Thursday, April 24, 2014

Finding Early Season Butterflies

Several landscape features, independent of each other and many times overlooked by us, are very attractive for early spring gatherings of butterflies. They are poop, moist soil and tree sap. For overwintering adult butterfly species of the comma and tortoiseshell groups poop, moist soil and sap are all that is available for food. Yes, these organics are food of sorts. That's right, find these "microhabitats" within the broader habitat types of forest, grassland and prairie and you dramatically increase your chances of observing butterflies.

"Puddling" is the term describing butterfly activity at moist soil areas; essentially butterflies are taking in sodium and proteins. Jan Beck, Eva Muehlenberg and Konrad Fiedler (Mud-puddling behavior in tropical butterflies:in search of proteins or minerals? [Oecologia (1999) 119:140-148]) found that male butterflies do take in proteins in addition to sodium (needed for muscle activity) when puddling. Additionally, these substances are attached to the male spermatophore, considered a "nuptial gift", that in reality increases reproductive success!
Crescents on Moist Soil

Fritillary on Poop

Sap Wells

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Yellow-rumped Warbler...Closer Sustained Look

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) hasn't arrived here in western Montana just yet. In your part of the country they may be around and building in spring numbers. Yellow-rumps are numerous in migration just about everywhere making it a good species to observe regularly and really get to know. I took a yellow-rump photo out my window (Bitterroot Valley of western Montana) three years ago during May. I came across this photo recently and recognized its value, i.e. what subspecies is this and why? I admit to being lax at examining birds as well as should be done, in this case down to subspecies. If you are a novice birder, knowing common birds well is a key behavior to advance field identification skills. Here's the photo for a simple challenge or review, enjoy :-)

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Monday, April 14, 2014

2nd, 3rd, 4th Wildflower Species of 2014

First field trip today (Mondays are my day off and conditions were sunny and 60 F as a high) for wildflowers. A bit early in the season, been cool and not too conducive for plant development. But wasn't disappointed at Waterworks Hill in Missoula, a conservation easement/open space bond issue adopted by forward thinking community members. A steep aerobic climb and one is on the east/west ridgetop. Douglasia (Douglasia montana) was the target, several dozen plants were in bright pink flower (early season color beyond brown...wahoo!). Not only did I find them, but so did four or so Checkered White (Pontia protodice) butterfly (nice unexpected bonus for me). On the way back down captured a photos of Yellow Bell (Fritillaria pudica) and Few-flower Shootingstar (Dodecatheon pulchellum).
You folks that live back east should be able find Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa) or perhaps Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) in flower. Take a walk in the wild spot of your neighborhood...development doesn't always get all the wild spots. Get your daily Vitamin D this way, the sunshine vitamin...a lack thereof may be linked to heart disease.

Douglasia and Checkered White

Few-flower Shootingstar

Yellow Bell