Week at Yellowstone

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Tue Jul 30 21:36:42 EDT 2002

I am planning to circulate a list of butterflies seen in central Oregon and NW
Wyoming last week, but meanwhile wanted to comment on
Ernest Williams' notes.  We visited Clay Butte (west of the Beartooth Pass).  As
we drove into the "alpine" meadows at about 9am, we flushed little dark
butterflies from the road shoulder and saw dozens hovering over the grass.  These
were all alpines.   We sort of counted between 400-500 E. theano (Theano Alpines)
along a quarter mile stretch, including right at the lookout, and by different
estimates 50-100 E. callias (Colorado Alpines), depending on who walked where.
There were five of us and we all got the same impression that Colorado Alpine was
more likely to be on bare or almost bare ground and Theano more likely in the
grass. The ratio of Theano:Colorado was about 5:1 on the road shoulder and 10:1
or more on the grass.  Both were fresh, and we found road-kills of both species.
Althnough this looked like an alpine zone, trees occur higher up toward the
pass.  We returned to the same road about 4 pm, when it was still hot and sunny,
and Erebia numbers were greatliy reduced.  We found a few more road kills, but it
appeared that the butterflies had taken refuge down at the base of grass clumps,
and didn't budge when we strode over them.  We found only about 15 Theano and 2
Alpines, where there had been 50 times that number in the morning.

The Theano and Colorado Alpines were quite fresh.  We also saw one tattered E.
episodea, just at the beginning of the "alpine" zone.  This species was more
common (about a dozen in a half hour) near the Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone Park
itself, where a few Theanos were also found.

The only Checkerspot we identified was a few editha, and pretty worn at that.
But others in our party went on to look for Gillette's (I haven't heard from

Michael Gochfeld.

Ernest Williams wrote:

> I just got back from Wyoming (Yellowstone and Cody area) and was
> surprised to find several notes on Yellowstone butterflies.  I can
> comment briefly on the butterflies and on field guides.
> 1. On butterflies of the region.  C. haydenii was abundant, and the
> usual numbers of B. kriemhild were there, but E. gillettii is
> declining.  I'm repeating my 20-year-old survey of gillettii
> populations (1988, J. Lep. Soc. 42:37-45), and the news is a little
> grim.  Several populations that were robust in the 1980's are
> completely gone now.  I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who has
> found it since 1990 - and the locations, as precise as possible.  On
> other species, I assume you mean Pontis occidentalis, not protodice.
> Erebias are down this year - callias, theano, epipsodea.  And I bet
> you saw a lot of C. oetus nectaring on late-flowering rabbitbrush and
> goldenrod!
> >List: (only listing species different than home in California)
> >Coenonympha haydenii - Many
> >(Hayden's ringlet)
> >Poladryas arachne - Many near lake Yellowstone
> >(Arachne checkerspot)
> >Pontia protodice - Zillions
> >(Western white)
> >Parnassius phoebus - Only one
> >The following were snatched from the front of vehicles as they pulled
> >into vista points around the park (I'm an opportunist since I don't
> >carry a net)
> >Speyeria mormonia - beautiful specimen!
> >Clossiana kriemhild - an awesome sight as well
> >The following I couldn't clearly identify:
> >Many specimens of wood satyr/eyed brown
> >Many Many Blues and Coppers
> >Many very fast flying and very large Fritillaries
> >I looked everywhere for Euphdryas gillettii (Yellowstone checkerspot)
> >but never was able to see one.
> >Bob Thomas
> 2. On books (ref: the comments below).  Currently, the best general
> field guide to butterflies of (most of) the west is Glassberg's
> _Butterflies through Binoculars: The West_.  If you haven't tried it,
> do so - whether you collect or not.  The photos are spectacular and
> extremely useful in identification.  For some species, it helps to
> supplement with other books, too.  Sometimes Scott (1986) is helpful,
> though very awkward to use; Howe (1975) adds a little about variation
> of subspecies; Opler (Peterson series, 1999) has good information but
> the visuals don't help; Pyle (Audubon, 1981) has some good points but
> doesn't supplant the others; and Tilden & Smith (Peterson series,
> 1986) is not worth bothering with.  The new regional guides to
> Alberta (1995) and British Columbia (2001) are excellent, if that's
> your interest.  I haven't seen Pyle's new guide to Cascadia.  But
> Glassberg can serve as the primary field guide to the West,
> >Does anyone know of a better ID
> >book than the Audubon field guide or the Peterson's western
> >butterflies?  I continue to get stumped when trying to ID with these
> >two sources :(
> >Bob Thomas
> >Scott's "Butterflies of North America" is a fat book, expensive, and not
> >altogether accurate - but it's a great addition to the two books you've
> >mentioned.
> >The book by the same title by William Howe is sadly out of print.  If you
> >can find one, it's another great book and a must have - even if the taxonomy
> >is way out of date.  It's wonderfully illustrated, and is pretty reliable
> >for id'ing many of the obscure western ssp.
> >Beyond that, I'm afraid you're limited to regional field guides.  Many good
> >ones do exist, though not all are equipped with plates.  Of course, there
> >are the Glassberg books - I haven't bought one yet, but they are apparently
> >getting better as field resources.
> >Mark Walker.
> >I just visited California for the first time during July 3-8 and I
> >used J. Glassberg's "Butterflies though Binoculars West" and
> >California Butterflies by Garth and Tilden for my sources.
> >Butterflies Though Binoculars was very handy came out this spring I
> >believe and it has range maps,yet it didn't have Mountain Crescent,
> >Phyciodes campestris montanus  in it.
> >Randy Emmitt
> Ernest Williams
> Clinton, New York
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