About once a week I get to leave the dim confines of my office and drive up to Palomar Mountain. I spend the whole day looking for butterflies! Me and the rest of the survey team are specifically searching for an extremely rare endangered butterfly, the Laguna Mountain Skipper. We think their flight season is almost over (sightings have tapered off a bit), but I thought I’d post some pictures of some of the butterflies – and other things – I’ve encountered on the mountain. Enjoy!
Here’s the Laguna Mountain Skipper. It’s about the size of your thumbnail, maybe a little bigger. There’s a look-alike species that is also present, just to try to fool us; but I’ve been scoring 100’s on my LMS tests, so I think I’ve got that problem licked.
See that little white dot on one of the leaflets? That’s a skipper egg. The butterfly will land on horkelia (the host plant pictured here), curl her abdomen around the underside of the leaf, and deposit one egg, maybe another one on a neighboring leaf. They’re kind of hard to find, and each individual lays only maybe 100-200 eggs before dying. Most of the eggs are parasitized by wasps, or grazed by cattle when they eat the plant. It’s tough being a skipper, and I’m surprised any of them make it to adulthood!
This is a funereal duskywing; there were a lot out this week but they moved very fast and were hard to photograph.
Here’s a lupine blue – there were a ton of blues out last time I visited the mountain, and there are a bunch of different types. They are some of my favorites! They’re still relatively small, a bit larger than the skipper (some of them).
This is a Melissa blue, which hasn’t been documented on the mountain until now. I took this picture because I thought the butterfly was really pretty!
This Mylitta crescent is quite a bit bigger than the other butterflies pictured; kind of mid-sized. There are a lot of larger butterflies on the mountain – we’ve seen monarchs, admirals, and swallowtails. This one just happened to stay still long enough for me to get a picture of it!
Sick of butterflies? I came across this Southern Pacific rattlesnake last time I was out in the field. I also saw two green racers, but this rattler let me take several photos of him. Don’t worry – I didn’t almost step on him, and my camera has a very good zoom lens. This guy was easily as big around as my wrist, and I’m not sure how much more of him was in the burrow there. I’m definitely learning to watch where I walk!