May 26, 2020 - I made a couple more trips to Joshua Tree NP and things were looking pretty good at Lost Palms wash, though it feels spring has yielded to summer in terms of plant and butterfly succession. All the way up the wash among the palms, which apparently aren't really "lost" after all, I found nice-looking and cooperative Wright's metalmark flying with California patches and lots of Queens.
May 20, 2020 - Two more caterpillars: Pontia beckerii on host bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), and Apodemia mejicanus deserti on desert trumpet (Eriogonum inflatum). These are from a hike up into Lost Palms wash in Joshua Tree NP.
May 14, 2020 - It was cloudy in the coast ranges, but along Davis Road just a few miles south of highway 46 I found a larva of the fall-flying mormo that uses Eriogonum nudum var indictum. Good thing I brought my tripod, because this thing was tiny. This is what all the mormo-complex larvae look like - they aren't really separable at this stage. Incidentally, the place you turn to take Davis Road from the highway is just about where 24-year-old James Dean was killed when his Porsche 550 Spider was hit by another car in 1955.
May 9, 2020 - In the New York Mountains within the Mojave National Preserve I saw my second Chlorostrymon simaethis sarita in five days. My target was Erynnis brizo burgessi, which I was happy to get within moments of parking my car for a hike up Caruthers Canyon. That's another new one to the site. Another good butterfly from that day was the black form of the desert swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes coloro, form clarki. It's not fresh, but it's still a cool butterfly. I've also added a photo of the larva of Anthocharis lanceolata desertolimbus that Gordon Pratt was kind enough to give me the other day.
May 3, 2020 - I had an eventful couple of days looking for butterflies. On Friday I was seemingly alone in the Kingston Range looking for Euphydryas chalcedona kingstonensis; I wanted it from the place it was originally described. When I found a good wash with the right host plant, I began to see the butterfly. At the same time, there was plenty of California buckwheat there, and I realized that the Bernardino blues there must be another target of mine: Euphilotes bernardino martini. So that was great - two targets in one hike. The next day I participated in a butterfly count in Joshua Tree National Park with Joe Zarki (the park is currently closed to the general public), and we had the good fortune to encounter a rare stray from Mexico: a single Chlorostrymon simaethis sarita nectaring on mule fat. There are reports about these in Arizona as well, so it's one of those special years when this little hairstreak wanders far from its natural habitat.
April 29, 2020 - A new addition: the Desert Elfin, Callophrys fotis mojavensis from the Mojave National Preserve. It's basically a butterfly of the Mojave desert, from the eastern California ranges into Nevada and Arizona. On the same hike, I found a beautiful leanira alma hilltopping. I've added a Siva hairstreak from that hike as well. I'd only seen that one in Arizona, so it was good to encounter it in California. I got a long flyby from the endangered Indra subspecies that flies there - martini. A good look was all I could manage, though. It was just north of the Providence Mountains in the Mid Hills area visiting a ravine in the afternoon. That was yesterday; the day before, I headed to the Ord Mountains in Hesperia and from there drove up to Coxey Meadow. As a result, I've completely redone the page for Apodemia virgulti mojavelimbus. The Ords are its type locality (the place from which it's described).
April 23, 2020 - A Chlosyne leanira alma was hilltopping along a ridgeline along Cottonwood Pass southwest of Las Vegas. This one is more boldly marked than the one I saw in the Kingston Range. I also revised the page for Apodemia mejicanus deserti, adding a couple of recent photos from the Kingston Range and Cottonwood Pass.
April 16, 2020 - With better weather, the butterfly activity is picking up in the far reaches of southern California. On April 11th, I was in the Mojave Preserve again - my fifth trip there this season. Anthocharis thoosa was still flying, and I've added a female and a ventral shot to that page. The next day I was in Blythe, at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve; check out the additions to the Hesperopsis gracielae page. That was the "easy" drive. I headed out early the next morning determined to get photos of Glaucopsyche lygdamus deserticola, which I'd seen several times on the 11th but only had a few blurry shots to show for it. I really wanted the female, and with some patience a nice, fresh blue posed in the cool desert air. The Teutonia Peak trail off Cima Road was wet from good rains the night before, but the sun was shining and the wind was still. A Euchloe lotta also looked to be freshly-emerged. A good day so far, but I had time to get to the Kingston Range and see whether Euphydryas chalcedona kingstonensis was flying at its type locality. This was my first time there, and I was surprised that the road was paved as far as I intended to go: about 19 miles up Excelsior Mine Road. Along the way I stopped several times to see what was nectaring at the abundant roadside flowers. Castilleja chromosa there was lush, and I was really excited to finally see my first Chlosyne leanira alma - an unexpected highlight of an already-good day. I scoped out the canyons, but little was on the wing there. I stopped at Afton in the afternoon and did some reconnaissance at a spot I'll be revisiting later in the year for a rare skipper. The next day, Cactus Spring Trail provided something of a day off, though I aborted the hike due to the number of hikers. A highlight was the tiny Pyrgus scriptura apertorum in the spot I've often found it, but I don't think I need to update that page here. The popular trails are something I avoid - too risky. I thought I'd be nearly alone on a weekday, but by the time I left there were 15 cars at the trailhead. Yikes. The next day, I headed home from Palm Desert to Long Beach, and decided to detour up the 62 to the 247 and see whether I could improve my old Euphydryas chalcedona corralensis photos. Turns out, yes, I could.
So that's the "short" version of the last several days' adventures. I'm getting ready to get back out there and get after more of the eastern Mojave species I've long planned to experience. It's a pretty solitary endeavor, staying by myself in the desert and venturing out to remote areas. But I'm staying away from other people in this weird time of social distancing. The roads are wide open, gas is cheap, and I have a new engine in my car. The desert is warming up and coming to life. The vistas are stunning - with the rain and lack of air pollution, these remote eastern desert ranges provide some jaw-dropping views. Interesting times.
March 30, 2020 - Euphilotes speciosa - the Small Blue - was flying at In-Ko-Pah gorge on the 28th (well, at least one was). These are a sought-after butterfly that I was happy to get and specifically targeted for the day. It's been a busy March, with several long day-trips. But going alone to "the middle of nowhere" feels not only safe with the coronavirus beginning to rage but also helps me get a sense of normality. I plan to get a few more trips to the Mojave in and to explore several other exciting and remote spots as well in this strange April that awaits us.
March 23, 2020 - Added a good ventral view of Pontia sisymbrii nigravenosa from the Providence Mountains.
March 19, 2020 - I found an Anthocharis thoosa, similar to the Sara orangetip, flying in the Providence Mountains a few days ago. In Joshua Tree National Park, I got some nice shots of what can be called Euchloe lotta or E. hyantis lotta - the desert pearly marble.
March 7, 2020 - Took a long day-trip into the Mojave National Preserve on March 3rd. It was cold and there wasn't much to see, but I did get one species I needed: Pontia sisymbrii nigravenosa. I also have added photos of both the larva and pupa of Hesperia juba (scroll down), which Gordon Pratt was kind enough to give me. Things have been perhaps a bit slower than I'd hoped after good early rains, but I'm getting optimistic after the past couple of days. It's still early, and more rain is in the forecast.
January 30, 2020 - The first butterflies of the year have emerged (no photos yet, though!). While Cactus Spring Trail is still basically dormant, the lower elevations immediately south of Palm Desert are warming up. While getting some exercise on the Henderson Trail - accessed from the parking lot of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center on highway 74 - I was somewhat surprised to see a lone Painted Lady. A little later, a Sara Orangetip appeared; I wasn't expecting one as early as January 27th. Back in town, a Large Orange Sulphur and some more common butterflies were just getting the year started. Rain has been good so far this winter, and the coming year looks promising.
October 23, 2019 - I added pages for a few rare strays, whose photos are mostly from my recent foray to Arizona. They are the Texan Crescent (Athanassa texana texana), the Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos tharos), and the Arizona Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis arizonensis). There are also new photos on the Queen, Snout, and the echo cinerea pages.
October 21, 2019 - As part of a revision to this site, I've added pages for the Pima Orangetip, Anthocharis cethura pima, as well as the juniper hairstreak Callophrys siva siva. Both have photos from a spring, 2013, trip to Arizona, but these butterflies do range into southern California. As it happens, I just returned from several days in Arizona, after which I stayed in Palm Desert for a few days and hiked Cactus Spring Trail three days in a row. Needless to say, lots of photos coming. Briefly, Patagonia had some choice butterflies, and I had good days in the Santa Ritas and a really enjoyable stop at the Bryce Thompson Arboretum east of Phoenix. As a teaser, an Arizona Sister - Adelpha eulalia - posed for me on the road up Montosa Canyon. Closer to home, Cactus Spring Trail is having a good autumn, with several Agathymus stephensi easy to find each day; a Systasea zampa making an appearance; California Sisters were worn but out in numbers I'd never seen there before; and good fall flights of Euphydryas chalcedona hennei and Apodemia virgulti virgulti had me wondering whether there had been summer rains I was unaware of. The flight of Euphilotes dammersi dammersi is ending. Actually, that may just about do it for the year for me as well. I've already got a late January trip in mind, and that's just three months away.
October 9, 2019 - I was fortunate to find and photograph MacNeill's Saltbush Sootywing - Hesperopsis gracielae in Blythe, CA. a few days ago. This was my first visit to the Palo Verde Ecological Preserve along the Colorado River, and my first encounter with this uncommon skipper. A few days later I drove up into the Mojave National Preserve via Kelbaker Road when I came across a nice Great Purple Hairstreak. Summer rains don't seem to have materialized there, so butterfly activity was poor. In between those two long day-trips I hiked Cactus Spring Trail twice, and it was doing pretty well considering it's October. Fresh broods of Euphydryas chalcedona hennei and Apodemia virgulti virgulti kept me company while I concentrated on Euphilotes dammersi dammersi and Agathymus stephensi, both of which only fly at this time of year. I've revised the pages for those butterflies.
Meanwhile, I've been doing a thorough revision of my southern California list. I've decided to define the area as all the counties south of the straight line that stretches east-west from the northern San Bernardino county line to the coast, in San Luis Obispo (see the map below). That brings rarely-seen species and subspecies of, for example, the remote eastern ranges of the Mojave National Reserve into play, as well as some coastal specialties from SLO and Santa Barbara counties that will not be easy to get. That's why this year I've made initial forays up to SLO Co., the Hualapais in Arizona, and now the Colorado River at Blythe and Granite Pass in the Mojave Reserve. When I started this site and project twelve years ago, I was getting photos at my local park and nature center, and places such as Big Bear were full of species I'd never photographed. Things have changed; the low-hanging fruit has been picked. The last few dozen butterflies that I need to complete this quest of sorts will require some planning and effort, and I'm very excited about the trips that lie ahead. California is truly beautiful, and chasing rare butterflies is a great way to experience its natural wonders.
September 22, 2019 - I finally was able to devote the time to go after Hesperia columbia, a rare skipper, and found a couple on a hilltop in Frazier Park today. It wasn't particularly sunny, but I was fortunate that it was just warm enough at times for them to fly. I've also updated the page for Heliopetes ericetorum, including some newer photos.
September 4, 2019 - Another new butterfly is the Coast Range segregate of Apodemia mormo near mormo. These are really beautiful, and while genetically different from the endangered langei from the Antioch Dunes, they look similar. And that look is different from anything else I've seen in southern California. I found them in a spot I learned about in Ken Davenport's writings: Davis Road near the border between the counties of San Luis Obispo and Kern. Quite a drive, but quite a butterfly. Its host plant now has a page as well.
August 31, 2019 - A new addition is the hard-to-find Euphilotes pallescens elvirae, a species that flies in the deserts in the heat of August and September. Looking forward to more trips in September and October for some autumn specialties.
August 22, 2019 - Just finished revamping the gallery. It's not completely done yet but it's close.
August 20, 2019 - The Painted Lady page has been spiffed up a bit, including an introduction and a couple photos replaced. I should probably do that with the oldest pages as I get the time. Eventually I'd like to overhaul all of them, but it's not exactly a priority to be honest. So there. A Desert Swallowtail caterpillar from April that I happened upon when going through older photos seemed worthy of inclusion on the coloro page. It's at the very bottom.
August 18, 2019 - I added a recent photo of an American Lady that was flying at Frazier Park. Another trip up to that area featured a good flight of a metalmark I'm interested in - call it Apodemia mormo tuolumnensis - that was among Eriogonum wrightii. I also put up a new photo of Hesperia colorado near tildeni from that area, as well as a new Cercyonis sthenele behrii that I came upon during that hike. I plan to return in mid-to-late September to try for Columbia Skippers. I've also included a brownish female Melissa Blue from a 2014 trip after realizing I only had a very blue individual on that page.
July 31, 2019 - I've gone deep this summer getting to know the Santa Anita Canyon population of what should be Lycaena arota nubila. On my tenth trip to the colony site I first found June 24th, a female finally made an appearance. I also made a special trip July 28th to the Volcan Mountain Wilderness to photograph nominate arota females for eventual comparison to nubila. I feel I can learn a lot about a butterfly through reading about it, but I only get to really know it by getting out in the field to see it in its habitat. While targeting nubila, I came across a few other interesting things, such as this cool larva of an American Lady.
July 17, 2019 - Took an overnight getaway to the Sherman Pass area. Alder Creek (6800') and Bald Mountain were the best places lep-wise. Meadows and roadsides were lush, but pretty much butterfly-free, which seemed strange, especially with such nice weather. I was happy to photograph the dark female Chlosyne palla I've long wanted to see. And Papilio indra phyllisae was flying at Bald Mountain and I was able to get close to the freshest one.
July 13, 2019 - A Marine Blue (Leptotes marina) in my backyard garden this morning was fresh enough to photograph, so I did. I've been out and about as well and have a few things to share. One is an interesting aberrant nominate Euphydryas chaledona I happened across in one of a series of hikes to Santa Anita Canyon dedicated to looking for female nubila as mentioned below. The same location also yielded a Painted Lady caterpillar different from the one I already had here, so I added it. A hike along the McGill Trail at Mt. Piños led me to a beatiful male "Chlorina" Lupine Blue. That was a good day; earlier I saw many Veined Blues at the summit (scroll down), and that was after a stop at Lake of the Woods where Blue Coppers were flying.
June 26, 2019 - I was able to find a couple of male Lycaena arota nubila - the 'Cloudy' Tailed Copper - in the San Gabriels above Chantry Flats. A search specifically for females the next day didn't turn any up, though the road/trail I was on was swarming with butterflies generally. Nubila is a new addition to the site, the first new taxon in a while. By my current reckoning, that's 198 out of 256 taxa; the last few dozen are not going to be easy and I expect to be doing this for many more years, which is good. A few of the 256 (that number is somewhat arbitrary) are almost certainly extinct, so I may have to add some specimen photos at some point. I've added a nice female Bernardino Blue from the same area because I liked the wing colors so much.
June 19, 2019 - Decided to try the mountains on a beautiful Wednesday. Headed to Sunset Peak, mainly to see if I could get another photograph of an Indra Swallowtail. I did, but it was worn and not worth posting. But this Clemence's Blue female is typical of the beautiful blues flying here. Earlier in June I checked out a large patch of Eriogonum inflatum at a roadside pullout along Hwy. 74 in Palm Desert that I'd noticed in years past. I was happy to find not only a healthy population of Desert Metalmarks, but a Wright's Metalmark as well (the latter on Sweetbush).
April 22, 2019 - Cactus Spring Trail has been strangely slow for many species, but things seem to be picking up, and today was the best day there for the year (fifth visit so far). I have some catching up to do, but for now here's a Becker's White caterpillar I happened to find. That's the only new thing for this site, though I do have some nice photos among the thousand or so I've taken there lately. Behr's metalmarks are now flying (they weren't last weekend). Some butterflies (such as several whites) are having a great year, while other species are noticably absent or nearly so. For instance, among desirable species, I've seen one Sonoran Blue, no Desert Black Swallowtails, no Loki, no Small Checkered Skippers. Juba and albescens are now out. Hennei and N. californica fading fast.
March 1, 2019 - Headed out to Cactus Spring Trail as things have finally begun to warm up there. The plants are generally in their winter sleep, as are most butterflies, but I was kept company by a few species. Painted Ladies are in a dispersal, so they are everywhere, but they were rivalled at times by surpringly common California Tortoiseshells. The first male Sara Orangetips have also emerged, as had a single Euphydryas chalcedona hennei. The creeks are flowing, and there is snow on the mountains; things will be hopping there in a month or so.
January 12, 2019 - Lots of rain has me encouraged that the coming year will be far better than was 2018. The few hikes I did last year were in depressingly dry landscapes, and I basically wrote the year off early on and indulged in other things. But this year will certainly be better, and I hope to make the most of it. I hope you do too.