Saturday, August 14, 2010

Well I'll be a Flittin' Butterfly...and other cool critters

Summer has been somewhat AWOL in Southern California, as our temps have been on average about 5-10 degrees below the norm these past few weeks. Not complaining, but just wondering what the hey is going on with our weather. 

Anyhoo, work and other matters have been diverting me from the blogosphere, so I haven't had much time to check out my fav blogs or to post anything new recently. I miss doing that, and will try to catch up this weekend. 

In the meantime, I've made it a habit now to lug my camera with me whenever I'm in the garden, whether watering, weeding, hoeing or just hanging out. Of late I've noticed a lot of butterflies, bugs and other fascinating but flighty creatures around the grounds. They simply don't wait around for you to run into the house, find your camera, run back, and take their picture, so it's best to be armed and ready to shoot at all times. 

So here are some of those serendipitous shots, including a few taken earlier in the spring. And, as I've said many times before, I'm no lepidopterist. I attempt to ID the butterflies by crosschecking with several field guides (Kaufman's, Audubon, etc.), but if I'm off the mark and someone knows better, please correct me! I'll continue adding new butterfly photos to this post as I take them.

7/31/10 Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) on Apple Mint blossoms.

8/22/10 American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) on Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii).

7/31/10 Northern White Skipper (Heliopetes ericetorum), reposing on the garden hose.

7/31/10 Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon). 

5/2/10 Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon).

8/1/10 Female Checkered White (Pontia protodice) on Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

8/1/10 Male Checkered White (Pontia protodice) on Sticky Cinquefoil (Potentilla glandulosa).

7/31/10 Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) on Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii).

5/31/10 Hedgerow Hairstreak (Satyrium saepium) on California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).

8/22/10 Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) on Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii).

5/8/10 Sara Orangetip (Anthocharis sara). 

7/31/10 Marine Blue (Leptotes marina) on blossoms of Italian Oregano.

3/20/10 Bramble Green Hairstreak (Callophyrs dumetorum) on San Diego Viguiera (Viguiera laciniata). Reposted from my 3/21/10 blog entry

7/31/10 Funereal Duskywing (Erynnis funeralis) on Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii).

8/13/10 Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo) on Longstem Buckwheat (Eriogonum elongatum).

8/13/10 And what in tarnation is this? Looks like a sphinx moth gone wild. It's not in any of my field guides, so will have to search online for an ID. Sipping nectar from the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii). 

Here it is again. This guy is definitely in the realm of wtfery. Hummingbird/wasp/sphinx moth?

POSTSCRIPT: 8/15/10 Thanks to Rosie ( ), I've identified this bee-moth thingy as the Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis). 

"These day-flying moths are widespread in North America. In the Old World, there are several species of hummingbird moths. Some of these species are closely related and all belong to the same genus, Hemaris. The British prefer to call them Bee Hawk-Moths. There are four species of hummingbird moths in North America. The most familiar ones are the Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) and the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe). They are both widespread throughout North America, with the former perhaps being more abundant in the west and the latter in the east. Like the majority of moths and butterflies, the adult hummingbird moths feed on nectar from a variety of flowers." 

8/7/10 Tarantula (Aphonopelmus reversum), scuttling across the brick pavers on our back patio. 

8/1/10 Tarantula Hawk? If it is indeed one of those Freddy Kruegers of the wasp kingdom, it looks like a young'un. If you don't know what they do to tarantulas, go to Wiki for the gruesome details: 

7/31/10 A lovely damselfly, perched on some dry herbage near the pond. 

8/7/10 Female Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria). 

8/7/10 Hummingbird feeding on Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii). We primarily have Black-Chinned Hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) around here.

8/7/10 Hummingbird perched on a dried Clarkia stem (similar to the one that almost poked my eye out).


  1. Your garden looks like quite the butterfly magnet. And just imagine: butterflies congregating around the butterfly bush? So it's not all hype. I'll have to admit to being a little remedial in my knowledge of butterflies that aren't the giant charismatic species. I saw a little fingernail-size dazzling blue-violet one last week that piqued my interest in getting to know them better, and now this timely post!

  2. Wow, oh wowie wow wow!

    We don't see tarantulas until later in the fall. I try to go see them every year.

  3. James, I tell ya - it's a weirdly addictive trend where you go from being a native plant enthusiast, to birder, to what's that bug on my tomatoes, to what's that iddy biddy butterfly that you need an electron microscope to see, to what's that lizard on the fence, to what's that snake in my compost pile, to what's that frog in my flowerpot, etc., etc. Curiosity just stokes the fire...

    Lisa, I never knew Tarantulas ranged as far north as Mt. Diablo up in NorCal. They are just the coolest spiders, ever! I get the warm fuzzies every time I think about them.

  4. Wow I don't think I would get any work done in your garden - I would be snapping photos all the time. I can just imagine with the wonderful natives in your garden how much of a magnet your garden is for those little beauties except for that wasp and big big spider. They move so fast too don't they and they don't like camera lens either lol

    I think thats a type of hummingbird hawk moth that you have - I was fascinated the first time I ever saw one nectaring and those words you described it as being are what I described it as to the local wildlife centre many years ago when I first saw one. We've just had one that I've seen in the garden this year and I didn't have the camera that evening with me in the garden. They love pholx flowers in particular here.

    I just read a bit in your profile - are you a Greer Garson fan? my great grandparents bought their property and its still in the family - I used to walk the same fields and paths she did though she did lie about been born on the property to keep her true age a secret from Hollywood.

    Gonna have a little peep at your new blog now ........ I started a photoblog as well - few words and lots of photos

    :) Rosie

  5. Rosie- thank you, thank you, thank you! That is indeed a hummingbird hawk moth. Upon further research online, I narrowed down the ID of this fellow to the Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis), which is the prevalent species in the Western U.S. I'm so jazzed to learn something new!

    And, yes I'm a Greer Garson fan! I just loved her as the feisty Elizabeth Bennett in the 1940 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. So cool that your family owns their property and that you walked the same paths that she did - I'm in awe! I truly hope one of these days you'll be able to post photos of those grounds on your blog.

  6. I like to call your tarnation bug a flying crayfish. I mean, look at that body, and THE TAIL! We have them here too!

  7. Our summer has been similarly AWOL this year. Although things did start to look up this past weekend. Love your butterflies, especially the Bramble green, so pretty! I was just looking up tarantula hawks this morning. We have a variety here with an all black body, and bright orange wings. I made the mistake of watching a movie this morning about those, and they're impressive...albeit rather creepy. Have to admit though, if I saw one with a tarantula in tow...I'd grab my camera!

  8. Elephant's Eye, You just made me hungry (crawfish etouffee, anyone?). And that's not good...

    Clare, the tarantula hawks are out in force this year and they generally have that black body and bright orange wings which you describe. They're quite ostentatious in flight and my hubby has even mistaken them for hummingbirds. NOT! Just wondering if that little guy I snapped a shot of was a juvee.