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Dr. Glassberg’s Excellent Adventure – Alaska, June 12th

(Here’s a “lost” blog post from Jeff’s Alaska trip (he didn’t lose it, I did), enjoy! Pictured above is a Jutta Arctic. – Ed)

Day 5. June 12, 2019

Thinking that it still may be too early for Astarte Fritillary, I decide to take a run for an arctic that has been recently described as a full species.  Although not yet evaluated by the NABA Names Committee, I, and most taxonomists, think that it probably best treated as a subspecies of Chryxus Arctic, ‘Tanana’ Chryxus Arctic.  It’s essentially identical but has slightly different mitochondrial DNA. The population is known only from the Tanana River Valley of Alaska, just entering adjacent Canada.  Reportedly, it inhabits open grassy areas in boreal forest. So, even though, currently,  I’d vote against species-hood for Tanana, being so close (relatively) to its very limited range, I think its worth the effort to chase it –  maybe it will prove to be a real species, and plus, I don’t really have anything else to do today.

Habitat of the ‘Tanana’ Arctic

In the paper describing the taxon, most of the individuals examined had been collected close to Tok, Alaska – about 200 miles from Fairbanks.  One individual was collected closer to Fairbanks – on Spruce Road south of Delta Junction, along a power line cut – about 100 miles from Fairbanks.  So, off to Spruce Road I go, driving down the Alaska Highway. 

Palaeno Sulphur

I get to Spruce Road and the weather is beautiful, lots of sun and reasonably warm.  I drive up and down the length of Spruce Road.  No power line cut that I can see.  Worse, the habitat along the road doesn’t look good at all, mainly low shrubs, not really grassy.  I spend an hour looking.  Not only don’t I find any ‘Tanana’ Arctics, I don’t see any butterflies. Disappointing.  I decide to head out and look around the general area.  I drive aimlessly, something that I’m particularly good at.  About 8 miles away, I notice some telephone poles heading perpendicularly away from the Alaska Highway.  I take a U-turn and pull off the road.  I park, get my gear, get out of the car, and almost immediately see an arctic!  It’s a Jutta Arctic. Justa Jutta Arctic.  

‘Tanana’ Arctic

Unlike Spruce Road, there were quite a few butterflies – I ended up seeing 14 species.   And, after going through a couple more Jutta Arctics, ‘Tanana’ Arctics showed up – at least 7 of them!  So, a good day in the Tanana River Valley.  On the way back, another moose showed up.

Hi there!
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Dr. Glassberg’s Excellent Adventure Day 3 Oklahoma

(We rejoin Dr. Glassberg’s journey through Oklahoma. Pictured above, a Monarch on Green Milkweed – ed)

Although the goal of the trip had been achieved, an identifiable photo of an Outis Skipper, today I set out to see if we could find any more individuals and to see if I could obtain better photos.

The Outis Skipper!

Sun – check; warm weather – check;  Outis Skipper – check!  We started on the same gravel road and, fairly quickly, found an Outis Skipper mudpuddling where the road was blocked by high water.  I was able to get reasonable photos of this one.  So – photos of three different Outis Skippers – I’m a happy camper.

We spent most of the rest of the day checking out Green Milkweeds and other flowers. Amazingly, the number of cloudywing dropped off markedly from yesterday.  In fact, although it was warm and sunny, we saw many fewer individuals, and fewer species, than we saw yesterday.  We did a few new species – Silver-spotted Skipper and Dusted Skipper.

With mission accomplished, I was able to take a leisurely drive back to my hotel, stopping to take in the local sights.  For example, they don’t have a school of horseshoing in New Jersey!  Also, although I knew that the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team had disappointedly lost to the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA playoffs, I was stunned to learn that the loss had made the entire city impotent, at least according to the billboard that I saw.

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Dr. Glassberg’s Excellent Adventure Day 2 Oklahoma

(Will NABA’s President Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg snap the Outis Skipper? Read on to find out! Pictured above is a Confused Cloudywing on an indian paintbrush – ed)

Woke up this morning and the blue skies in my eyes encouraged smiles. By 9 am, when I got to the first spot in Lexington WMA the temperature was 60 degrees.  And, in the sunshine, it felt good.  Walking along the road, I saw many butterflies, including lots of cloudywings and anglewings.  I looked closely at many of the cloudywings, because Outis Skipper is awfully similar – but no Outis. 

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar on wooly pipevine

At 10 am I drove to Bryan’s house and we went back out together, back to the same spot.  More and more butterflies began flying.  We saw Black and Pipevine Swallowtails, a Southern Dogface, a Silvery Checkerspot, loads of ladies and Red Admirals, Viceroys and Red-spotted Purples, Goatweed Leafwings and Northern Pearly-eyes, but no Outis Skippers.

Encouraged, we continued walking back and forth along the road.  A little after 11 am, we both jumped as we saw a small dark spreadwing skipper dart from the underbrush.  Landing near us – it was an Outis Skipper!! Finally.  I grabbed some photos and then it flew again, but only a short distance away.  It sat with its wings partially open, but stray bits of grass and twigs obscured the view.  Then, it flew off, not to be seen again.  I was elated! 

Yeah! The Outis Skipper!

In the afternoon, we drove around Lexington WMA and ending up seeing 43 species of butterflies – not bad.  You can see the list at the NABA Recent Sightings page.  The highlight of the afternoon was another Outis Skipper, this one nectaring at Green Milkweed.    

Confused Cloudywing on indian paintbrush