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Dr. Glassberg’s Excellent Adventure Day 9 Alaska

(Here’s Jeff’s final post from Alaska, maybe the most impressive for butterfly pictures! Above is a male Eversmann’s Parnassian, on Eagle Summit. – ed)

Sunday, June 16.
Today, the thought is to try for better photos – of Astarte Fritillaries, Polaris Fritillaries, Eversmann’s Parnassians and others.

female Eversmann’s Parnassian

When I arrive at Eagle Summit it’s slightly colder than yesterday, 51 degrees vs 52 degrees, but the sky is blue and sunny and there’s little, if any, wind. A perfect day! I wended my way to the rockslide area.

Magdalena Alpine

I spent about three hours amongst the rocks, trying to stand up on the steep slopes. A few Bolorian blowbys might well have been Astartes, but I didn’t see any that I was sure of. As a consolation prize, at least three Magdalena Alpines cruised the rockslides and, on a few occasions, landed close enough to me to enable reasonable photos. A Melissa Arctic landed near me and added another species to this trip.

Melissa Arctic

At about 1 pm, the winds picked up considerably and I decided to call it a day. I had succeeded in obtaining identifiable photos of my three targets, Taiga Alpine, Early Arctic and Astarte Fritillary. Plus, I had the bonus butterfly, ‘Tanana’ Chryxus Arctic. Back in Fairbanks, I was able to switch my plane flights and fly out tonight. Mission accomplished – at least this part of it.

Banded Alpine
female Eversmann’s Parnassian
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Dr. Glassberg’s Excellent Adventure Day 8 Alaska

(Pictured above, Alpine Forget-me-nots near Eagle Summit – ed)

Saturday, June 15.

It was overcast in Fairbanks when I awoke.  The weather report for Circle, AK, about 50 miles east of Eagle Summit, was the closest information that I could find, and the prediction was for mostly cloudy skies and some rain.  So, I had a choice, stay in Fairbanks in the clouds and rain, or drive to Eagle Summit and hope the weather folks were wrong.  No offense intended weather folks, but I headed for Eagle Summit. 

It was good that I did because I saw some wildlife on the way.  There was a snowshoe hare, a red fox, a vole and most excitingly, a caribou (reindeer are the domesticated version of this species – that’s why Santa Claus’ sleigh team are reindeers) – the first I’ve ever seen.  It was a young un, without antlers (almost), but hey, it was still a caribou!  You may be thinking, how do you know that it was a young caribou (other than the fact that it pranced – I didn’t tell you about that)?  Turns out the caribous (including reindeer, of course) are the only species of deer whose females also have antlers.  Good to know.  The photo isn’t so great, but keep in mind that it was taken from a long distance with a macro lens intended for butterflies!

Five miles from the base of Eagle Summit the temperature was 59 degrees – and it was sunny with limited wind! By the time that I reached the Eagle Summit pullout, it was 52 degrees.  But it was still sunny without too much wind.  I began walking and climbing.  For the first time, I was confronted with clouds of some type of gnat-like fly.  It was literally impossible to breath without inhaling some of the flies with the air.  The flies made the half hour or so walk/climb/scramble to the rockslides very unpleasant.  However, I was buoyed by sightings of Banded Alpines, Reddish Alpines, many Polaris Fritillaries and the most Eversmann’s Parnassians I had ever seen.  A little worn out, I eventually made it to the rockslides.  And then, the flies disappeared! 

Astarte Fritillary!

I wasn’t there too long before an oxymoronic large lesser fritillary flew in and landed not too far from me. A ran off a series of photos, then tried to walk around so that I would have a better angle. I partly succeeded when the Bolorian decided that enough was enough, and away it went. Astarte Fritillaries are larger than other are other species of lesser fritillaries, there’s a known colony here at Eagle Summit and they’re found on rockslides – so, an Astarte Fritillary! But wait, you say, you’ve seen this movie before. Glassberg gets excited, looks at the photos, and realizes that he’s seen a more common species in the genus. Good for you! But not this time! This time, it actually was an Astarte Fritillary. The photo of the upperside isn’t great, but useable. Unfortunately the underside photo that I got is pretty woeful. I’ll come back tomorrow to try for better shots.

Can you spot it?
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Dr. Glassberg’s Excellent Adventure Day 1, Oklahoma

(We rejoin NABA’s Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg as he searches America for rare butterflies to photograph. Above image is of a Hoary Edge. – Ed)

Here we go again, I’m off to Oklahoma trying to find and photograph an Outis Skipper.  Those of you following this journey may remember that I tried for Outis last year, outside Dallas Texas.  That didn’t turn out well as not only didn’t I find any Outis Skippers, but I was also in the worst car wreck of my life, with three cars totaled.  Now, I’m trying again.

My plane, scheduled to leave Newark at 9 pm, was again delayed. The explanation that United gave for the 2 ½ hour delay was that high winds at Newark were causing incoming flight delays, including of the aircraft for my flight.  Since I was at Newark, and there were no high winds, this explanation seemed dubious. May I suggest that you don’t fly late in the day? 

I did eventually land in Oklahoma City, found a car, found my hotel and was asleep by around 3 am. 

Yucca

Earlier in the week, I had been in touch with Bryan Reynolds, a retired air force lab technician who now was seriously into butterfly photography.  As it turns out, in the past, on a few occasions he had seen Outis Skippers quite close to his house, in the Lexington Wildlife Management Area, in Cleveland County, Oklahoma.  After we got in touch, he went out that afternoon and saw one!  Looking good.

Red-spotted Purple

The weather for Saturday, May 11 did not look good, but we agreed to meet at his house at 9:45 am.  The weather was good – if one considers 55 degree temperature and completely overcast sky to be good.  None-the-less, we drove into Lexington WMA and walked a likely road.  Almost immediately we saw a Red-spotted Purple.  Unfortunately, most butterflies had gotten the weather report and stayed home.  The wildflowers proved to be a worthwhile distraction. There were yuccas, evening primroses, wine-cups, and plentiful Green Milkweed. Finally, around 3 pm, the sun came out.  Immediately, cloudywings started flying to the Green Milkweed.  In short order we saw Northern, Southern and Confused Cloudywings, along with Hoary Edges and a few other species. Then, the sun went away.

Southern Cloudywing

Around 4:30 pm the sun again appeared and, searching near a few acacias, a small dark skipper looped twice around the trail – we were sure that this was an Outis! And then, the Outis Skipper flew outta sight.  Outta sight, but not out mind.  We’ll try again tomorrow.