Sunday March 11, 2012
Butterflies are elusive creatures. Just try creeping up on one with a camera and you will know what we are talking about. Today while watering plants for the butterfly garden and weeding out invasive species, Daniel saw a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui alight a few feet from him, and he lamented not having a camera.
He returned later in the afternoon and was lucky enough to photograph a Painted Lady nectaring from some of the last blooms on a Bush Sunflower, one of the plants the Mt Washington Beautification Committee has begun planting in the butterfly garden. Interestingly, the Painted Lady, a species that migrates north out of Mexico each year, was profiled in the March issue of the MWHA newsletter.
Numerous other smaller butterflies were also seen landing on the Bush Sunflower, including this little Common Checkered Skipper, Pyrgus communis, a species that BugGuide reports from California between June and December on its data page. Perhaps the weather this year has stimulated an early eclosion as numerous individuals were spotted in various places in the park.
Perhaps the most common butterfly spotted in the park today were the Fiery Skippers, Hylephila phyleus. Since the caterpillars of the Fiery Skipper feed on grasses, the non-native grasses the flourish in our hills during the wet winter and spring conditions provide a rich food supply and populations of Fiery Skippers are far from endangered. These rapid flying butterflies were feeding from the blossoms of the non-native wild radish that are also a common in fields and parks in southern California. Read more about the Fiery Skipper on BugGuide.