Butterflies Galore

I’m not really an expert on butterflies. But while hiking recently in the Front Range foothills , I saw so many of such varied species that I had to check into them a bit more. All these different butterflies are from just one hike.

Aphrodite fritillaries mating

Aphrodite fritillaries. Yellow-green eyes clinch that these are aphrodites. (Colorado Front Range Butterflies).

Females lay single eggs near violets. Caterpillars do not feed, but overwinter until spring, when they eat young leaves of violets.

Northwestern fritillary

Northwestern fritillary. The eyes of this butterfly are blue-grey and the wings are darker towards the body. Colorado Front Range Butterflies.

These two photos show two species of fritillary butterflies. They tend to be orange with black squiggles.

female Common Wood Nymph-1

Female Common Wood Nymph. The double eye spots are the key to identifying this butterfly. Females are larger and paler than males.

I haven’t found anything talking about this, but every time I saw this female Common Wood Nymph land, she seemed to lay her wings onto the landing surface. In late summer, females lay eggs singly on host plant leaves. Caterpillars hatch but do not feed, instead hibernating until spring. (Butterflies and Moths of North America)

Native bees on Asclepias-13

Dusted skipper butterfly and native bees on milkweed. Although here all the skipper butterfly wings are compressed, they often hold their upper and lower wings a little apart, creating an “X” effect. I am trying to find out more about these very unusual bees.

Skippers are a type of butterfly I had never noticed before I started taking pictures of everything of interest on my hikes.

Taxiles skipper

Taxiles skipper on thistle. You can see his “X” wing configuration here.

Males may defend their territory. (Butterflies and Moths of North America)

I used two websites to learn about butterflies: Butterflies and Moths of North America and Colorado Front Range Butterflies. Both are very cool, but the first has an interactive map where people can post their sightings and photographs of the moths and butterflies they see.

 

Goldfinches at lunch

Much of Apex trail follows Apex Creek, and so it has lots of stream side plants growing along it. But as I was going back down the trail, I came to an open area. I looked up slope and saw a family of Lesser Goldfinches perched on top of some Canada thistle seed heads. While I watched, the female shredded a seed head. Just beneath her, a fledgling fluttered its wings for attention.

Mama & juv lesser goldfinches-07

Both Lesser and American Goldfinches rely heavily on sunflowers and thistles for both food and nest material.

Mama & juv lesser goldfinches-10

At first, I thought the female was gathering the fluffy seed fibers. But with the fledgling there, that made no sense — they no longer needed a nest.

Male lesser goldfinch on thist-3

If you look carefully in the male’s bill, you can see he has a mouthful of seeds.

The Lesser Goldfinches were having lunch.

Great Wildflower, Part 2

From our great spring crop of blooms, (https://coloradogeography.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/get-out/) this continues to be an outstanding season for wildflowers.

Every time we begin to dry out, we get a rainstorm that waters the plants. And the flowers just keep comin’.

According to the USDA Plants Profile webpage, http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=MOFI&photoID=mofi_004_ahp.tif you can find pink bergamot all over North America. This is a flower head, made up of many different flowers.

Monarda fistulosa

Pink bergamot, in the mint family. It is sometimes called bee balm.

Monarda fistulosa

Individual pink bergamot flowers.

 

Here’s a close-up of the bergamot flowers.

Many different tribes used the leaves and flowers of this plant as a seasoning, and as a cold and congestion remedy.

 

 

 

 

 

 This is a close-up of a bull thistle and a wild bee. Normally, I have little patience for bull thistle — it is a big, spiny, invasive plant. But this purple-pollen sprinkled bee may change my mind. If bull thistle can provide pollen for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, I will give it some respect. These pollinators need all the help they can get.

Bee in thistle-07_edited-1

Wild bee on a bull thistle head. Each purple fiber comes from a separate flower.

 

The Mariposa lilies are opening in the foothills right now. This is another plant that will continue opening at higher and higher altitudes as the summer progresses.

Mariposa lily-5

Gunnison’s mariposa lily.

 Purple prairie clover has striking orange anthers that catch your eye.

When I sent this to my Project Budburst coordinator, she said that it had never been recorded in the Mount Falcon Open Space before. It is a plains plant; finding becoming established in the foothills may indicate a warmer climate. This is one of the reasons we are monitoring plants in Project Budburst.

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Purple prairie clover.