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SUMMER ON THE WANE (WHADDYA GONNA DO?)

By Nic.Korte

Last weekend, I spent some time birding the aspen forest in eastern Mesa County at 8300 ft. A few weeks ago, I would have easily found 30+ speices. The same will be true in a week or two. This time, I worked hard to break 20. Even Cornell University's fancy ebird website, in their July note to users, referred to this time of year as birding's doldrums. Well, hot times on a late summer morning or afternoon can be perfect for looking at butterflies.  [Check out previous posts on this topic: http://www.gjsentinel.com/blogs/birds_and_more/entry/butterflying-time  AND http://www.gjsentinel.com/blogs/birds_and_more/entry/looking-for-satyrs ]

I have lots of favorites. One that should be familiar to many is Wiedemeyer’s Admiral. Its favorite habitat is willow-lined streams. Their caterpillars feed on willows, cottonwoods and aspen—even chokecherry and serviceberry. I’ve just described most of the plant life in a Western Colorado aspen forest where this beautiful black and white butterfly can be found.


 

A less common butterfly in my experience, is the Ochre Ringlet. I looked it up. The source said “very abundant in the Rocky Mountains.” Shows how observant I am! The ringlet is small, gold and tan and has half-moon markings on its wings. Look for it in grassy areas.

 

Not all butterflies are colorful, which is why, my previous blogs about butterflies neglected the largest group, encompassing nearly 200-species. These are called skippers. Closely related to moths, skippers life histories are also similar as shown by the moth-like shape to their cocoons. The common name, “skippers,” is due to their jerky, skipping flight as they wing their erratic way from flower to flower. I find my own brain often dismisses skippers as “just some insect” because of the spasmodic flight pattern. Such a flight pattern can also make them difficult to watch and photograph, although I have had a few successes over the years.

Skippers are worth examining, if not the most beautiful butterflies, they do have some enticing names. For example, when trying to identify the photo below, I erroneously determined I had photographed a Dreamy Duskywing. Further research revealed that it was, instead, a Rocky Mountain Duskywing—here photographed in a Western Colorado meadow at ~10,000 feet.

Dreamy Duskywings have been found in adjacent counties. Go out and look. Maybe you can be the first to find a “dreamy” butterfly in Mesa County.

[A reminder: if you are able, plant some milkweed (http://www.joyfulbutterfly.com/milkweed-plant-for-monarchs/) in your garden. Monarch Butterflies, which rely on milkweed, have undergone a precipitous population decline. If we want our grandchildren to marvel at these gorgeous butterflies, we have to give them some help.]

This post provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society. Send questions/comments to audubongv@gmail.com. [To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, please see our website at audubongv.org and “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.!]
 

COMMENTS

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Panoramic it is. Thanks for these photos.

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