212 items found for ""
- Echo Azure | ButterfliesofOregon
Gallery Prev Next Meltolius River, Deschutes County, May 25 Asher's Blue Celastrina asheri Size: 0.9 - 1.1 inches wingspan Key ID features: This a recently described species (2021). Male hazy blue above, with no black markings. Female dusky-blue, often extensively darkened above. Dorsal wing fringes may be somewhat or heavily darkened. Below, dusky-gray, with extremely variable black and gray markings. Discal hindwing spots are swollen and elongated compared to Echo Azure, and all discal hindwing spots may be expanded and or fused with each other. Similar species: Distinguished from Echo Azure by its smaller size, shorter and more rounded wings, with the ventral ground color being dusky to gray, discal spots larger than in C. echo, and often with darker gray patches of various shapes and sizes. Host plants: r ed osier dogwood and possibly oceanspray . Habitat: Shrubby habitats and riparian areas. Range: Has been documented in Baker, Clackamas, Crook, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jefferson, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, and Wasco counties. Further field study is needed to better understand the distribution in Oregon. Season: Late March to late July, peaking in early May at lower elevations, and in early June at higher elevations Abundance: Can be locally common near host plant. Conservation Status: Secure
- Coppers-Hairstreaks-Blues | Butterflies of Oregon
Coppers, Hairstreaks & Blues Click photo for more details American Copper Lycaena phlaeas Gorgon Copper Tharsalea gorgon Mariposa Copper Tharsalea mariposa Behr's Hairstreak Satyrium behrii Mountain Mahogany Hairstreak Satyrium tetra Cedar Hairstreak Callophrys gryneus Hoary Elfin Callophrys polios Arrowhead Blue Glaucopsyche piasus Pacific Dotted Blue Euphilotes enoptes Eastern Tailed Blue Cupido comyntas Acmon Blue Icaricia acmon Sierra Nevada Blue Agriades podarce Lustrous Copper Lycaena cupreus Ruddy Copper Tharsalea rubidus Golden Hairstreak Habrodais grunus California Hairstreak Satyrium californica Hedgerow Hairstreak Satyrium saepium Thicket Hairstreak Callophrys spinetorum Western Pine Elfin Callophrys eryphon Silvery Blue Glaucopsyche lygdamus Columbian Blue Euphilotes columbiae Western Tailed Blue Cupido amyntula Lupine Blue Icaricia lupini Mormon Metalmark Apodemia mormo Tailed Copper Tharsalea arota Blue Copper Tharsalea heteronea Great Purple Hairstreak Atlides halesus Sylvan Hairstreak Satyrium sylvinus Western Green Hairstreak Callophrys affinis Johnson's Hairstreak Callophrys johnsoni Gray Hairstreak Strymon melinus Summit Blue Euphilotes glaucon Ancilla Blue Euphilotes ancilla Greenish Blue Icaricia saepiolus Northern Blue Plebejus idas Edith's Copper Tharsalea editha Purplish Copper Tharsalea helloides Sooty Hairstreak Satyrium fuliginosa Coral Hairstreak Satyrium titus Bramble Hairstreak Callophrys dumetorum Brown Elfin Callophrys augustinus Echo Azure Celastrina echo Cascadia Blue Euphilotes heracleoides Leona's Blue Philotiella leona Boisduval's Blue Icaricia icarioides Anna's Blue Plebejus anna Great Copper Tharsalea xanthoides Lilac-bordered Copper Tharsalea nivalis Half-moon Hairstreak Satyrium semiluna Gold-hunter's Hairstreak Satyrium auretorum Sheridan's Hairstreak Callophrys sheridanii Moss's Elfin Callophrys mossii Asher's Blue Celastrina asheri Bauer's Blue Euphilotes baueri Western Pygmy Blue Brephidium exilis Shasta Blue Icaricia shasta Melissa's Blue Plebejus melissa
- West Coast Lady | ButterfliesofOregon
Gallery Prev Next Arlie Park, Lane Co, April 29 West Coast Lady Vanessa annabella Size: Up to 2 inch wingspan Key ID features: Smaller than other ladies. Above bright orange with black FW tips with a thick vertical orange bar at the leading edge and a few small white spots near the wing tip. HW above orange with submarginal row of black spots with blue centers. Below, HW brown with submarginal row of four small eye spots, and web of white lines and white patches. FW below has bright salmon orange crossed by black in lower 2/3, upper 1/3 similar to HW. Similar species: American Lady has two large eye spots below. Painted Lady is larger, has white bar at leading edge of FW above instead of orange. Hostplant: Many species in the mallow family including streambank globe-mallow, checkermallow and others . Habitat: Flowery meadows, roadsides, and gardens. Range: Throughout Oregon except in Malheur County . Season: E arly March to mid-November. Abundance: Uncommon Conservation Status: Secure
- A Boy and His Butterfly
Earlier this spring, I learned in an unexpected way about an obscure disease called 4H Leukodystrophy. It is an inherited genetic disorder that disrupts the body's ability to create the protective sheaths that normally surround nerve cells in our brain and spinal cord. Without these protective sheaths, the nervous system doesn't function normally and many profound physical, mental and developmental difficulties arise. No cure for the disease is known. You may be wondering why I'm writing about a little-known human genetic disorder in a blog about Oregon's butterflies. Stay with me! It turns out that these topics are very much connected. But first, I need to lay some groundwork by sharing a little about a group of blue butterflies in the Pacific Northwest that has long puzzled experts. The blues in question are in the genus Celastrina, which we commonly call Azures, and this genus includes our common and widespread Echo Azure (Celastrina echo). We used to call it the Spring Azure, until the species was taxonomically split in two, giving us westerners the Echo Azure and leaving the Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) to the east side of the continent. The Echo Azure has a very light ground color underneath, and all the dark gray markings are relatively small and tidy. You'll see shortly why those identification details are important. Over the past 20 years, lepidopterists in the Northwest have puzzled over what appeared to be a highly variable form of Azure that some considered to be a sub-species of the Echo Azure. They've been found in British Columbia and in Washington and Oregon and are a duskier gray ground color below, and while the typical Azure markings are present, they are larger and darker, and often augmented by large, dark irregular gray or black patches. It has often been found flying with Echo Azure, but often in smaller numbers. In 2001 to 2003, Andy Warren studied populations of this "form" across nine Oregon counties, mostly east of the Cascade Crest. He pondered the possibility that it represented an as-yet-undescribed species and tentatively referred to it as Celastrina nigrescens. A third Celastrina also occurs in BC and Montana, called the Lucia Azure (Celastrina lucia), which bears some resemblance to this highly variable "form" that lepidopterists were finding throughout the Northwest. Some populations of Celastrina in the state of Washington were thought to be the Lucia Azure, which added to the complexity of the Celastrina picture in the region. Over the past several years, the identity of these dusky, variable Celastrina blues confused and intrigued lepidopterists in Washington and surrounding regions, leading to an effort to shed more light on just what they are. All of the puzzle pieces finally came together in the last two years, resulting in the conclusion that this highly variable "form" is indeed a new species. Thanks to the work of Caitlin LaBar, Jon Pelham, Norbert Kondla, their colleagues and their army of citizen scientists, we now have answers to that Celastrina puzzle. At the end of April 2022, Caitlin, Jon and Norbert (from Alberta) released the official paper describing the new species. The paper clarified that the new species occurs in both Oregon and Washington, as well as in southern British Columbia and the Rockies in Idaho, Montana and SW Alberta, and that the Lucia Azure (Celastrina lucia) does not occur in Oregon or Washington. In the "Etymology" section of the paper, the author's explained the name they had chosen for the new species: Asher's Blue (Celastrina asheri). As I read who Asher was and why they named the butterfly after him, I got a bit teary-eyed. I felt proud of my colleagues for their choice of names. Asher is an 8-year-old boy, who has 4H Leuko- dystrophy. From my reading about the disease, I know it is a profoundly difficult disease for him and his family, which is why this quote from the species description paper was so moving: "His perseverance and kind heart inspire everyone around him, bringing rays of sunshine into the daily struggle of living with a disease that has no cure. Asher loves blue, which is also the representative color of Leukodystrophy, and he loves spending time outdoors, especially in the mountains. In naming this butterfly Celastrina asheri, Asher’s Blue, it is our wish to bring joy to Asher and his family and help promote awareness of this disease with the hope that one day a cure will be found." I warmly congratulate Caitlin, Norbert and Jon on their excellent taxonomic study, sleuthing work, survey organizing, data management, and especially for their good-hearted naming choice. When I received the email from Caitlin announcing the formal species designation, I was immediately seized with a strong urge go find and photograph Asher's Blue as soon as the droughtiest-turned-rainiest spring weather would allow. I said aloud to the empty room: "Asher, I'm going to find your blue!" The opportunity came the week before Memorial Day with a favorable weather forecast, and I headed towards central Oregon to see what I could see. I had read in Andy Warren's book (Butterflies of Oregon, Their Taxonomy, Distribution and Biology), that he had found them in May 2003 along the Metolius River and along creeks in the western Ochoco Mountains. I immediately went to my own records to see when my past visits to the Metolius and to the Ochocos had occurred. Somehow, I had managed to go to these areas only before or after, but never during, the flight period of Asher's Blue. So this butterfly had been almost in my backyard (2 hours away), yet I had never seen it! With Andy's excellent documentation of where and when he'd found this butterfly, this was one of the easiest species to add to my website. I went straight to the Metolius River, which was already one of my favorite sites. I pulled into the little parking area next to the bridge, grabbed my camera and binoculars, and walked not more than 50 yards along the river trail, when I spied a puddle club of blues. Through my binos, I could see they were mostly Echo Azures, but within seconds, I spotted one Asher's Blue in the group! What I didn't realized at that moment was that over my three days on the Metolius virtually every puddle club of blues would have just one or two Asher's Blues, and nearly all the rest would be Echo Azures. It was curious how consistent that pattern was. When I re-read Warren's account of his visit there in 2003, he had seen the same pattern in the puddle clubs. After getting some satisfactory photos of puddling Asher's Blues along the river that first day, I decided to head east into the Ochoco Mountains to search there, where Andy had also found them in 2003. For years, I have been constantly following the footsteps of Andy Warren, and this trip was no exception! That same afternoon, I headed east, planning to camp in the Ochocos overnight and search along several streams the following day. After an hour searching for a suitable camp site, I settled in for the night to the sound of gobbling wild turkeys and tooting northern pygmy owls and wondered what kind of weather I would have in the morning. In the morning, luckily, there was just enough sun to get temps up to the low 60's, which I hoped would be adequate for Celastrina blues. I devoured up my bowl of sweet potato oatmeal, and packed up for a day of stream walks. As I drove the side roads in the western Ochocos towards my first search site, I soon saw that almost no butterflies were flying at mid-morning, not even cold- tolerant Azures. Not what I'd hoped for. I stayed the course, however, and visited six different streams over several hours, and found a whopping total of three butterflies: 2 Mourning Cloaks and 1 California Tortoiseshell. Definitely not what I'd hoped for! After a couple moments of pondering, it began to make sense that the higher elevation of these streams combined with the cold wet weather in preceding weeks had delayed butterfly emergence far behind what Warren had seen in 2003, and behind what I'd just seen on the Metolius. My hypothesis was supported by the delayed development of native shrubs and wildflowers in the areas. They appeared to be just barely beginning to wake up from their winter slumbers. I guessed it might be a couple weeks before spring really arrived up there. As the morning progressed, the cloud cover in the Ochocos deepened, and the temperature dropped slightly. I gazed longingly to the west, where glorious blue skies appeared to be over the Metolius River. My first thought was "I should be over there!" My second thought was "do I really want to chase that sucker hole?" I had learned the term "sucker hole" for ephemeral patches of blue in a cloudy sky that weren't where I was. Oh so great is the temptation to make a mad dash to get in that lovely sunny spot that must be "just over there." My experience told me that those chase-inducing patches of blue, more often than not, are gone by the time I get there or not where they appeared to be. Sucker hole or not, I decided my chances were better at lower elevation and closer to the Cascade Crest, where the drought-driving rain shadow might work to my (short term) benefit. This time it worked! I arrived on the Metolius in a little more than an hour, greeted by sun, very thin clouds and temperatures in the upper 70's. There I met a friendly local fisherman named Gary, and after a necessarily one-sided chat about the challenges of fly-fishing for trout on the Metolius, he asked what I was up to. He seemed genuinely interested in my search for this new butterfly species, and he told me about a couple spots along the river where he had recently seen a lot of blues. I was impressed that he'd noticed the butterflies at all, let alone remembered where he'd seen blues in particular. It was about 3 pm when I set out to search along the east bank of the river, where the afternoon sun had warmed everything nicely. It was an enjoyable river-side ramble as I continued to find an Asher's Blue here and there, while new species were showing up in the warmth of the afternoon. I had Pacuvius Duskywing, Dreamy Duskywing and Persius Duskywing in quick succession, followed by Juniper/Cedar Hairstreak, Brown Elfin, Western Pine Elfin and Hoary Comma. I always get a charge out of seeing a diversity of species, so this elevated my spirits even more. Gary had told me about a spot further down the river that he called "the swamp." His moniker made it sound like a large area, but upon my arrival, it turned out to be only about 20 feet by 20 feet, situated between the trail and the river. However, the small size didn't discourage the many butterflies congregating there, where boggy ground and wet, decaying dead grass attracted Duskywings, Two-banded Checkered Skippers, Silvery Blues, Echo Azures, Asher's Blues, Pale Swallowtails and California Tortoiseshells. I was so enjoying the butterflies, the pleasant weather and the relative low numbers of people, that I decided to stay another night, and make a third search the next day if the weather was favorable. The next morning at 6 am when I poked my head out of my tent, I couldn't help but smile--the skies were almost completely clear. I felt happy and optimistic as I made breakfast and listened to the Cassin's Vireos, Chipping Sparrows and Western Tanagers singing in the conifers around my camp site. I allowed myself a slow morning while I waited for the day (and the butterfly action) to warm up. When an Echo Azure flew through my campsite, I decided it was time to head down to the river's edge. This time I searched the west bank of the river since I now had morning sun from the east. There were larger puddle groups of Azures now, and while there were still only one or two Asher's Blues in each group, the numbers of Echo Azures swelled, and a few Silvery Blues joined the party. I continued photographing mostly Asher's Blues, and counted butterflies as I walked. I added Northern Cloudywing, Green Comma, Juba Skipper, and Mylitta Crescent to an already nice list of species. Warren's book and the species description paper described Asher's Blue as having highly variable ventral markings, and my experience on the Metolius bore that out. The four Asher's Blues presented here fairly illustrate the range of variation I found. The collection of images in the description paper shows that the variation in ventral hindwing markings diverges even further than what I saw. My visit to the Metolius piqued my curiosity about other Asher's Blues populations in Oregon, and I began to formulate a plan to explore the populations of Asher's Blue further east, in the Blue Mountains, Elkhorns and in the Wallowas later in the year. As I read it, the story of Asher's Blue has many layers. To me, the decades of not knowing the taxonomic status of these butterflies, the perseverance of many scientists and citizen scientists to find answers, the tag team of people that contributed over the years to the effort, and the weaving of this inspiring young boy into the picture, all speak of the importance of our relatedness. It speaks to the ways in which people build relationships with nature when have access to it and opportunities to learn about it. Some people get deeply interested in fish, and learn all about where they live, what they eat and when and how to catch them. Others become interested in birds or butterflies or fungi or flowers or dragonflies. Their growing knowledge further fuels their curiosity as they venture out more into nature to see, to feel, to hear and to learn. These kinds of relationships between humans and non-human life and land are so important to the survival over time of we humans and the complex living system that we depend on. We need to be connected to nature and nature needs us to be connected to it. In a similar way, we humans need to be connected to each other--to learn about each other, listen to each other, accept each other, include each other and care about each other. This kind of relatedness, like that which I imagine inspired Caitlin, Jon and Norbert to bring Asher into this story, is needed more and more in our world--the knitting together of humans to humans, and of communities of humans to nature. I'll likely never meet Asher, but now he is part of my world. And now Luecodystrophy is also part of my world. I read some of the stories from families dealing with this disease on the website of the Yaya Foundation. The foundation is named after a little girl with 4H Luecodystrophy, and was started by her parents. It was heart-wrenching to read what these families are having to deal with on a daily basis. My thoughts diverged to some of the many other fierce challenges we humans are encountering right now. Many of us are finding it heart-wrenching to read about what Ukrainians are facing daily in their war-torn country, or about what African Americans are experiencing in a country where systemic racism and anti-blackness continues to impact their daily lives in painful and traumatic ways. At times, I have seen in myself a tendency to become so focused on my love of butterflies and birds that it would begin to shield me from being aware of the pain that many other people in the world are currently experiencing. I suspect other people see this tendency in themselves as well. Meanwhile our economy seems to be largely based on selling us distractions from what is tragic and painful in ourselves and in our world. In these times of such worldwide turmoil and change, it is a source of comfort to escape into nature and its creatures. I know because I have done this over the past couple years of COVID. However, I recognize that I have advantages and privileges that not everyone has, and that these allow me to put the pain and challenges of others out of my mind. Many other people, like Asher and his family, the people of Ukraine, and most African Americans, can't just ignore their hardships and their pain--it is daily life for them. I love the story of Asher's Blue because, to me, it points to our possibility of being aware of our impacts (positive and negative) on both nature and people, and how we can make a difference through working together to make a positive impact on both. More of that! We need to actively weave a culture that enables us to work together to nurture the health and strength of both our human culture and the living natural system, both of which our lives depend on. To that end, I am trying to balance my soul-nurturing time in nature and the natural sciences with making active and meaningful contributions of my time and energy that will help address the painful challenges that people both near and far from me are facing daily. Lately, it has felt to me that not doing so would be to lose some of my humanity. --- You can learn more about the Yaya Foundation and their support for research on 4H Luecodystrophy as well as their support to people and families dealing with the disease at https://yayafoundation4hl.org/. Over the three days I spent on the Metolius River continuing to weave my own relationships with nature and people, I saw more than 400 butterflies, fully three-fourths of them being Echo Azures. Below is the full list of 20 species:
- Searching for Spring
Early this spring, just when we seemed to be heading for the most severe drought in Oregon history, winter seemed to suddenly wake from its slumber and say "oh, wait a minute, I guess I'm not done yet." Clouds gathered, rain fell, and then snow. The parched ground soaked it up like a sponge. Everywhere I went it seemed people were saying, "I really miss that sunny weather, but we really need this rain." Nowhere was that more true than in Josephine County, which had been designated as an extreme drought area by those scientists who do that sort of thing. Due to this cold, rainy spell, I'd had to cancel two earlier planned visits to Josephine County and its riverine jewel, the Illinois, to search for the elusive Spring White (Pontia sisymbrii). This would be my 7th try over a 20-year span. I have seen the Spring White (well enough to identify it) only three times: in May 2003 in the Warner Mountains, in June of 2003 on Soda Mountain, and in May 2006 on the Illinois. I managed one somewhat blurry and out of focus photo out of those three sightings (see below). Whites are notoriously hard to photograph, unless you are lucky enough to find them puddling on wet sand or mud or nectaring on a cool morning. Which is why I was targeting this river's edge habitat in early spring, when there is more puddling habitat around. Oh, and it's called the Spring White. As the rainy days of April crawled along like chilled salamanders, I kept watching the weather forecasts for southern Oregon. I was hoping, longing, to see some of those happy little sun icons. Nope. Just depressing little rain cloud icons strung across every day of the week. Then, about ten days ago, I saw that there might be a window of sun down in the Illinois Valley over the following weekend, and I started to press my foot on the hope pedal. I knew it would be iffy to set out a-hunting for butterflies after all that cold and rain, but I just could't contain my desire to start my butterfly season another week! I packed up my "lep trek"gear in my typical not-really-quite-ready, first-trip-of-the-year kind of way and jumped on I-5 heading south, early on Saturday morning. I had estimated my arrival in the Illinois Valley at about 11 am, and that turned out to be pretty good timing, given that it was sunny, but still quite cool when I arrived. I started out walking on the Jeffrey Pine loop trail, near the beginning of Eight Dollar Road, where I soon encountered several Sara's Orangetips (after the taxonomic split, these are only found in Oregon along the border with California), a few tattered California Tortoiseshells and numerous Propertius Duskywings. It was pretty clear that cool weather-tolerant species would win this day. After about 30 minutes of walking, I saw a white flying about 50 feet in front of me. My first instinct was to reach for my butterfly net. However, in my first-trip-of-the-year packing frenzy, I had forgotten to pack my net (yeah, I know, I know). So, I would be at the mercy of this bug. Will it stop and nectar? Will it stop to sip some mineral water at a sand bar? Will it come land on my outstretched hand? To my chagrin, it didn't see or smell anything it considered vaguely attractive about (or anywhere near) me, and it flew on down the hill as if I didn't exist, standing there staring at it, churning with desire to know what species it was. "Why isn't that damn net in the car?" I said (carefully phrasing the comment to avoid any responsibility). I was headed for some sandy spots along the riverbank there, and hoped to get lucky with a Spring White or even two, happily sipping moisture from the riverside sand. As I traipsed along the river's edge, I spied two more of these whites, whatever they were. The second one stopped for about a millisecond to nectar on a white native mustard. Miraculously, I got one poor photo, but it was just clear enough to tell that this was a spring form of the Margined White, lovely with its bold black ventral vein bars, but, alas, not the object of my search. As I walked, I stopped to scan mustard family wildflowers wherever I saw them, as they are often visited by whites, orangetips and marbles. They are both preferred nectar sources, as well as larval host plants. In this area, I knew that I might see Sara's Orangetip, California Marble, Large Marble, Gray Marble, Spring White, Margined White or Western White. So when I began to see patches of Waldo rockcress, a purple mustard-family native flower in bloom, I let my hopes grow a bit. As it turned out, over the course of my two days along the Illinois, I would not see any whites at Waldo rockcress. Go figure. After a lovely walk around the Jeffrey Pine Loop, I headed back to my car for some lunch, and then headed east. I made a quick stop at what I call Butterfly Gulch, where two small unnamed streams flow down to and under Rd 4103. There I found several Sara's Orangetips, one California Marble, one Greenish Blue, one Gray Marble, a few Mylitta Crescents and a number of Common Checkered Skippers. No Spring White joy here either, but a nice variety of other early season species. My next site visit would be Sixmile Creek, a beautiful stretch of the Illinois with a dramatic rocky shore with many pools and seeps in the spring. Within a minute of exiting my car, I saw my first Pale Swallowtail of the trip, a couple of California Tortoiseshells and some Echo Azure blues on the sand below. A promising start. Gear on! As I made my way down the rocky access to the rock bed along the river, I noticed a stirring of a number of blues on a shaded rock, so I headed down there. I found a puddle club of many Echo Azures packed in cheek-to-jowl (just go with me here, I can't imagine jowls on a butterfly either) in a moist mossy spot that was partly shaded. I slowly moved in for a closer look, curious to see if there were any interlopers in the group. I counted them and got roughly 100, and at first I thought they were all Azures. I scanned them one more time... "gotcha!" One Western Tailed Blue was there, blending in nicely with its cousins, but slightly smaller, slightly more gray underneath, with its orange hindwing spot and tiny tail. Crawling all over and around the rocks at Sixmile Creek, I found several Mylitta Crescents, a few Common Ringlets (the really pale southern Oregon form), one Common Checkered Skipper, several Propertius Duskywings and a California Marble. I was satisfied that I had covered the site well, and I saw none of the larger white species so at least there was no question of whether a saw a Spring White. It was almost 5 pm by that point, and so I called it a day and headed to my Air BnB on the Rogue River for dinner and a night's rest. Next morning it was up early, a quick bird walk along the Rogue, and then a return drive down to the Illinois Valley. I started the day by walking down Road 011 off the Illinois River Road, which heads down to Star Flat and the Star Flat Fen (a bog with the strangely lovely Darlingtonia pitcher plant). The road continues past the fen, along Deer Creek until it reaches its confluence with the Illinois. There it meets the Kerby Flat Trail, which I had never walked. I decided to walk that all the way to Kerby Flat to maximize my time in the river corridor, and hopefully increase my odds of encountering a Spring White. I didn't know if it was a good plan, but it was a plan. It was a thoroughly enjoyable walk. From all the recent rain, there were puddles and seeps everywhere. In fact, there were so many wet spots, that I surmised that the relatively few butterflies must be spread out. In contrast, a good seep in summertime, when water is more scarce, will often attract a high density and diversity of butterflies to a small area by its relative rarity. It was cool again on this morning, and there were many more birds in evidence than butterflies. On the way down, I met a group of Forest Ecology students from Linfield College who had been down to see the Darlingtonia Fen. They were excited to be in the great classroom of the outdoors. They said they were studying for their finals by practicing their field skills, in the field. I commended them on their choice of places to study, and gave them my ButterfliesofOregon.com pitch. They seemed enthusiastic about visiting. I also met several Propertius Duskywings, a Persius Duskywing, a couple Mylitta Crescents, some California Tortoiseshells, a few Sara's Orangetips, and a couple Anise Swallowtails. They were a bit light on conversation, but I enjoyed their company. When I arrived at the confluence of Deer Creek with the Illinois I was greeted by a large sandbar which looked like fabulous puddling habitat, along its moist edge at the river. In one sheltered spot there, I found the only Indra Swallowtail of the weekend, with a couple of Anise Swallowtails, always a lovely sight. Just above that sand bar, I found the Kerby Flat trail and headed west on the rocky path. There were many patches of Waldo rockcress, a few Echo Azures, several more Sara's Orangetips, and more Anise Swallowtails. Eventually, I passed through a shady woodland and emerged into sunny Kerby Flat, the most obvious feature of which was the presence of several big, bright patches of Rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta). Each flower has a lovely pink ball of color at the end of a green stem. Within a few minutes I saw several whites, actually nectaring (!) on the plectritis blooms. Now we're talking (I said silently)! I slowly crept closer to each one to get a good view through my binos, and identified one Margined White after another--five in all. Lovely, and distinct in their spring form, but decidedly not Spring Whites. I was starting to feel pangs of hunger, so I about-faced, and began the 3 mile walk back to the car. Again a pleasant walk, but again with relatively few butterflies. Back at my car after eating lunch, I began to strategize about where to go next. Back to Sixmile? Try Jeffrey Pine again? Or to the area around Eight Dollar Bridge? The bridge area felt right to me. I knew there was good puddling habitat there so I drove back out Illinois River Road to Highway 199 and down to Eight Dollar Road. I had scouted the area the day before, so I knew the key spots to check. In the primo sandy puddling spot, I found a bright, fresh group of swallowtails all packed in tightly. They literally kept pushing into one another as though they couldn't get close enough. They reminded me of little boys snuggling up to their Dad. On that same beach I also found a couple of Persius Duskywings, a male and female, like smaller versions of the Propertius Duskywing, with slightly less bold markings. These little duskwings, whose larva feed on legumes, weren't on the wet sand, but on wet gravel and wet charcoal. Those sightings rounded out the excitement for this spot so I headed back to the car, and decided to go back yet again to the Illinois River Road, and check a couple spots there. When I arrived at "Butterfly Gulch," I found it so empty of butterflies that I was a bit shocked. I had never seen it that way before. The previous day, it had a lot more action. So that ended up being a very quick stop. It was getting late in the day, and I wanted to stop at a roadside seep near Snailback Creek, which I knew from previous visits could be a good late afternoon spot. It was a fun, though white-free stop, but I did pick up a few new species there, including Silvery Blue, Northern checkerspot and Brown Elfin. By this point, it was feeling like I would be counting this as a warm-up trip and as a scouting trip, and that I would be making the drive down to the Illinois Valley again soon, to continue my search for the Spring White. Hopefully in a week or two, there were be more signs of Spring, and perhaps a white or two to bring the joy! Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on my planned first search for the newly described Asher Blue, which was identified as a new species last year, and formally described this past winter by Caitlin Labar, Jon Pelham, and Norbert Kondla. This new blue is closely related to the Echo Azure. The story of the Asher Blue and its namesake is really lovely, so please come back for that one! Below is the complete species list (21 species) from my two days on the Illinois, with counts for each.
The Oregon Silverspot (Argynnis zerene hippolyta) is a subspecies of the Zerene Fritillary (Argynnis zerene), found along the Oregon coast and in the Coast Range, in just a few locations. It's one of two butterflies whose common name includes "Oregon," and it's one of three butterflies found in Oregon that are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Oregon Silverspot is listed as Threatened under the ESA, and its habitats along the coast are protected under that law. If you pay attention to latin names of butterflies, right about now you might be thinking "hey, wait a minute--Argynnis zerene? Where did that come from? I thought the Zerene Fritillary was in the genus Speyeria!" Well, it was. But then last year, a group of scientists published an article summarizing the taxonomic results from a massive DNA analysis of all North American butterflies (north of Mexico). Their findings have affected the taxonomy (official naming and classification) of 6% of North America's butterflies. Among other findings, they found that the group of butterflies that had been in the genus Speyeria really belonged in the genus Argynnis, because genetically speaking those in the Speyeria group were essentially subspecies of Argynnis. Confusing, I know. Here in Oregon, we will be seeing these taxonomic changes showing up over the coming months as the various online and printed sources catch up with these recent findings: As describec above, the genus Speyeria becomes Argynnis Most of our coppers change from the genus Lycaena to the genus Tharsalea, giving us Tailed Copper (Tharsalea arota), Ruddy Copper (Tharsalea rubida), Great Copper (Tharsalea xanthoides), Edith's Copper (Tharsalea editha), Blue Copper (Tharsalea heteronea), Gorgon Copper (Tharsalea gorgon), Lilac-bordered Copper (Tharsalea nivalis), Purplish Copper (Tharsalea helloides) and Mariposa Copper (Tharsalea mariposa) Our Ochre orCommon Ringlet is now Coenonympa californica, since it was split from Coenonympa tullia. What is now C. tullia is found in far northern North America and Europe. Our Arctic Skipper is now Carterocephalus skada, having been split from it's former Carterocephalus palaemon and a new species called Carterocephalus mandan. The study also suggests changes to the naming and classification of cloudywings, tortoiseshells, and commas, but there remain some mixed views on those changes at this point. Okay, now that we have that cleared up (?!), let's get back to our Silverspots! As I wrote last time, after seeing seven species of greater fritillaries in the central Cascades in recent weeks, I was inspired to finally go find and photograph our threatened subspecies of Zerene Fritillary, the Oregon Silverspot. The most robust Silverspot population is up on Mt. Hebo along the Tillamook/Yamhill county line, southeast of the town of Tillamook. It's about a two and a half hour drive from Eugene. With a weather forecast of haze and high heat, I hoped it would be tolerable up on the mountain. Indeed, when I arrived at about 11 am, it was hazy and already getting hot. My first stop was in a large, dry meadow near some radio facilities in the NW corner of Yamhill County, where I found my first Oregon Silverspot within minutes, nectaring on Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea). I decided to settle down next to a nice patch of those flowers, hoping I could just wait for them to come to me. However, I found that when I sat very still next to a good nectar plant, the Silverspots virtually never came to that plant, though they would visit other plants nearby. This rendered my preferred "stakeout" tactic essentially useless. Surprisingly, I found that I could walk up slowly to a plant with one or more Silverspots on it and kneel down slowly and they would not fly off. I saw about 20 Silverspots in that first meadow and got some nice photos with my "molasses in winter" approach technique. There were also a number of Woodland Skippers (Ochlodes sylvanoides) and a couple Hydaspe Fritillaries (Argynnis hydaspe) there. At about noon, the sun was getting quite warm, so I took a break, had a snack, and then headed toward the next meadow, just over the county line. My plan was to scout all the meadows just to get to know the area better. The second meadow was also quite dry, and I found very few nectar plants there. All of the Silverspots were on the move, with females looking for larval host plants (Viola adunca) among the dominant stubby ferns and salal, and males looking for females--no posing Silverspots there! Just as I was finishing my circle through the large meadow, I heard a car pull up behind mine, and then watched a man who appeared to be walking quite purposefully toward me. Immediately, I heard a voice in my mind say "am I getting ticketed for something?" Then I realized he wasn't in uniform, and probably just wanted to chat, so I headed towards him also. As I got closer, I recognized Paul Hammond, Oregon's top fritillary expert coming my way. What great luck! Paul was close to finishing up his annual two-day survey of the Silverspots, and he offered to show me the hotspots in the area. I couldn't have dreamed up a better chance encounter than Paul, who knows this site and this butterfly better than anyone else. Paul updated me on his survey, reporting that he had found over 1400 Silverspots, and he said overall they were doing pretty well. On one of the wetter meadows, he showed me where mechanical vegetation management was helping not only the Silverspot's larval host plant, but also an important native nectar plant, Indian Thistle (Cirsium edule). Within a couple years of the vegetation management intervention, the Silverspots began to show up, and today they are abundant there. As we walked around the sites, I peppered him with every greater fritillary question that had been rattling around in my mind of late. One topic was my curiosity as to why I found eight Coronis Fritillaries in Lane County after never seeing one in Lane County previously. Paul described the intense drought conditions he'd recently seen in eastern Oregon, and the virtual absence of nectar sources in large areas. He conjectured that these Coronis Fritillaries had flown west in search of nectar for their very survival. Paul noted that while we often think of the importance of larval host plants for the survival of butterflies, the nectar plants they need are equally important. The meadow where we stood, with it's robust patch of Indian Thistle, was a case in point. I saw more Silverspots there than in the other two larger meadows combined. Paul pointed out a Hydaspe Fritillary (Argynnis hydaspe) and noted that Hydaspes at Mt. Hebo are notably larger than those in the Cascades. I had noticed that right off-- they were so large that at a distance I had at first wondered if they were Great Spangled Fritillaries (Argynnis cybele). Before Paul headed off to finish up his work for the day, he mentioned that this area was quite good for the very dark western subspecies of the Oreas Comma (Polygonia oreas silenus) but that they usually came out a bit later in the year. Only minutes after Paul left, I spied a freshly eclosed Oreas clinging to a thistle stalk across the meadow a ways. As I walked over to get closer for a photo, it flew zig-zag fashion to a conifer tree at the edge of the meadow. Sitting there perfectly still, as if believing it was invisible, it let me get very close, and take several photos. At the end of the day, I was quite contented to have finally photographed the other "Oregon" butterfly, after finally capturing the Oregon Swallowtail this past spring. My chance meeting with the affable and humble Paul Hammond was a wonderful surprise. I headed home better acquainted with the Silverspot and it's Mt. Hebo home than I had expected to. Now I'm looking forward to getting a copy his updated and explanded book on Colias sulphurs, co-authored by Dave McCorkle. Here is my species list for the day (9 species):