Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Great Wildlife Yard Planting...'Rotkugel'

The previous owner of our current home planted an Ornamental Oregano cultivar 'Rotkugel' that I ignored for several years...until I noted a Juba Skipper (Hesperia juba) using it a couple of years ago, that got my attention. It is a pollinator magnet! Bees dominate, but butterflies also frequent in lesser numbers. Wood-Nymphs and Skippers are the main customers. Check it out:

Here are some still shots of recent Skipper sightings:
Branded Skipper 'Complex' (Hesperia sp.)

Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides)

Monday, July 16, 2012

On a Mission...

Maclay Flat, USFS property along Bitterroot River in Missoula, Montana, has a wet meadow that is attractive to the Red-veined Meadowhawk (Sympetrum madidum) and perhaps the Bronze Copper butterfly (Lycaena hyllus). I don't have a real good photo of a male red-veined and I have never seen the copper species...hey, let's go for it. Of course did some homework beforehand. This species of copper is found on wetland edges that have 'dock' plant species (genus is Rumex) growing.
Arrived at the site about 2 pm, ~85F, WNW wind >10 mph at times. Right off found Melissa Blue butterflies (Plebejus melissa) along moist spots on trail.

Many meadowhawks were also seen the trail that borders an irrigation ditch, here's a Cherry-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum internum).
Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

A robust stand of sweet clover is growing along the trail in places...attractive for bees Edith's Copper (Lycaena editha) butterfly.
Edith's Copper

Got to the wet meadow and found 'dock' growing, however found zero Bronze Copper and zero Red-veined Meadowhawk, hmmmmm. Called it a day and headed home. Decided to water some flowers around the yard and what do I find in the process...a Red-veined Meadowhawk 'hawking' insects from my garden.
Red-veined Meadowhawk
The nearest wetland is a mile away (riparian forest of the Bitterroot River)! It's funny that both butterflies and dragonflies aren't always found where they should be. Need to review the literature more for added understanding...or maybe not. Take home message, finding something great may just be out your back door.

Monday, July 9, 2012

New Wildlife Experience...

Today, I did a NABA Butterfly Count in Missoula, Montana at Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. Joining five other folks at 10:30 am of varying skill and talent we walked the trail of Spring Gulch identifying and counting all butterflies encountered. Initial conditions were ideal for human activity...sunny and 72 Fahrenheit. It quickly warmed up, ending up in the high 90's. As a birder, these temps are death knell for bird activity, birds stop singing and moving. Not so for butterfly action. Frenetic activity was non-stop gliding, fluttering, flitting, darting, diving. Imagine sweeping a net at animals that flap their wings 25 times a second in order to examine it closely for identification purposes, no harm comes to animal in the quick process of netting, id, and letting loose again. It was fun leading the group up the trail; I could see the butterflies in advance of our position coming down to us. I would shout out to folks with nets behind me the general orientation and generic designation, e.g. 2 'blue' coming down trail. Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa), mere 5/8" in length, approached at ankle high creating numerous gyrations on the part of netters to capture them; it was fun watching them and their smiles at capture. Again, that happiness thing; according to Action for Happiness, 40% of our daily happiness comes from activities/relationships of our choosing...only 10% from income/environment. IMHO, attending a butterfly count as a novice or expert is great fun and a terrific learning experience. Photographer?, opportunity abounds for point blank shots. See below for some species found today; the Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus) was a 'lifer' for me. Find a count (typically June or July) in your community and find something great!
Lorquin's Admirals
Painted Lady
Coral Hairstreak

Friday, July 6, 2012

Butterfly Bonanza @ Spring Gulch (Rattlesnake NRA)

Decided to do a pre-count reconnaissance of the Spring Gulch Butterfly Count (Rattlesnake NRA, Missoula, Montana) scheduled for Monday, July 9 starting at 10:30 am. I was not disappointed; I counted over 120 butterflies of ~20 species over 3 hours. Here's a short video illustrating the action at times:
At times the butterflies 'teed up' nicely for still photographs, even caught one species in flight:
Small Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis oetus)

Common Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes vialis)

Rocky Mountain Dotted Blue (Euphilotes ancilla)

Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Colorful Wildlife Not Your Style...Abbreviated Fireworks Show

On a full moon night with the Sapphire Mountains in the background, a group of patriotic, pyrotechnic citizens put on a fireworks show on July 3rd in Lolo, Montana. Who these folks are and why they do the show a day early is unknown. Embedded video below is abbreviated from the full fifteen minute show. Happy July 4th...see something great!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Build It and They Will Come...

Have been 'restoring' my yard for several years now, from lawn to meadow/garden/wildlife habitat. Here's a recent photo of the meadow:

It's been beautiful right from the start (to a degree of course). Now it's becoming more beneficial to wildlife, especially pollinators. Over the last three weeks have had four species of swallowtail butterfly use my plantings. Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) found first on Dianthus,
Western Tiger Swallowtail
then followed by: Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) on Penstemon sp.,
Two-tailed Swallowtail
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) on Penstemon sp.,
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
and lastly Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) on Coreopsis
Pale Swallowtail
As pointed out by butterfly field guides, swallowtails are easy to attract to a garden. So I haven't really achieved anything extraordinary. The point being you can do this. Butterflies and bees (and a host of other pollinators) are in decline for a variety of reasons. Consider 'plowing under' a part of your lawn for their benefit. The Xerces Society has many publications as reference information for your restoration efforts: . Michael S. Baldwin writing on the blog 3quarksdaily makes a more expansive case for 'Rethinking Lawns'...good reading at . Create something special!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Damselfly & Dragonfly Season Heats Up in Western Montana

The odonate season has been slow; June conditions in western Montana were cool and cloudy, yes a bit rainy too. Today ode watching improved significantly. Found the first meadowhawks for the year, Cherry-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum internum). Good numbers were found along a Clark Fork River oxbow (Frenchtown, Montana) hanging out in Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). Located an immature male Boreal Bluet (Enallagma boreale) in another patch of snowberry resulting in my best diagnostic photo of this species cerci shape. Another great photo opportunity cropped up in nearby wet meadow habitat; a pruinose Northern Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus) cooperatively perched. Exiting to more drier habitat detected the only Western Red Damsel (Amphiagrion abbreviatum), a female, for the day. It was fun discovering these colorful animals! Find something good in your own neighborhood.
Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

Boreal Bluet

Northern Spreadwing

Western Red Damsel