Thursday, October 11, 2012

Early Spring Butterflying

     This fall and winter I would like to share with you places to go to find some of our special butterflies. 
These are places I have been to (some on many occasions) and find them excellent to find some of
our less common or less known butterflies. Note that each spring and summer varies as to snowpack,
rainfall, and drought.  On certain years a time adjustment may be necessary to enjoy these areas.

     When March rolls around in Washington most of us have cabin fever and are tired of the cool, damp
weather we have had for the last four months.  We are anxious to get out of storage our butterfly net, dust
it off, and take a few practice swings.  It is also time to get the batteries charged for the camera and get the
outdoor clothing in order.  
     We often jump the gun in late march or early April, but some years will provide us with a few warm (at least 50 degrees F) sunny (at least partly sunny) days.  During this early spring period, we can often see
two very special butterflies that are in flight.  Both of them fly in eastern Washington, but are found in different locations.
     The first location is Schnebly Coulee.  Take I-90 past Ellensburg then exit at the town of Kittitas.  Pass
through town to Broadview Road.  Turn right and go a short distance to S. Caribou Road.  Turn left (north)
and travel to the Vantage Highway.  Turn right on the Vantage Highway and travel 10-12 miles until you
come to the coulee.  When there, look down and find the dry creek bed that extends down the coulee.
Walk along the creek bed and look for rhe Sheridan's Green Hairstreak (Callophrys sheridanii newcomeri).
They will fly up and move to another place along the creek bed.  On a good day the butterflies will be 
abundant.  Also look for a white butterfly that will fly along the creek bed.  This the the Spring White
(Pontia sisymbrii flavitincta).  Both are very early spring butterflies.  If you go later in April, you may
miss these butterflies, but other species will present such as the Sagebrush Checkerspot  (Chlosyne acastus sterope). 
           The second location is the lower-most meadows of the Reecer Creek area.  Take I-90 to Ellensburg.  Take the first exit and drive to the first major intersection.  Turn left (now on 97) and
watch closely for the Lower Green Canyon Road.  Turn right onto this road and continue all the way up the canyon until you reach a T in the road.  Turn left and you are now on the Reecer Creek Road.  Continue on this road past all of the farms and up into the hills.  When you reach the first set of meadows stop and look for the plant Stonecrop (Sedum).  If you see this plant, you are in the correct spot.  If not, drive to the next upper meadows and repeat.  Walk the meadows and look for a small hairstreak, Moss's Elfin (Callophrys mossii schryveri).  This is another one of our early spring butterflies.  This area is famous for delayed snow melt.  In late March the area can be free of snow, or still snowed in.  Before you head out be aware of the snowpack we have had during the winter, and if we are having an early or late spring.  Adjust you field day accordingly. 

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