Butterfly Day at Blair Lake

Quite an array of butterflies and other insects were feasting on minerals from an old campfire. We saw a Lorquin’s admiral, a painted lady, a fritillary, a number of different blues, at least 9 crescents, an interesting wasp, and quite a few ants just in this one spot.

Spiraea x hitchcockii is a hybrid that often occurs wherever the parent species grow together, so it’s not uncommon in Western Cascade wetlands.

On July 23rd, Sabine Dutoit and I went to Blair Lake. Neither of us felt like exerting ourselves, and I hadn’t been there in 6 years, so it seemed like a great choice. I was also hoping to collect a specimen of the hybrid spiraea, Spiraea x hitchcockii, which I’d seen there before. Ken Chambers, professor emeritus at Oregon State University, is working on the treatment of Spiraea for Volume 3 of the Flora of Oregon (although the rest of us are still trying to finish up Volume 2!), so I told him I’d collect some if I made it to any of the sites I’d seen it at before. I was relieved to find it was in fact still blooming, and I was able to compare the hybrid and both its parents and collect some for Ken.

Spiraea x hitchcockii is a hybrid between subalpine spiraea (S. splendens) and Douglas’ spiraea (S. douglasii). Its inflorescences are midway between the rather flattened ones of subalpine and the narrow spikes of Douglas’. Its leaves are also intermediate between the two. Ken wanted to know if there was any pubescence on the back of the leaves because apparently there are two varieties of S. douglasii, one with pubescence and one without, and he wanted to know if the hybrid inherited that. Neither the hybrid nor its parents had any pubescence in the Blair Lake meadows. I’ll be keeping a look out for the hybrid now that it’s later in the summer when I normally turn my focus from rocky habitat to wetlands.

I must have been finger lickin’ good that day! Left to right: Anna’s blue, field crescent, Boisduval’s blue

This gorgeous sheep moth must have hatched recently and wasn’t yet ready to fly because normally they rarely sit still.

It turned out to be a great day for butterflies. For some reason, they were extra friendly, and I was able to get four different butterflies to climb up onto my finger (left hand, of course, so I could take a photo with my right hand!). They were puddling in a number of spots around the lake and in the wetland alongside it, so perhaps they weren’t as skittish as when they are nectaring on flowers. There were also many bees and dragonflies, so we had plenty of things to keep us amused. I was also really pleased to find ripe seed of Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii) and great polemonium (Polemonium carneum), two species I still hadn’t collected yet this year. I only have a little larkspur growing in my meadows at home, so I’m trying to get more going in my restoration areas. And I actually have a few polemonium seedlings coming up as well, so I really want to get some more established. All in all, it was a very pleasant day and just what Sabine and I both needed.

We saw a number of handsome Lorquin’s admirals.

Johnson’s hairstreak is an uncommon butterfly whose caterpillar is apparently only found on western dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium tsugense), a plant that is parasitic on old-growth western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla). I’d only seen this hairstreak once before this year (see Quaking Aspen Swamp is Decorated in Pink), but this was the third one I’ve seen in 2019. Maybe they are having a good year. It was very considerate, staying in the trail for at least 10 minutes while I photographed it.

Blair Lake is a lovely place to hang out, and many people stay in the small campground by the lake. Several people were out in inflatable rafts. That looked like a wonderful way to spend a summer day. One of these days, I’ll have to try it myself. While I might not be very good at relaxing, it would certainly be helpful for getting a better look at aquatic plants and animals!

3 Responses to “Butterfly Day at Blair Lake”

  • Sue:

    Wonderful. Thanks!

  • What a fun day. So many treasures out there in the wilds. Have you been able to get Asclepias cordifolia established in your meadow?

  • Blanche Douma:

    THANK YOU for this sweet article, Tanya – and especially for the beautiful butterfly photographs! Loved them all, and the information about the Spirea.

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