Rocky Mountain High - Part 5

Mark Walker MWalker at
Thu Aug 8 18:23:06 EDT 2002

On Saturday, July 27, I slept in.  As a result, I decided to head for
someplace local to do some hunting.  I was hoping to find Hypaurotis
crysalus (Colorado Hairstreak), which is as spectacular a bug as we have in
the U.S. - and I've only encountered it once in the Garden Canyon of Ft.
Huachuca.  With some help from my friends, I was directed towards the
foothills below Cheyenne Mountain.
I arrived fairly early - 9:30 a.m. - and the sun was just starting to warm
things up.  I walked through the oak woodland habitat, and was discouraged
at the serious lack of water in the stream beds.  Before long, however, I
started seeing Pieris rapae (Cabbage White) nectaring on what turned out to
be a plentiful nectar source.  My next butterfly was a surprise - Lycaena
arota (Tailed Copper) - a surprise only because I wasn't smart enough to
expect it.  It turned out to be very common - the males flitting about from
perch to perch, while the females enjoyed sipping nectar for long periods of
time.  The coppers presumably ended up flying most of the day, since I found
them here after 5:00 p.m. on the following day.
By 10:30, things really started to heat up.  At this lower altitude, the
cool 70 degree F alpine afternoons I had been enjoying previously were
transformed into a 95 degree dry sauna.  I was hiking a lot, and climbing
through a very parched and unshaded terrain - and hoping for a large
thunderhead to move in and cool things off.  I got my wish by noon, but I
was more than finished chasing anything but a beverage by then.
Another big surprise in this habitat was a mating pair of Satyrium titus
(Coral Hairstreak).  The female was big, beautiful, and had large orange
patches on the dorsal side.  Her pink coral ventral submarginal band was
also stunning and large.  The male looked tired and worn, and since I ne'r
saw another individual, I suppose he was her permanent boy in bondage.  Many
female butterflies are bullys, I'm afraid.  They're bigger and stronger, and
no little lep guy stands a chance, I fear.  Of course, you could always look
at it another way - this little guy had something special, in spite of his
ragged appearance.  He was on a mission to be the sole propagator of El Paso
County titus for 2003.  A respectable goal, for sure.
Sorry for the detour there.  Many serious entomologists really hate it when
I digress into a most inappropriate personification.  Bugz is bugz, and they
don't really have any such sexual deviations.  It's more a sign of the
twisted state of the observer, I've been told.
O.K. - so forget it.  My wife had only been gone for one day - no reason to
go off the deep end.  Besides - I had my son to take care of.  Drooling and
foaming is not an acceptable behavior for the father of a teenager.  I'll
work on it.
I enjoyed many other bugs this day, including Ochlodes sylvanoides (Woodland
Skipper), Piruna pirus (Russet Skipperling), an Erynnis that I'll
tentatively call telemachus (Rocky Mountain Duskywing), Hemiargus isola
(Reakirt's Blue), Papilio rutulus (Western Tiger Swallowtail), and my good
friend Limenitis weidemeyerii (Weidemeyer's Admiral).
Before calling it a day, I decided to hike up a little higher into a nice
grove of smallish Quercus trees.  I was still hoping to see a Colorado
Hairstreak.  Instead, what I found was Cercyonis - and two marvelous species
at that.  Both Cercyonis pegala (Common Wood Nymph) and the spectacular
Cercyonis meadi (Mead's Wood Nymph) could be found flopping about under the
sparse oak canopy.  For some interesting reason, the Mead's were only found
in one very small area, while the pegala could be found virtually anywhere
throughout this habitat.  There were never many in any particular location,
but neither of these were seen at all in the area I searched first - so they
were a pleasant surprise, for sure.
I was back in the hotel by 1:00, and took a much needed rest.  Colorado had
already been very, very good to me.
Mark Walker.
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