[leps-talk] Rocky Mountain High - Part 3

Grkovich, Alex agrkovich at tmpeng.com
Wed Aug 7 17:41:57 EDT 2002


Sorry you apparently missed the White Veined Arctic (O. taygete) at
Cottonwood Pass. It should have been there around the 22nd of July (I missed
it also in July 1999 but on account of bad weather). Another very good place
is Mosquito Pass; keep that in your memory bank for the future. 

I too have had the Alpine stuff disappear into the grass below my net. I
have also lost many prospective specimens to a sudden cloudy condition, in
which they will literally dive and disappear into the grass and vegetation
on a dime once the sun is hidden. I have also witnessed Boloria frigga, for
example, make a rapid bee-line into nearby woods surrounding the willow-bog
habitat as soon as the sun was hidden. On a dime, and it is impossible to
follow the specimen. I would also estimate that the temperature will drop 15
degrees in a few seconds. And when you're all wet from falling into the bog
while chasing one, you really feel it (the water tends to be anywhere from 6
to 18 inches deep in one of these frigga bogs).

But this (disappearing into vegetation) does not only happen on a
mountaintop. Some of the Satyrids, especially, seem notorious for this type
of crafty behavior even in temperate latitudes. The Little Wood Satyr(s?),
after being trapped by my net, are quite adept at just crawling down into
the grassy habitat which they bounce and patrol over. They simply sink
fortress and further until you no longer can find them. By the time you do
pull and maneuver the specimen out, its wings are all torn and damaged. I
have also had Wood Nymphs and Ringlets doing the same thing. Last summer a
Hobomok Skipper did this to me along the Streaked Mountain trail in Oxford
Co., Maine only this was for him a bad move: A group of ants were waiting
for him; a few stings later, I had the specimen away from the ants and safe
in a stamp envelope.

On Sunday, my wife Ljiljana and I hiked up Mt. Snow in southern Vermont
(3,550 feet). The collecting was progressively better as we went further up
the mountainside and encountered more lushy vegetation. We took a pair of
Black (?) Swallowtails, male and female, both of which have the black spot
inside the orange spot/patch at the HW anal angle basically on the wing
margin (?). Other species encountered were Great Spangled, Aphrodite, and
Atlantis Fritillaries, Silver Bordered Fritillaries (extremely abundant),
Common and Orange Sulphurs, Common Wood Nymphs (wide, yellow FW patches,
rather surprisingly), Peck's Skippers, Dun Skippers etc. No White Admirals
were seen, nor were any Tiger Swallowtails seen along the mountainside,
although we did observe a male (which species?) nectaring on orange
butterfly weed along Rt. 100 near Dover, VT (south of the mountain). There
are beeches along the trails from about 2200 to 3000 feet, but no Early
Hairstreaks were seen; I unfortunately did not bring any "bait".

A couple of points about the Speyeria: The Great Spangled Fritillaries (S.
cybele) appear to be subspecies novascotiae (or at least certainly approach
it): they are NOT nominal cybele. I have been finding novascotiae-like
cybele in northern or montane areas of NH, VT and western Maine. It
certainly appears that this northeastern taxa extends well further westward
than is described in the e guides. The S. atlantis which I collected (fresh)
has a very dark purplish brown disk on the HW below; a reddish brown disk is
more common in the northeast. I also have been collecting Boloria selene
from all over New England in order to ascertain where the boundary occurs
between subspecies (southern) myrina and (northern) atrocostalis. Certainly,
material from northern Coos Co., NH (and of course, from Quebec) is
atrocostalis. These tend to be very dark above (actually resembling eunomia)
and with a deep and dark brown ground color below- very beautiful, really.
Further south, it appears that a wide blend zone occurs between the two.
Aphrodite appears to be a bit rare this summer; I have seen very few during
the several trips which I have already made to the Canadian Zone areas of
New England. Populations in general, while having recovered somewhat from
the  cold/wet spring, are still rather poor.

I am planning another trip to Mt. Washington on Sunday; the target of course
is Boloria titania montina. I missed Oeneis melissa semidea when I went in
July (45 F, 60 mile winds in the Alpine Zone). Also, the northern Polygonias
etc. will soon appear in extreme northern NH.


> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Mark Walker [SMTP:mwalker at gensym.com]
> Sent:	Monday, August 05, 2002 8:21 PM
> To:	leps-l at lists.yale.edu; 'lepstalk'; naturepotpourri at yahoogroups.com;
> SoWestLep at yahoogroups.com
> Subject:	[leps-talk] Rocky Mountain High - Part 3
> On Monday, July 22, my family and I ventured northeast of Gunnison,
> Colorado
> to drive over the spectacular Cottonwood Pass - elevation, 12,136 ft.  The
> road surface turns quickly into dirt - but it is well grated and makes for
> easy driving.  This is one of the biggest differences between the Rocky
> Mountains and the High Sierra Nevada Mountains I've enjoyed for a lifetime
> in California.  In Colorado they've grated jeep trails to many of the
> highest elevations.  In the Sierra's, there are only a few roads that
> penetrate the highest elevations - and these are principally limited to
> low
> mountain passes.  I suspect that one of the major reasons for this was the
> mining boom that occurred in much of Colorado during the last part of the
> 19th century.  Precious stones and minerals have a way of convincing
> people
> to build roads where they would otherwise be content with primitive
> walking
> trails.
> We arrived at the pass at 10:30 a.m., and found the barren peaks
> highlighted
> with much sunlight.  The temperature, which had been well into the 90's
> since leaving southern California, was now dipping below 60 degrees F.
> There was also a good strong wind blowing.  Nevertheless, we decided to
> hop
> out and search a few of the high mountain meadows for butterflies.  We
> found
> the meadows damp and full of flowers, and as we walked softly along we
> began
> seeing our first Colias meadii (Mead's Sulphur) zipping out from below the
> arctic meadow tufts. This butterfly reminded me of the sierran Colias
> behrii, both incredibly green below and having the tendancy to disappear
> after erratically alighting in the meadow grass.  Unlike Behr's, however,
> Mead's Sulphur has a stunning orange dorsal color.  They are so orange, in
> fact, that it is easy to mistake them for Speyeria or Boloria upon first
> sighting.  These sulphurs, along with many of the other species we would
> find, would tend to fly great distances after being spooked from their
> resting spots.  This, coupled with the steep, uneven terrain and general
> lack of oxygen made it particularly difficult to pursue them en chase.  We
> (my son was the only one who was willing to venture with me into the
> alpine
> wilderness) had less than a 10% success rate.  We coined a new name - the
> Misty Mountain Flop - for the resulting acrobatics.  Every now and then
> something totally new would emerge from the tundra flora and we would find
> ourselves in an accelerating downhill sprint - only to end with empty net
> and suffering from severe hyperventilation.  It can be particularly hard
> to
> suck air at 12,000 ft.
> Another interesting phenomenon occurs in this habitat.  Arctic Lepidoptera
> seem to be well equipped for falling at a whim and disappearing into the
> darkest depths of the arctic meadow landscape.  I managed to trap one
> freshly emerged Boloria eunomia (Bog Fritillary) against it's perch with
> my
> net, only to discover that the insect had completely disappeared.  Even
> after much combing of the stunted undergrowth, I still was unable to
> locate
> this butterfly.  Amazing.  While butterflies from other habitats are quick
> to leap up and out of the way, these bugs seem to know that their best
> chances of escape are to fall limp and to fall down.  It's effective,
> that's
> for sure.  It leaves the amateur butterfly hunter scratching its head.  I
> spent a lot of time scratching.
> After only an hour or so, the weather maker that is the Continental Divide
> reared it's spectacular head once again.  In just a matter of minutes, the
> whole area was consumed by a thunderhead which grew before our very eyes.
> And in ten minutes, the hail began.  Good sized hailstones (on the order
> of
> 5 mm in diameter) rained down upon us, stinging our flesh.  We made a mad
> dash for the vehicle, and then sat and admired the animated storm from
> within the confines of our rental vehicle.
> That would be the end of our butterflying for the day.  One hour at 12,000
> ft. and then it was over.  It seemed a shame to drive so far for just an
> hour.  But then we realized that the bugs and habitat that we had just
> experienced, as well as the calisthenics they demanded, made it all easily
> worthwhile.
> Our list:
> Parnassius smintheus (Rocky Mountain Parnassian)
> Colias meadii (Mead's Sulphur)
> Colias scudderi (Scudder's Sulphur)
> Lycaena nivalis (Nivalis Copper)
> Plebejus saepiolus (Greenish Blue)
> Plebejus icarioides (Boisduval's Blue)
> Agriades glandon (Arctic Blue)
> Speyeria mormonia (Mormon Fritillary)
> Boloria eunomia (Bog Fritillary)
> Boloria chariclea (Arctic Fritillary)
> Phyciodes pratensis (Field Crescentspot)
> Erebia epipsodea (Common Alpine)
> Erebia callias (Colorado Alpine)
> Mark Walker
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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