September 23, 2014 - Two from the desert: a California Giant Skipper and a Desert Black Swallowtail. These are from my usual desert spot, Cactus Spring Trail, which I hiked both Saturday and Sunday. Conditions weren't bad, and I saw 16 species, including a very late Leanira Checkerspot that must have emerged after one of the rains that hit this area a few weeks ago. The California Giant Skipper was a new species for me on this trail, and I saw six of them. I also got a good look at a Great Purple Hairstreak, which is uncommon on this trail.
May 17, 2014 - During a two-day adventure in the Kern-Tulare region on the 15th and 16th I was able to see 33 species. I focussed on the Alder Creek area (6740') both days, moving on to the higher meadows east of the Sherman Pass (9145') and as far as Kennedy Meadows on Thursday. On Friday I started my day at Alder Creek, then meandered down to Weldon and Walker Pass before heading home through the desert and the gauntlet of L.A. traffic. I love California! Number one on my wish list was the rare Milbert's Tortoiseshell. After a couple of fly-bys in April, my appetite was whetted. At Alder Creek on day one, it didn't show in the half-hour or so I spent there. The next day I would be patient, and in nearly three hours I saw one four times. About 10-15 feet is as close as I got to it, but here it is, severly cropped: Nymphalis milberti subpallida. Its colors remind me of the old Houston Astros uniforms.
There were a few other butterflies I had never photographed. A big one for me was the nominate Arrowhead Blue - Glaucopsyche piasus piasus, which I saw both at Alder Creek and in a meadow east of the pass. I now have photographs of the five southern California subspecies: this piasus from Thursday; excubita, which I finally got this April, umbrosa from San Diego Co. in May 2013; sagittigera from near Wrightwood in April, 2009; and gabrielina from a small colony atop Mt. Islip in the San Gabriels in June of 2008. I can say that four of the five required multiple trips before I saw them. My first piasus was actually a "near sagittigera" from the Big Bear area in May 2007, but I like to get good representatives of each subspecies. Seven years later I have them!
Two other new blues are Euphilotes bernardino inyomontana, from Walker Pass, and Euphilotes enoptes enoptes which I found at 4900' west of Sherman Pass at a turnout. At that same turnout was a skipper I could only snap quick photos of before it flew off: Ochlodes agricola nemorum. My first Two-banded Checkered-Skipper, Pyrgus ruralis ruralis, was flying east of Sherman Pass in the wet meadows. And one last new skipper for me: Erynnis pacuvius lilius, which was among the many butterflies at Alder Creek distracting me from my milberti search.
Also welcome to the site: an Echo Blue female that was warming herself in the morning (rare to see them spread like this live in my experience), and a really nice Polites sabuleti sabuleti - Sandhill Skipper - from the Audubon Preserve. Enough for now!
April 20, 2014 - One more long haul up north to the Kelso Valley area for a long-time goal: Apodemia virgulti davenporti. This time I headed straight to a specific spot along Piute Mountain Road where I knew they should be flying. They were out in good numbers, and I was able to get some decent photos early in the day. From there, I headed north past Lake Isabella to the Kern River Valley for a return visit, and at Ant Canyon I found a good flight of Euphydryas chalcedona near olancha. This would be the best locale of the day for butterflies, and I've added a shot of Liminitis lorquini lorquini as well as Coenonympha tullia california from there. I've also added a shot of Pieris rapae - first time in years! It's easy to overlook the common ones, but these are always welcome in my yard.
April 13, 2014 - Found plenty of Glaucopsyche piasus excubita along Whiskey Flat Trail in the Kern River Valley (scroll down). Also at wildflowers on the same trail was a pleasant surprise: Chlosyne palla australomontana.
April 7, 2014 - I decided to take a chance in this dry year and make the long trek to the Walker Pass/Kelso Valley region of Kern County. Conditions were not promising but I did get a few photos, including an Arrowhead Blue I wanted: Glaucopsyche piasus excubita. I also saw a few of the eosierra subspecies of Boisduval's Blue. Also seen: hundreds of Painted Ladies, a Juba Skipper, a few whites inc. protodice, a couple of Melissa Blues, and not much else. The colorado desert area to the south is much better right now for butterflies.
March 24, 2014 - Back in the desert, I was fortunate to cross paths with the rare Strymon istapa clenchi, the first I've seen. This was again at Cactus Spring Trail.
March 10, 2014 - Conditions were fairly dry at Cactus Spring Trail this weekend, but with the warmer weather butterflies were emerging. This Sonoran Blue female was one of several seen not far down the trail. Also seen: California Dogface, Dainty Sulphur, the desertolimbus subspecies of the Gray Marble, male Sara Orangetips, Behr's Metalmark, 'Henne's' Chalcedon/Variable Checkerspot, migrating Painted Ladies, and Funereal Duskywings; none were flying in large numbers. Conspicuously absent were Loki Juniper Hairstreaks, Perplexing Hairstreaks, and Brown Elfins.
Nearly all these photographs of butterflies and their host plants were taken either in my garden, the local park, or (most often) in wild areas within a few hours of my home in Long Beach, California. Butterflies are a life-long interest of mine, and I started photographing them seriously beginning in the summer of 2005. I've listed on six pages - one for each family represented locally - all the butterflies in my area (to subspecies level) and their larval host plants, with links to pages I've created for each butterfly. Some of these are rarely seen and a few are even endangered species, and thus a challenge to find and photograph, but I've included them on the list if they fly in this region. In fact, the challenging butterflies are often the most interesting. There are, of course, various difficulties with creating a comprehensive list to subspecies level, and so it tends to evolve as I learn more or with taxonomic changes.
In my garden I may see fifteen or so different species in a typical year (I've seen twenty-five species there over the years). But by day-tripping to various places no more than a few hours' drive from my house, I can multiply this number many times over. In fact, there are 238 taxa that I've listed for our area (this number is growing as I add Kern County butterflies). The lists on this site are all of these butterflies - those I'd like to photograph that are in my area or a 'reasonable' drive from where I live. My goal is eventually to see and photograph them all (182 as of May 2014), as well as their host plants. Some that are very rare or only occasionally stray into our area are common in Arizona, and I've included a few photographs from there.
Southern California is an incredibly diverse place to explore and enjoy the natural world. Mountain forests, beaches, wetlands, grasslands, deserts, meadows, even islands - all are within easy reach with their various lepidopterous inhabitants. I've learned to appreciate these places, and I hope my photographs help convey some of the richness of our native flora and fauna.
Thanks to everyone for all the help and encouragement I've received over the years. Special thanks to John F. Emmel, Jim Brock, Ken Davenport, Bill Gendron, Gordon Pratt, Fred Heath, John Pasko, Chris Henzlik, Mark Walker, David Horner and Andrew Kim for particularly valuable help with identifications, locations, suggestions, etc.