More Butterflying at Groundhog Mountain

Lorquin's admiral

Lorquin’s admirals (Limenitis lorquini) tend to land on branches of shrubs and small trees, repeatedly returning to the same area. This makes photographing them easier than those that skip quickly from flower to flower.

On Thursday, August 7, Sabine and I headed up to Groundhog Mountain, accompanied by fellow North American Butterfly Association member Lori Humphreys. With the majority of the flowers on the wane, we had already figured we’d probably focus on butterflies, so it was great that Lori could come and help teach me some more about some of the tough groups like fritilliaries. She also looked a lot at the skippers, but I’m still not ready to put a lot of effort into the butterfly equivalent of LBJs (little brown jobs). Here are some photographic highlights of another lovely day on Groundhog.

mountain blue curls (Trichostema oblongum)

On our way up to the wetlands via Road 2309, I stopped to take a quick photograph of some ferns and discovered two new species for my list. The first, cup clover (Trifolium cyathiferum) was dried up already, but its distinctive cup-shaped involucre was still evident. The second, this fuzzy pink-flowered mountain blue curls (Trichostema oblongum) is an uncommon species that I have only seen in a few other places. Its very late bloom may be why I so rarely see it. In fact, I didn’t even notice it until I returned from the car with my GPS to mark the cup clover. You can see a few remaining pink flowers of rosy plecritis (Plectritis congesta) at the top left, and some dried up monkeyflower sepals as well. These both indicate the habitat was seepy, even though now that it is August, the moisture is gone.


Great Basin wood nymph

After eluding us for a while, this Great Basin wood nymph (Cercyonis sthenele) decided to get friendly, first landing on my sleeve, then on Lori’s clothes, and finally here on her butterfly net!


Here’s Lori’s list of the butterflies from our trip (thanks Lori!). I didn’t see all of these as I was splitting my focus between plants and butterflies. (Butterflies grouped by approximate numbers seen.)

1-5 individuals

Anise Swallowtail caterpillar
Pale Swallowtail
Sylvan Hairstreak
Sonoran Skipper
Western Branded Skipper
Persius Duskywing
Chalcedona Checkerspot
Field Crescent
Great Basin Wood Nymph
Painted Lady
Common Wood Nymph
Mourning Cloak
Acmon Blue
Blue Copper
Common Checkered Skipper

6-20 individuals

Lilac Bordered Copper
Mariposa Copper
Edith’s Copper
Hydaspe Fritillary
Callippe Fritillary
Lorquin’s Admiral
Pine White
California Tortoiseshell
Mylitta Crescent

more than 20 individuals

Atlantis Fritillary
Woodland Skipper
Orange Sulphur
Anna’s Blue
Clodius Parnassian

painted lady

The underside of the lower wing of a painted lady (Vanessa cardui) is very cryptic, and they can disappear very easily if they don’t open their wings up enough to see the beautiful sunset colors on the upper wing. Like many of the butterflies we saw, this one is nectaring on coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima).


Cascade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata var. intermedia)

The beautiful Cascade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata var. intermedia) was in peak bloom in most of the wetlands.


I haven't tried to sort out the fritillaries before because the differences in the species are quite subtle and require a careful look. Since I don't use a net, I'm lucky to get a good enough look.

I haven’t tried to sort out the fritillaries before because the differences in the species are quite subtle and require a careful look. Since I don’t use a net, I’m lucky to get a good enough photograph to study them. Most of the frits moved too fast on this day, but this callippe fritillary (Speyeria callippe) spent a lot of time on each flower, allowing me to photograph it many times. It is smaller than the common hydaspe fritillary, and its browns are somewhat grayer. Apparently they can be quite greenish—this one has a little green along the bottom. After studying some of the butterfly books, the most distinctive difference I notice is the large, very pale spots (Bob Pyle poetically calls them “orbs”) along the margin of the upper wings. Most of the other frits have spots about the same color as the rest of the wing.


4 Responses to “More Butterflying at Groundhog Mountain”

  • Wilbur Bluhm:

    Tanya, your photos (as usual) are great! I very much appreciate being on your “list”. I fairly drewel (sp.) seeing your pix and the places you go. 2010 or 2011 was last hiking/botanizing I’ve done due to my wife’s health. She died a year and half ago, and have been thinking of going this year, and maybe still will go. Anyway, great job, Tanya!

  • Groundhog Mountain is one of my favorite spots. I took several classes up there because it has such diversity in easy access. Tanya, you were the one who directed me there. Thanks!

  • Kristy Swanson:

    Great pictures especially the Lorquin’s admiral. Seeing it from beneath in such detail is amazing. I’m surprised by how many butterflies you saw. The lists are a great way to record variety and numbers. Thanks for writing up your hikes. They’re reminders of the wilderness so close and motivation to get in better shape so I can go too.

  • Ellie Ryan:

    Dear Tanya,
    Love to hear that your book might still happen. I would buy it for sure.

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