Butterflies and More at Groundhog Mountain

Looking north from “Sundew Road”, you can see haze from smoke, but at least there was some view! Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) was blooming abundantly along the old road.

Painted ladies were abundant everywhere we went. Note the 4 or 5 circular marks along the edge of the hindwing.

The are by Groundhog Mountain has been one of my favorites for many years. What with the roads deteriorating, the oppressive heat, and the awful smoke from so many wildfires, I was afraid I wouldn’t get there this year. But on August 11, John Koenig and I took advantage of a relatively pleasant day in an otherwise nasty month and had a wonderful day up at Groundhog. There were still plenty of late season flowers and a surprising amount of moisture after 2 months of drought. We really enjoyed it and so did the many butterflies and other insects. We spent a long day exploring Waterdog Lake, many of the wetlands, including the shallow lakes up Road 452, and what I like to call “Sundew Road”—what’s left of Road 454 on the north side of the mountain. We saw so many butterflies, moths, caterpillars, bees, dragonflies, as well as hummingbirds, frogs, and toads—too much to show it all, but here are a few highlights from our day.

Along Sundew Road, we also saw several of the similar but far less common American lady. This is a species I had overlooked until Lori Humphreys pointed one out in the Calapooyas during one of our surveys earlier in the summer. Note the 2 very large circular markings on the hindwing. Also you can see a little white spot in the outer part of the red area of the forewing that’s not present on painted ladies. Leafybract asters (Symphyotrichum foliaceum) were a favorite of many butterflies.

The white spot is also apparent in the orange on the upperside of the forewing of the American lady. Another good identification marker is the shape of the forewings. They have a notch of sorts on the outer edge that gives the tip of the wing a squared-off look. It shares this with the West Coast lady, but the painted lady’s wing has a much smoother edge.

There were quite a few of these “willow roses”. I’m guessing they are malformed leaves caused by galls, but they are really neat looking!

One of the willows along Sundew Road was being munched by numerous mourning cloak caterpillars.

I have no idea what kind of eggs these were that were laid on the underside of a wax currant (Ribes cereum) leaf, but they look kind of like jelly rolls.

A female Clodius parnassian hung out for a long time on ranger’s buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum).

Road 2120 has gotten rather bad over the past couple of years, but John’s truck was able to deal with driving over branches and rough gravel. However, we decided to drive back via a slightly longer but much easier route, passing the Warner Lookout in the late afternoon light. We had obviously missed an amazing show of beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) earlier in the summer. I’m glad to know there’s still at least one safe way for me to drive to Groundhog Mountain. Just a few minutes later, we noticed some smoke to the south in the Calapooyas. It turned out to be the beginning of the Staley Fire—thankfully the only major fire in the immediate area this summer.

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