Sunday, November 8, 2015

Butterflies of Crater Lake National Park

For July 4th weekend this summer, we took advantage of the long weekend to do some camping at Crater Lake with my cousin and his wife. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S., and the site was the first of several National Parks established under T.R.'s tenure as President. Any fears that the scenery wouldn't live up to all the hype were quickly blown to smithereens, much as Mount Mazama itself -- the volcano whose massive eruption left the caldera where the lake sits. The water was an indescribably deep crystalline blue, placed amid a vast and sprawling rocky landscape. 

We had our hopes set on some close encounters with high elevation birds, and maybe a few different mammals than we see in Salem (like the fleeting glimpse of Snowshoe Hare at our campground). Our first hike of the trip was up to Plaikni Falls. It wasn't particularly birdy aside from a handful of Townsend's Solitaires, Brown Creepers, and Mountain Chickadees. As we neared the falls, though, the path crowded with more and more butterflies. Patches gravel and mud had soaked with spray, which drew isolated groups of assorted fritillaries and blues. It was a bonafide puddle party -- the kind we'd read about, but had never seen quite like this.

Plaikni Falls

I'm no Vladimir Nabokov, but its clear that were a variety of blues in our midst (the Lolita author was a noted lepidopterist, who specialized in blues). One photo below has (as far I can tell) at least four species: Boisduval's, Anna's, and Acmon/Lupine Blue, and at least one representative of the "Buckwheat" Blues in the Dotted-blue and/or Square-spotted Blue complexes. You can imagine how incredible a sight it was, notwithstanding this neophyte Lep-lover's frustration in trying to come to terms with some of the most difficult ID challenges around.

Euphilotes sp.

The fritillaries gave excellent looks, but I still can't say whether they're Zerene or Hydaspe. Ah, well…Speyeria sp. it is. The most tame butterfly of all was a beautiful Lorquin's Admiral (fortunately, there's no mistaking that one), which landed on my cousin, before getting passed around and posing for close-ups.

Speyeria sp.

Lorquin's Admiral

Closer to the falls were more puddles, and even greater diversity. Painted Lady, Hoary Comma, Hoffmann's Checkerspot, and immense swarms of more blues than I've seen in one place. I've been meaning to step-up my butterfly game, but Plaikni Falls caught me off-guard. I have my work cut out for me trying to key these mystery Leps, but at least we know where to go once I have a better handle on things. Crater Lake provided plenty more "wow" moments over the weekend, but I'll save the others for a future post.

Painted Lady

Hoffmann's Checkerspot

Hoffmann's Checkerspot

Hoary Comma

Hoary Comma

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