myers (Shanda Corp.), Sarah Ratay (The Nature Conservancy), Cory Galván (USFWS), Tom Valente (ODA), Eric Osbourne (ODOT), Lori Humphreys (Oregon Chapter of NABA), and Alex Corsten (interested butterfly enthusiast). The meeting started off with introductions all around, and we warmly welcomed Chris Johnson and Aidan Meyers from Shanda Corporation, the company that owns the majority of Leona's known range. Dr. James then gave the group an overview, including the discovery of the Leona's Little Blue by the late Harold Rice, the proposal for listing of the butterfly under the Endangered Species Act in 2010 and the Federal rejection of that listing petition in 2015. He and Dana Ross then shared the results of early surveys as well as recent surveys showing the apparent rise and fall of the population from year to year. Debbie Johnson then gave us the big picture of the geology and geomorphology of the areas, describing the alluvial fan through the pumice that comprises the range of Leona. We discussed one of the great mysteries of Leona's Little Blue: Why does it occupy only a portion of the pumice desert where Spurry Buckwheat grows? Why hasn't it expanded into adjacent areas that appear to have essentially the same habitat character as where it does live? We don't know. Several people have noted that in the area where Leona lives, the pumice soil has tiny specks that sparkle in the sun, an apparent metalic component to these pumice soils. Could the soil "sparkles" have a role? Again, we don't know. Chris Johnson, Land Manager for Shanda Corp., joined us in the discussions with questions and observations. He reiterated what he had shared with me over the phone--Shanda Corporation's land managers were interested in Leona's Little Blue and wanted to learn about it. Chris was happy to hear that the tree removal they'd done to address a Pine Saw Fly infestation appeared to have been beneficial to the butterfly and the buckwheat it depends on. Indeed, when we later visited an area of recent tree removal conducted by Shanda Corp., we found thicker patches of Spurry Buckwheat, and greater numbers of Leona's Little Blue than we'd seen in nearby undisturbed areas. After the presentations we spent an hour meandering through the meadows looking for butterflies, especially, of course, Leona's Little Blue (LLB for short). Occasional cries of success popcorned across the site, and many photos of LLB were taken. Dr. James had netted a Leona's blue and had placed it in a viewing jar, enabling us to literally get nose to proboscis with Leona. People repeatedly marveled at how very small it is. Eventually, sun, heat and hunger drove us back to the shade near Sand Creek for lunch and more discussion. We talked about what we felt was next in our quest for long-term stewardship of Leona's Little Blue and the sparkly pumice desert she lives in. To start, we began to name many of the questions that we didn't have scientific answers for: What was limiting Leona to these 15 square miles? What part, if any, did the metallic sparkles play? How far can and does Leona fly from where it leaves its chrysalis? How fire resilient is Leona--would a large intense fire during the flight season spell doom? What land managment practices would be beneficial for Leona and Spurry Buckwheat? What land management practices would be detrimental? These as-yet unanswered questions led us to a discussion of near-term funding needs--funding for research. How could we successfully steward these species and their habitat with so many unanswered questions? Yes, we concluded, we will need research funds. The Leona's Working Group members agreed to talk about research needs and the needed funding at our next meeting in the fall. The conversation then turned to considerations about long-term ownership options for the land. What long-term ownership arrangement would best serve long-term stewardship of Leona's Little Blue and Spurry Buckwheat? Would Shanda Corp. be willing to sell an easement or fee title? Could a conservation easement be effective? Could the land be returned to its original owners, the Klamath Tribes for long-term stewardship? Is there a win-win kind of outcome for all these interests? Interestingly, there was very little conversation about another ESA listing petition. My decades of work on the West Eugene Wetlands Management Plan taught me the value and importance of land acquisition that yields direct opportunities to manage the habitat for conservation, which policies and laws can't ensure. Thinking back over the past year, I can say we've made some definite progress. There is now an on-going collaboration of people , organizations and agencies that didn't exist a year ago. We've begun to compile and organize the studies, maps, and other data about Leona's Blue into a shared collection. We've begun to identify key research questions, and have some leads on funding. Its a start. And clearly there is a lot more work to do. More people and organizations need to be involved, and many more need to be educated about Leona's Little Blue and her relationship to this landscape. We've made progress in educating some key people, organizations and agencies, but Leona's Blue is still a relative unknown in Oregon let alone elsewhere in the Northwest or the United States as a whole. We'll definitely be courting folks from Oregon Field Guide and other print and broadcast media to help us spread the word. It's a long haul project for a long-term outcome with many variables, and many unknowns. For now we must keep talking, keep coordinating, keep organizing, keep learning and continue educating Oregonians and those around us in the Northwest about this tiny, indigenous, endemic jewel of a butterfly. I hope you will find a way to join us in this effort, this reconnecting of people and land and plants and animals and insects. We need all the help we can get, and so do they. List of species seen during our meeting and site visit (some scientific names may be out of date):

  • The Great Butterfly Scrounge

    Maybe I could blame it on iNaturalist. Well, maybe a little on my friend John, too. Although John and I are probably about even, since I helped get him hooked on butterflies, and he helped me get hooked on iNaturalist. If you've been wondering why I haven't been posting blogs for the past 5 months, its basically because I haven't been home enough to write them! You see, posting my butterfly photos to iNaturalist allowed me to easily see all the species of butterflies that I'd photographed in Lane County. And from there, one thing led to another, and pretty soon I was realizing which ones I hadn't photographed. I've been busy the last several springs and summers, trying to photograph the species I'd never seen or photographed anywhere in Oregon, and since those species have primarily been in the NE, SE, and SW corners of the "Big Gameboard" (AKA, Oregon), I hadn't spent that much time in my home county of Lane. So there I was, on a dull and dreary February day, sitting at home and dreaming butterfly dreams, longing for the sunny days of spring and summer. With nothing else to salve the pain of prolonged cabin fever, I sat down and made a list of all those Lane County butterfly species I hadn't photographed in the county, and started researching and mapping out the places I thought I had a decent chance of finding them. My list included 14 species that I felt I had a reasonable chance of finding in Lane County, and another 9 species that I am pretty sure don't occur regularly in the county. My goal was to photograph as many of those 14 regular species as I could in 2023. I get to make up the rules of the game, and that seemed like a fun challenge, with at least some chance of succeeding. Soon after I'd made the list, it seemed to take on a life of its own, as though it was quietly whispering to me, inside my own brain. List: "Typical human. You always think its all about you." Me: "Huh? Is my list actually talking to me? List: "Yes, I am talking to you, and you better get in gear. If you're going to get photos of all 14 of my species this year, you're going to have to focus." Me: "Oh my, I really have spent way too many days indoors this month. I've got to get out of this house." List: "uhhh-huhhh." Me: "You're going to let me be in charge of this, right?" List: "Oh, no. No-no-no. Don't be silly." Me: "Uh-oh. Have I created a monster?" List: (pregnant silence). On March 19, just a couple weeks after the birth of Mr. List, on the first day I'd seen any part of the sun for a while, I packed up my butterfly gear and headed out towards Lowell, Oregon to look for butterflies. It was barely 65°F, and there were thin clouds dialing down the strength of the sun. The level of pent up desire in my body and mind to be galavanting through summer fields of butterflies, was way out of proportion to the actual conditions out there in the physical world. The desire was winning, and Mr. List was taking full advantage of that. You might think it a bit ironic that Mr. List didn't actually contain any species that would be flying in March. In fact, he didn't even have any species that one could expect to be flying in April. Yet there I was, in mid-March, all cranked up to get going on this. Perhaps I fooled myself into going out with the idea that I would be honing my craft of butterfly photography, and preparing for the spring season to come. I don't know, that day is a little hazy to me now. My first day of butterflying, on that cool, almost sunny March day, yielded a whopping 2 species: California Tortoiseshell and Mourning Cloak. This would be the start of what I came to call the Great Butterfly Scrounge. March and April were exemplary in their scrounginess. At the beginning finding butterflies was like trying to wring precious drops of water out of a sweaty t-shirt when you're really thirsty and have no other water source. But then something unexpected happened, and those dark clouds of scroungiosity seemed about to part... On April 26, I went birding up on Skinner Butte, a good spring migrant bird spot. There had been a sighting of a locally rare Red-naped Sapsucker, and the news brought many birders out. We were all standing out in the summit meadow, peering up into the top of a California Black Oak tree where the sapsucker had been seen, when somebody finally looked down, and blurted out, "oh look, a swallowtail!" How could I be so lucky? It was an Anise Swallowtail -- a target species for Mr. List! Not only was it there, in April, but it actually landed close enough to me that I could get a photo! This is what I call a "bird bonus butterfly." How you like me now Mr. List?! With that serendipitous success, next up on Mr. List was Common Roadside Skipper, normally an early May flyer, and a tough one to find because its so dang small and fast. With the cold wet spring we'd had, I didn't really know when they would start flying this year. Some butterfly folk were saying that butterfly emergence in the NW seemed to be delayed by up to three weeks. Crack-a-doodle! What to do? My best guess was that I'd have to start looking at the typical first flight date, and just keep scrounging until I found it, going out about every 7-10 days, and that hope my timing and its timing would coincide at some point. The Great Scrounge continued through a couple of unsuccessful skipper searches. Then, on May 12, my friend Forest and I undertook our second annual Willamette Valley Little Big Day, where we try to find 100 species of birds on the Willamette Valley floor in one day (we've made it both years). We were just finishing up our tour through the lovely and birdy Fern Ridge Natural Area, when I noticed a white butterfly flying in the meadow near us. I got my bins on it and I excitedly exclaimed "Cabbage White!" And promptly walked briskly over to it. Forest just stared at me with this quizzical look on his face--isn't that about the most common buttterfly ever, he asked? I admitted it was, but it was one of Mr. List's target species, and it was perched picturesquely on a Camas Lily! Who would ever think of trying to find a Cabbage White and photograph it? Obviously, I never had before. Bird bonus butterfly #2! Okay, that was fun, but now it was back to the "dastardly darter," the Common Roadside Skipper. After a couple more scandalously scroungy skipper whiffs, I decided to take a break from that species and go after another May species, the Western Pine Elfin. I'd seen them before in May among the coastal pines in and around the dunes, so I made my way out there on a sunny and gorgeous May 20. Upon arrival in late morning, I expectantly stepped out of my car, grabbed my camera, walked all of 20 feet, and boom!, I had the photo within 10 minutes. Mr. List was giddy. I was momentarily at a loss for what to do next--that was too easy! Thankfully hunger showed up with a pretty clear plan, so I ate lunch and took a lovely walk among the pines. As I was getting back in the car and intending to head home, I somehow let Mr. List convince me to not head home, but instead to undertake a scouting run into the coast range near Mapleton to find the site of an iNat sighting of Bramble Hairstreak (AKA Lotus Hairstreak) from the year before. The Brambles wouldn't be flying for another two to three weeks, so what exactly were we doing? The word "boondoggle" was lurking about in the back of my brain, aching to jump into action. I drove up and down those narrow, bumpy little winding gravel roads over those deeply forested ridges for seemingly EVER. There was no Bramble Hairstreak habitat up there. It was all shady forest. "BOONDOGGLE!" leapt out of that dark corner of my brain, like a cat on a toy mouse. Boon. Doggle. Mr. List wouldn't let me ruminate on The Boondoggle. After all, there were other species to find and photograph. Chop! Chop! I got that Pine Elfin photo on my 16th butterfly outing of the spring, and it would take five more outings to finally capture an image of the cunningly evasive little Common Roadside Skipper! This stretch is where the scurrilous scrounging really got a head of steam. I repeatedly went to the same spot in the HJ Andrews Forest, where Dana Ross had found this bug years before, since I didn't have any other past sightings to follow. On these visits, I dutifully photographed many of the species I saw and posted them to iNaturalist, but Mr. List was beating on me, and iNat-ing alone just wasn't getting him off my back. I kept at it until early June with no luck, and then while looking for another species... In the least likely habitat I could imagine, at the foot of a warm, south facing seepy cliff high up on a ridge, there he was. A dark blur with a flair for landing only for a second, before shooting away again. Being a savvy butterflier, I employed my old favorite "stake-out" tactic, and sat down very still next to a perch that he seemed to favor. And waited. It took almost 10 minutes, and then, there he was, right where I'd hoped he would land. Bingo, bango, bongo! Only minutes later, and just a bit down the road, I also scored some nice photos of the species I had gone up there to find, and, yes, it was a Mr. List target, the Bramble Hairstreak. A two-fer with a freebie! Dare I declare the Great Butterfly Scrounge to be finally over? Feeling very much on a roll, the next day I went out into the West Eugene Wetlands area, where I'd spent years working on a wetland management and conservation plan, years before. I was looking for Fender's Blues (not one of Mr. List's targets), and another target that I really couldn't believe I'd never photographed in Lane County: the Common Ringlet. Common as dirt in late summer, but with a subtle beauty that their commonness often prevents us from seeing, they are not often willing posers. With Mr. List egging me on, I persistently followed one ringlet after another out in the fields near Willow Creek for a good 40 minutes. The habitat there is a grassy meadow and everytime I could get near a Ringlet, there were about 50 blades of grass in the way. Me: "Do I really need to photograph this incredibly common species?" Mr List: "Yes, keep going!" A few minutes later, I dutifully added another of Mr. List's target species. Around that time, I went to Mann Creek in southern Linn County with my friend John, and was very surprised to find a Northern Cloudywing there. I'd never seen one there or anywhere else on the west side of the Cascade Crest in decades of butterflying. It wasn't even on my radar. And Mr. List didn't have it either. That changed about 1.2 seconds after seeing the Mann Creek cloudywing. "If it's here, then it's probably in Lane County, too!" New maps were studied, iNat records were scoured, and new trips were added to the schedule. Next thing I knew John and I were off on a hunch, a whim and some guesswork to find a Northern Cloudywing in Lane County. Who would've thought we'd have it at the very first site I'd identified? Are you kidding me? After never seeing one in Lane County over 30 years, I proceeded to see a total of 4 Northern Cloudywing at four different sites in Lane County this year. At this point, I noticed a part of me getting a little cocky, now almost assuming I'd get my targets every time out. "Hah!" said another part of me. Pacuvius Duskywing was up next, a species I'd frequently seen in Deschutes County, but never in Lane. After four failed Pacuvius outings, I was ready to just throw in the towel. The next trip out was not for Pacuvius, so, naturally, that's when I finally find a Pacuvius Duskywing, along Rd 23 south of Hills Creek Reservoir. It was basically hanging out in the vegetation in a wet roadside ditch. There it was--nothing to do but photograph it! Cha-ching! About 10 days later, with duskywing and cloudywing successes leaving Mr. List overflowing with fervor, I invited John to go on a Monarch hunt with me, venturing deep into the western Cascades where the purple milkweed grows. Earlier in June I had already checked every milkweed patch I knew of in the Eugene-Springfield area, and had seen just one Monarch. It took one look at me and my camera and flew all the way to Canada. Okay, it actually just flew out of sight, heading north, but it was probably singing Joni Mitchell's song "A Case of You" to itself as it disappeared. John and I had a fine afternoon exploring the steep meadows of Grassy Glade, its beautiful and unusual purple milkweed and many lovely butterflies not named Monarch. Me: "We tried." Mr List: "You'll be trying again next year." Mr List's next priority was a species that I had tried to find in Lane County several times in recent years to no avail, the Sierra Nevada Blue. My friend Lori Humphries had found it in Lane County, in an obscure wet meadow near the Douglas County line, inspired by Tanya Harvey's discovery of the same species just over the line in Douglas. If you haven't seen Tanya's website westerncascades.org, please check it out. There's a ton of information there about many beautiful sites with interesting flowers and butterflies. Tanya is an intrepid plant explorer, and she really knows every nook and cranny of the Cascades from her many years of dedicated searching. She's also not afraid to crawl down a very steep, crumbly, rocky meadow (that made me turn back) just to see what's down there. That 's why she's found all these amazing sites and I haven't. Kudos and gratitude to Tanya! So, it was Tanya as my guide that I was able to find the hidden meadows where this lovely blue is found. [Note: These meadows are small and very fragile, so I'm not sharing the locations here to minimize human impacts.] On the way to one of the Sierra Nevada Blue meadows, Tanya guided me on an adventurous ramble through the forest via a barely discernible path, to a large rocky meadow where we saw Glaucon Blue, Sheridan's Hairstreak and many other species. We saw a couple of whites there from a distance and I assumed they were Western Whites, but from afar something seemed a little off about their flight pattern. Later in the afternoon Tanya led me to another lovely spot she calls Lewisia Point, named after the wildflower Lewisia triphylla. As we were on the way there, we saw a couple of whites whiz by, and again I thought they were probably Western Whites, although again something about them seemed a little off. When we finally got close to one, I essentially yelled "oh my god, those are Spring Whites!" This is a species that I went all the way to Josephine County to find last year, and here it was right in my back yard! Mr. List was levitating with joy. I joined him there. After photographing 11 species over 37 site visits in Lane County that I hadn't photographed in the county before, Mr. List was pretty pumped up. So he had me out again in late July and early August looking for Small Woodnymph, which is easy to find in Linn County, but not so much in Lane. I got skunked in two tries and I already knew what Mr. List was going to say: "You'll be trying again next year." He really wanted to keep this going, but there weren't going to be any of his targets flying for another 5 - 6 weeks. Luckily, there were other enticing butterfly chases and activities in other counties that helped him survive the drought in late July and August. You'll be seeing some of those stories soon. Fast forward now to early August, when the endangered Oregon Silverspot flies out on the Oregon coast in a few isolated sites, including a couple in Lane County. Recently I'd been talking with Dr. Cheryl Schulz, Professor in Conservation Biology at WSU, about various butterfly species and conversation efforts, and she mentioned that she is working with a team of researchers and restoration specialists to support the Oregon Silverspots. When I told her I was planning to go out there to photograph them this summer, she said something like, "oh, good luck with that--those Lane County populations are really small!" I didn't mention that Mr. List was not giving me the option of not trying. So on August 11, on my 55th Lane County site visit of the year, I went out in search of some Silverspots. I searched the entirety of two sites, and found exactly 1 Silverspot, and thankfully, it landed near me to get out of the unceasing strong north wind, giving me Mr. List's target species #12. Me: "Phew! Can we take a break now?" Mr. List: "Okay, but there's one more for September and I'll be coming for you!" For all the frustrating early season scrounging, and gnashing of teeth with misses, in the end, I've made peace with Mr. List. I can even honestly thank Mr. List--for pushing me out the door again and again, getting me out into many canyons and corners of Lane County that I hadn't been in, or at times of year I hadn't been in them. I got to know Lane County's butterflies and their sites better than ever. It was a big push, but without Mr. List poking me in the butt over and over, I probably wouldn't done all of it. So to Mr. List and his benevolent overlord, iNaturalist.org, I am thankful for you, and what you've helped me learn. Note to self: think hard before making future butterfly target lists. Over those 55 site visits in Lane County, I saw a total of 81 species and photographed 78 of them. Here's that list of species seen: You can see many of my Lane County butterfly photos from this year on iNaturalist.org by following this link.

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