It’s been awhile since my last update due to being off to Southern California on a week-long butterfly trip. Organized by Sunstreak Tours and led by Jim Brock, co-author of the excellent Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America, our nine-member group would get to see nearly 100 species during the week, a great many of which were ‘lifers’ for me. This may be a pretty long posting to show some of the better pictures culled from the hundreds I took that week.
Based primarily out of Sequoia Lodge in Kernville, we’d take long day trips each day to specific locations for some of the specialties of California. The first day, for example, we headed south from LAX to Descanso near San Diego to track down the Hermes Copper that had been seen there recently. First picture of the trip, however, and one of my favorites is this pair of mating Melissa Blues; that’s the male on the left, female on the right.
Then it was on to that Hermes Copper, a gorgeous butterfly and the first of the five species of Coppers we’d see during the trip.
Two other great butterflies we’d see that first day before heading to Kernville were the San Emigdio Blue, which has a very narrow range, and the Bernardino Square-spotted Blue, which is only found in Southern California and Western Arizona.
From Kernville, we’d take long day trips over the next few days to places like Sherman Pass, Chimney Peak, Erskine Creek, Lubken Canyon, and Horseshoe Meadow. Toward the end of the week, we moved on for one night in Bakersfield to head for the Fresno Dome area the next day, and then headed back to LA via the Santa Ynez Mountains and Santa Barbara.
Some of the largest and most dramatic of the butterflies are the swallowtails, of which we’d see at least four of the five species expected in California. Although we only got a very brief view of the Indra Swallowtail, the Anise, Pale, and Western Tiger Swallowtails all posed for some pretty good pictures.
The Western Tiger was just enamored of that red thistle and spent easily a half hour feeding on that single flower. While taking its picture, a most amazing bug appeared having a ridiculously long proboscis to slip into that thistle – we think it’s a Metallic Small-headed Fly.
Other large butterflies we’d rarely see perched included the Lorquin’s Admiral and California Sister.
Much smaller but vibrantly colored, here are three more of the species of Copper butterflies we saw that week – the Gorgon, Lustrous, and Tailed Coppers.
Although quite similar in appearance and sharing similar ranges, our exceptional guide Jim was easily able to distinguish the Variable Checkerspot, of which we’d see quite a few on several different days, from the less common and redder in color Edith’s Checkerspot.
Of the four fritillaries we saw, the bright orange Pacific Fritillary was another new one for me and posed for a pretty good portrait.
Quite a few varieties of Elfin and Hairstreaks were also about, including the Brown Elfin, Behr’s Hairstreak, Hedgerow Hairstreak, and Bramble Green Hairstreak.
Last but not least, many different types of skippers were seen. Here are two of them, the Northern White-Skipper and Western Branded Skipper.
Of course, there were plenty of things to see other than butterflies. Certainly there were a few interesting moths about and plenty of colorful wildflowers, but several other creatures also were found sharing the same habitats as the butterflies. Here is a pair of mating bluet damselflies,
and one of the two Pacific Chorus Frogs we spotted.
Most cool were some of the lizards we’d see in various locations, including a Great Basin Collared Lizard and the prehistoric-looking Coast Horned Lizard.
Most of us in the group were birders long before we got into butterflies and couldn’t help but look up now and then to identify some of them. New for most of us were the Tri-colored Blackbirds, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, and a large flock of Chukar. We also got close looks at Anna’s Hummingbirds, a couple of Clark’s Nutcrackers, and two Lazuli Buntings, and heard but did not see Wrentits. Just as we were leaving the spot where we had that Great Basin Collared Lizard, Rebecca spotted a nesting Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, which I snapped a couple of pictures of as we were loading back into the van heading for the next location.
I’ve posted these and more of the trip pictures on my website at http://sandianet.com/sierra/index.htm. A most enjoyable and productive trip, I’m definitely looking forward to future trips with Sunstreak and Jim Brock.