LA Times Article on Recreational Butterflying
Mary H. Shepherd
mhs2 at ix.netcom.com
Thu Dec 2 16:31:04 EST 1999
he following article about recreational butterfly watching and Wanda
Dameron, a Board member of the Los Angeles Chapter of NABA, appeared in
the Valley edition of the LA Times recently. It included a photo of
Wanda and one of her binoculars on top of an open field guide. Enjoy.
Los Angeles Times (Section B, pages 1&4) Valley), Friday, November 19,
TRANSPORTED BY WINGED BEAUTY
By PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN
When Wanda Dameron plants her garden, she doesn't just think about
color, scent, hardiness and height.
Above all, she thinks about what will draw butterflies into her West
Hills backyard, which is why she grows passion vine and buddleia, or
butterfly bush. Dameron is one of a burgeoning number of butterfliers
nationwide, people who happily spend their leisure time seeking
beautiful winged insects.
Like many others, she was previously an avid birder, chasing elusive
warblers and other rare species, enthusiastically adding each new
sighting to her growing life list.
But about eight years ago, Dameron was getting a divorce and found she
couldn't afford the international trips that attract birders of means
and her level of expertise.
Fortunately, Dameron discovered a glorious, less costly alternative,
thanks to a birding friend who had moved to Glendora, where there is an
out-of-the-way canyon alive with butterflies.
"It changed my life," says Dameron, who now runs Flutterby Press, a
small publisher of butterfly checklists, wall charts and other aids for
people who share her passion.
She is also the author of "Searching for Butterflies in Southern
California," a guide to butterfly hot spots that she intends to update
once taxonomists settle on standardized names for various species.
Like birding, butterflying introduces practitioners to a world that is
all around us but most of us never see.
Dameron is now aware not only of the colors and sheens of various
species, but also of how they move. "Like people, butterflies have
different gaits," she explains. "Some have very fluttery flights. Some
do what some birds do--a float, and then a flap flap. Some have jerky
Dameron is active in the Los Angeles Chapter of the North American
Butterfly Assn., the Audubon Society of the butterfly world, with a
membership of about 4,000. Among the association's activities is an
annual butterfly count on the Fourth of July, comparable to Audubon's
venerable Christmas bird count.
SPOTTING MONARCHS IN THE BACKYARD
Summer is the height of butterfly season, although Southern Californians
are fortunate to have some species all year long. These days, Dameron is
thrilled when she spots a monarch in the backyard.
Jeffrey Glassberg, who founded New Jersey-based North American Butterfly
Assn. in 1993, points out that surveys regularly show that butterflies
are the type of wildlife people most want to have near their homes.
It's no shock that people would rather live among butterflies than, say,
possums, but, even among creatures that are easy to love, butterflies
have an extraordinary catalog of virtues. "They don't bite," Glassberg
says. "They don't sting. They don't carry any diseases. They're
beautiful, and they're associated with concepts like freedom and the
Conventional wisdom has it that one reason more and more birders are
becoming butterfliers is that they already have expensive
binoculars. In fact, Dameron says, "most good bird glasses don't
work for butterflies. Most don't focus closer than 10 feet
and you need to be able to focus at 4 feet for butterflies."
One of the wonders of butterflying is that you can almost become one of
the flock in a gathering of butterflies, something you can't
do with birds and that you wouldn't want to do if you remember what
happened to poor Tippi Hedren in Bodega Bay. Butterflies are
"You need to find nectaring plants," Dameron says. "Then you can get in
The social side of butterflying is one aspect that appeals to Dameron.
Butterfliers tend to be outdoors people, she says, who don't smoke and
are quick to embrace other people who know the difference between a
Callippe fritillary and a Mormon fritillary when they spot one flapping
among the violets. Virtually to a person, butterfliers are united in
their concern about the loss of butterfly habitat to development,
especially worrisome because some butterflies never fly more than 50
feet from where they hatch.
Dameron estimates that there are only 200 people doing serious research
on butterflies nationwide, and, instead of disdaining the well-informed
amateur, "they just welcome us with open arms."
If you get very lucky, it is still possible to make discoveries in
butterflying. "You can go to Sonora, Mexico, and find a butterfly
that's never been identified or written up before," says Dameron. "It's
A PASTIME WITH PLUSES
Like many other addictive pastimes, butterflying has a paradoxical
effect: It is both exciting and relaxing.
When your entire field of vision is filled with the lovely form of a
choice hairstreak or tortoiseshell butterfly, Dameron says, "You forget
Birding, too, has the ability to transport you to another world. But
Dameron thinks butterflying is superior in at least one respect.
"You don't have to get up early," she points out.
Although some fly at dawn, others at dusk, most butterflies flutter from
about 9 in the morning until early afternoon.
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