Friday, January 25, 2013

June Butterflying in Western Washington

             If you can find a clear weather day in June on the west side of the Cascades, head for the foothills or forested areas in search for butterflies.  Even though the Western Tiger Swallowtail and Cabbage White may fly through your backyard at home, getting away from human development will provide the maximum diversity of species that inhabit the western part of the state.  By no means will this compete with the species diversity of the east side of the mountains, but for people that have limited time,  it could provide a fun adventure.
     There are many places one can explore, but I will discuss several of my favorite spots.
     One of our rarest butterflies flies in western Washington,  the Johnson's Hairstreak (Callophrys johnsoni).  The peak time to see this butterfly is early to mid-June.  There is potentially several areas to see this butterfly, but the areas must contain stands of old growth Hemlock that will support the larval food plant Dwarf Mistletoe.  The butterfly only occurs in these western Washington hemlock forests.  The best spot that I know of to see this butterfly is above Lake Cushman in Mason County.  To get there drive along Hood Canal to Hoodsport.  At Hoodsport turn left and continue driving up to Lake Cushman.  Follow the road along the lake all the way to the end.  Paved road will turn into gravel road near the end of the lake.  Before entering Staircase, turn left at the end of the lake and cross over the bridge (over the Skokomish River) then
turn right and drive up the forest service road.  The road was washed out last year, but they have been working to fix the damage.  If the road is not open, you can walk up quite easily.
     Once you get above the view of the lake, begin looking along the drainage areas and flowering wildflowers for the Johnson's Hairstreak.  The butterfly is our largest hairstreak and a beautiful one as well.  Another smaller hairstreak and far more abundant, the Cedar Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus plicatoria),  will also be present.  I generally see about ten Cedar Hairstreaks for every one Johnson's.  The dorsal surface of the Johnson's Hairstreak is an immaculate chocolate brown color, however, at rest you will only see the ventral surface.  Also present along this road will be several species of late flying blues, the Tiger and Pale Swallowtail,  and the Common Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus ruralis ruralis).  By studying the photos below the larger size of the Johnson's and the different ventral surface markings will allow one to tell the two hairstreaks species apart.  Remember, it can be clear weather at your house, but cloudy over the Olympics during the month of June.

Callophrys johnsoni
Callophrys gryneus plicatoria

Pyrgus r. ruralis
     One of my favorite butterfly areas in western Washington is the Bald Hills of Thurston county.  I love the solitude and beauty of these foothills of the Cascades.  To get there drive to Yelm, then take the  Bald Hills road up into the foothills.  Follow the road past Clear Lake to the very end.  At the end a metal gate will close the road to vehicles going any further.  Park along the side of the road and walk from there.  You can walk for miles along this road into the hills.  As you walk, you will see many Western Tiger Swallowtails and Pale Swallowtails.  The Clodius Parnassian (Parnassius clodius claudianus) will be very abundant flying along the road.  You will pass a large clear cut area, then forested areas.  Be sure to take the roads or trails through the forest areas.  In the forested areas look for the Silver Spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus californicus), and the Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris).  They are more commonly found near wet areas.
The Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus atrofaciatus) also flies in the hills.  Colorful day flying moths are also abundant during June.  Margined Whites (Pieris marginalis marginalis) should be a given here.  Tattered spring emerging butterflies may still be on the wing, mixed with the fresh emerging summer forms.
    If you are in the Bald Hills later in June, you will see fresh specimens of the Hydaspe Fritillary (Argynnis hydaspe rhodope) .  In July the Great Spangled Fritillary (Argynnis cybele pugetensis) will make its.    appearance in the Bald Hills.  This gorgeous butterfly is fun to watch, as it seeks out thistles to nectar on.  Occasionally I have been lucky to see the Zerene Fritillary (Argynnis zerene bremneri) as well, but this is in July.  Enjoy the Bald Hills.  You may be the only person in this huge area during your adventure.

Parnassius clodius claudianus  male
Parnassius clodius claudianus  female

Epargyreus clarus californicus
Euphyes vestris

Strymon melinus atrofasciatus
Pieris m. marginalis

Argynnis hydaspe rhodope
Argynnis cybele pugetsensis male

Argynnis cybele pugetsensis  male
Argynnis cybele pugetsensis female

Sunday, January 20, 2013

June Butterflying

                                                           JUNE BUTTERFLYING

     June can be a great time for watching butterflies in our state IF you can find a clear weather day.  Many of our species are in flight during June on both sides of the Cascades.  Since most of the mountain areas are still snowed in, the lowlands provide the best opportunity for success.
     Some of my favorite locations east of the Cascades will be discussed first.
     Easy day trips from the Puget Sound area are to the lower Reecer Creek area (near Ellensburg) in Kittitas County, or the Derby Canyon area (near Peshastin) in Chelan County.
     Longer multi-day trips into butterfly rich Okanogan County can be very rewarding.  Places like Moses Meadows (near Omak), the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area (near Loomis), and the Mt Hull area (near Oroville) are highly recommended.
     Two of our common and very showy large butterflies fly in June, the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) and the Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon).  Both of these can be found on both sides of the Cascades in all of the sites I will be discussing.

Papilio rutulus
Papilio eurymedon

     Our early flying sulphurs emerge in June.  The Western Sulphur (Colias occidentalis occidentalis) can be abundant along the forest service roads of Derby Canyon.  The Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice eriphyle) can be commonly seen at Moses Meadows, the Sinlahekin, and in the Mt. Hull area.

Colias o. occidentalis male
Colias o. occidentalis  female

Colias philodice eriphyle  male
Colias philodice eriphyle  female

Colias o. occidentalis  male

Colias philodice eriphyle  male

     If traveling to the Reecer Creek area, spend time along the roadside by the uppermost farms, just before the cattle grate.  Look for the tall white flowering buckwheat (Erigonum elatum).  If it is full bloom you will be in for a spectacular day of butterflying (mid to late June is best).  You will be rewarded with a Lycanid paradise. 
     A number of hairstreaks, coppers, and blues will be found nectaring on these buckwheats all along the roadside.  Look for the uncommon Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium tuitus immaculosis), the Behr's Hairstreak (Satyrium behrii columbia), the Halfmoon Hairstreak (Satyrium semiluna), and the California Hairstreak (Satyrium californica).  You will be able to approach these butterflies easily as they nectar on the flower heads.  

Satyrium titus immaculosis
Satyrium behrii columbia
Satyrium californica
Satyrium semiluna

  Another special hairstreak can be found at the junction of highway 97 (road to Leavenworth/Wenatchee) and the lower Green Canyon road.  Look in the Coyote Willows that are close to the road or on the flowers in bloom close by for the Sylvan Hairstreak (Satyrium sylvinus sylvinus).  This is an uncommon butterfly so a special find.

Satyrium s. sylvinus
The very beautiful Ruddy Copper (Lycaena rubidus), the Blue copper (Lycaena heteronea klotsi), the Purplish copper (Lycaena hellodies helloides), and the Lilac-bordered Copper (Lycaena nivalis browni) can be seen nectaring on the tall buckwheats by the last farms. 

Lycanea rubidus  male
Lycaena rubidus female
Lycaena heteronea klotsi male
Lycaena heteronea klotsi  female

Lycaena h. helloides  male
Lycaena h. helloides  female
Lycaena nivalis browni  male
Lycaena nivalis browni  female
A number of blues will also be nectaring alongside of hairstreaks and coppers.  The most commonly seen blues will be the Columbia Blue (Euphilotes columbiae), of which the buckwheat is its larval food plant, and the Boisduval Blue (Plebejus icarioides pembina).                                                                          

Euphilotes columbiae
Plebejus icarioides pembina
Many other butterflies will be flying by including at least three species of swallowtails,  the Snowberry Checkerspot (Euphydryas colon paradoxa), and the common Small Woodnymph  (Cercyonis oetus oetus).  

Euphydryas colon paradoxa)
Cercyonis o. oetus

Some Washington butterflies fly mainly in June.  One of these is these is the Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona toddi).  Its range is limited to Okanogan and Ferry Counties.  One of the best sites to see this butterfly is Moses Meadows, just east of Omak.  Take highway 155 east out of Omak, and turn left on the Lyman Lake-Moses Meadows road.  Continue up to the meadows.  Look for the Meadow Fritillary in the open meadows and along the roads going into the surrounding forest.

Boloria bellona toddi
Boloria bellona toddi
      Three different skippers reach their peak flight period in June.  The Tawny-edged Skipper( Polites (themistocles turneri) can be found at Moses meadows and the Mt. Hull area.  The Peck's Skipper (Polites peckius) and the Garita Skipperling (Oarisma garita garita) can be found in the grassy meadows along the forest service roads of the Mt. Hull area.

Polites themistocles turneri
Polites peckius
Oarisma g. garita

The Dun Skipper  (Euphyes vestris) is a fourth June flying skipper.  Look for this brown skipper in wetland areas on both sides of the Cascades.  A good spot is along highway 10 near Ellensburg.  Stop at grassy wet areas along the road.

Euphyes vestris

One of our most beautiful blues is in peak flight in June.  The Arrowhead Blue (Glaucopsyche piasus toxeuma) can be found in a number of eastern Washington meadows that abound with lupine.  My favorite site for seeing this butterfly in great numbers is at the Sinlahekin Wildlife area near Loomis.  The Sinlahekin is a paradise of meadows, lakes and streams and abounds with butterflies.  This site is a must to visit at least once in your lifetime.

Glaucopsyche piasus toxuma
      There are many other species of butterflies that fly in eastern Washington during June, but one last butterfly will be addressed.  The Thicket Hairstreak (Callophrys spinetorum spinetorum) (larval food plant Mistletoe) flies along roadways in the pine forests of the eastern Cascades.  This beautiful butterfly settles down on wet mud at roadsides.  Unfortunately, it will never show you its beautiful deep blue colored dorsal surface (so characteristic of tropical skippers), so you will have to settle for its well marked ventral surface instead.

Callophrys s. spinetorum
Make sure you bring along a good guide book when you butterfly in eastern Washington in June.  You will a great diversity and will encounter an adventure full of surprises.