" The Most Beautiful Small Butterfly in the U.S.A."

" One day in late January I was visiting my sister in San Jose. It looked as if I was doomed to spend that glorious sunny day watching the Super Bowl. Instead, I telephoned lepidopterist Robert Langston and asked where I could find the first new butterflies on the wing this season. Then I called Butterfly Gardener Barbara Duetsch: could she arrange a trip? Kick-off time found us watching the incredibly brilliant Sonoran Blue -- a lifer for me. Minute bits of blue foil daubed with fire-engined flickered over the succulent Duddleyas of nearby Alum Rock Park. The Forty-Niners romped, but I felt we'd had the better day."
Robert Michael Pyle
Handbook for Butterfly Watchers - 1984

I remember reading this book in the mid-Ninties and being excited that this park was so close to San Francisco. The name brings up memories of a second grade field trip as well, complete with big yellow bus and parental release pinned to my shirt. Remember how exciting those trips were? Screams of grossed-out joy with each of us taking a sip from the smelly, sulphuric water fountain: Alum Rock Park is a high altar to the Victorian vogue of "taking in the waters". Sulphur water trapped in bathing pools dot the small creek valley. Beautiful Acropolis-like ruins of brick-layer's whimsy.
iNat has made me ( well, not really "iNat" ...) focus this season on finding the more obscure butterflies that I seem to miss in the Bay Area each season. The Sonoran Blue ( P. sonorensis) is the Superstar of Butterflies along the San Francisco Bay - it's no small coincidence it's on the cover of Art Shapiro's "The Butterflies of the Suisun Bay and San Francisco Bay Region". The title of this journal entry is how many refer to it.
Ken Wilson told me that he and David Rawlinson had recently rediscovered the aforementioned population thought extirpated years back. I met him at the Pleasanton BART ( cuz that's what I do...I jones rides from folks: my payment if they don't take gas money? Witty, incessant banter that makes people laugh and...roll their eyes.) Perfect weather. A slight breeze.
We hit the trailhead with mud-puddling Silveries ( G. lydamus) on the shores of milky pools. Didn't seem to bother them. So weird. The smell of rotten eggs was slightly overwhelming, but the magnificent riparian water concourse trumped all senses.
Sara Orangetips appearing in abundance immediately, then another bulleting Pierid...without orange tips. Knew immediately from the rapid flight that one of my favorite was about: the Large Marble ( E. ausonides ) Rare in San Francisco Co, ( and according to Shapiro disappearing from the Central Valley of California ) it was dense as goats in a petting zoo this day. One actually landed an I got a pretty good shot.
"Target Species" are an interesting thing ( Red-bellied Newt on my last journal entry ) -
yes, hard to surpres the...expectation of joy?...but then a cool thing happens as you walk up and towards that thing you think you came for, the forest reveals even better stuff, right? And sometimes they are dismissively common things you see in a city, but seeing a Red Admiral down in a street using Stinging Nettle? Moments.
On a tallis slope, the first female Sonoran appeared, just friggin sitting there at eye level. The scattered, multi-tasking of camera gear must go slow so one doesn't scare the Damn Thing. ( Did I mention they rarely land?) Got a few shots. Thank you, Jesus.
Males started to appear near the Duddleya host on the rocky outcrops. A cacophony of blues jumping up and checking each other out: echoes, silveries, sonorans. Had one Bramble Green Hairstreak too far up the scree slide. Fourteen species for the day.
Barbara Deustch ( mentioned in Pyle's write-up ) has become a good friend and mentor and I worked on my birds in her garden awhile back in Point Reyes Station.
We lost Robert Langston last fall. His wife said the 86-year-old went up for his daily nap and never woke up. A butterfly - Langston's Blue ( E. enoptes langstonii) - flies in Point Richmond and is named for him.
They were all with me staring at that mind-boggling girl on a rock.

Posted by robberfly robberfly, March 14, 2014 15:10

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Sara Orangetip Anthocharis sara

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 13, 2014 11:25 AM PDT

Description

Hadn't seen these guys since...last spring. Most prevalent Pierid out here.

Photos / Sounds

What

Silvery Blue Glaucopsyche lygdamus

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 13, 2014 11:30 AM PDT

Description

Most abundant blue this day...

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Echo Azure Celastrina echo

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 13, 2014 11:39 AM PDT

Description

The place exudes sulphuric water. Was once a Victorian spa for folks to "bath in the minerals" Males mud puddling at smelly water....interesting...

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Large Marble Euchloe ausonides

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 13, 2014 11:51 AM PDT

Description

The second most prevalent Pierid out. Lucky to catch one of this blasting, little bullets at a flower.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Santa Clara Valley Dudleya Dudleya abramsii ssp. setchellii

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 2014

Description

Host for Sonoran Blue, according to Shapiro
in our area. D. cymosa var stechellii. The plant is more widespread than the butterfly.

Photos / Sounds

What

California Ringlet Coenonympha california ssp. california

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 13, 2014 12:09 PM PDT

Description

First brood in the spring is mossy green like new grass. Amazing to see brown ones...an adaptation to low rain winter? This color normally seen in June and July. Weird.

Photos / Sounds

What

Sonoran Blue Philotes sonorensis

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 2014

Description

Robert Michael Pyle in his book "Handbook for Butterfly Watching" refers anecdotally to this San Jose pop. It was thought to have blinked out but recently rediscovered as doing fine. Considered by many to be "The Most Beautiful Small Butterfly in the U.S."
This is the female.

Photos / Sounds

What

Mylitta Crescent Phyciodes mylitta

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 13, 2014 12:33 PM PDT

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

California Maidenhair Fern Adiantum jordanii

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 13, 2014 12:41 PM PDT

Description

"Black maidenhair?"

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Sonoran Blue Philotes sonorensis

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 2014

Description

Male. Absence of orange dots on hind wings. It floats before one like...electric blue tinfoil.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Sonoran Blue Philotes sonorensis

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 2014

Description

Ventral shot. Total of three males and two females. So cool to start the season with this stunning creature.

Photos / Sounds

What

Western Fence Lizard Sceloporus occidentalis

Observer

robberfly

Date

March 13, 2014 01:47 PM PDT

Comments

Thumb

I visited Alum Rock Park for the first time today with my friend Leslie Flint, both of us hoping for a glimpse of this beautiful butterfly. It did not disappoint us. What a magical place! Thank you for sharing this post with us.

Posted by dpom over 7 years ago (Flag)

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