Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mimic Plant Phenology...Become A Recurring Wildlife-Watching Phenomenon

I went outside after dinner, conditions were good (warm and sunny) for finding...butterflies. The hillside below our house is a grassland with interspersed conifers. The highlight is a large area of Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamrhiza sagittata) flowering now. Sure enough, spied two butterflies that were pretty skittish: Boisduval Blue (Plebejus icarioides) and Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice), photos below.

Success at finding wildlife can and is influenced by knowledge of phenology. Phenology defined: "The scientific study of cyclical biological events, such as flowering, breeding, and migration, in relation to climatic conditions. Phenological records of the dates on which seasonal phenomena occur provide important information on how climate change affects ecosystems over time" (The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin). So by knowing that flowers are important food sources for some butterfly species, one can narrow down butterfly searches to places that have flowers in bloom.

If you repeatedly use this strategy...well your behavior becomes a recurring phenomenon (a remarkable person!), though not dictated by climate :-) The bolded words are a positive meme, but they are really a call to action...get outside and wildlife watch even if for only 15-30 minutes a day. It's guarantee you will discover a world of beauty and wonder.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Boisduval Blue

Clouded Sulphur

Monday, May 12, 2014

Butterfly and Wildflower Action Picks Up

Noted a blog posting from Northwest Butterflies alerting folks as to Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) migrating into Washington. Sure enough found a couple by accident at Blue Mountain (Missoula, MT) nectaring on Heartleaf Arnica (Arnica cordifolia). Also using this 50 yard linear patch of flowers were Green Comma (Polygonia faunus) and Western Pine Elfin (Callophrys eryphon). Earlier, a Sulphur blew by me without stopping along with another species of Elfin. And yes the wildflower show is kicking in...really enjoying the stands of color from Shooting Stars and Glacier Lilies :-)

Painted Lady

Green Comma

Western Pine Elfin

Shooting Stars

Glacier Lily

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dragonfly Watching Adventure

Visited Georgia for a couple of days for wildlife watching. Trip objectives: find, identify, photograph what nature I can (focus on dragonfly species) given total unfamiliarity with the land...basically live large and passionate (going for it...like you?).

Took over 600 photos/video using two Canon cameras/7" Nexus tablet visiting one National Wildlife Refuge, four State Parks/two Wildlife Management Areas. Weather was a major feature - a slow-moving storm front with tornado's and twenty-one inches of rain in places. Avoided harm by channeling my intuitive Weather Channel persona :-)

Encountered 46 species of birds that I had not listed in years; comedic nasal cawing of the Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) and the Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrina) singing "monte monte video" from the dense forest understory stand out. Landscape features, well they were green, really green and verdant. Closing my eyes I can still see the Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) draping the Cypress swamp trees at Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Getting back to things that fly, believe I found five "lifer" butterfly species (2 Satyr, 1 Sootywing, 1 Skipper and 1 Swallowtail). However, observing different Skimmers (Libellulidae dragonfly family), made my trip...big and showy species (for the most part:-) that most folks mentally associate as "dragonflies". They are spectacular!

Call to Action - Your neighborhood wetland might even have these species present for your own discovery, try it. Below is a sampling of species discovered:
Bar-winged Skimmer

Golden-winged Skimmer

Painted Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer