Butterfly News

As mentioned previously, it has been an excellent spring for butterflies and besides a few local jaunts, I made two trips to Rhodo Lake and two to Mt. Cokely. The trips to Rhodo lake were specifically to look for Dreamy Duskywing, but both were unsuccessful. I had no specific targets on the trips to Mt. Cokely. I just wanted to see how many species we could find in May as opposed to my previous trips in June or later. Of course, with no snowpack on the mountains, spring was much earlier than usual and the butterflies were earlier. The count after two trips was about twenty with several common species missed.

My first trip to Cokely was May 9th and one of the first butterflies seen were the petite but pretty Mylitta Crescents. They were very abundant at lower levels along Cameron Main, but only a few were seen at higher elevations.

The tiny Two-banded Checkered Skippers were another common species at all levels. At lower levels several were seen nectaring on wild strawberry blossoms.

I was hoping that some of the small dark butterflies that kept fluttering by would be duskywings, but I think most were Western Elfins. Several were also seen nectaring on wild strawberry.

I was surprised to see several Painted Ladies at high elevation. All of them were busy fluttering quickly along the road without stopping. Finally I saw one stop on a dandelion and quickly took a shot from the car window just to document its presence. Dandelions were the only flower in bloom at the higher elevations.

I was perplexed watching a blue butterfly fluttering around a muddy roadside bank. It would stop periodically on the mud for a couple of seconds but would continue fluttering and probing the mud as if it were looking for something in particular. I finally got a peek at the underside to confirm it was a Silvery Blue. My guess was that it had recently emerged from its chrysalis and was just getting its wings.

We saw many commas. A few were at lower levels, but most were at higher levels. As far as I could tell they were all Zephyr Commas. However, without seeing the undersides of all of them, it is possible that some were Satyr and/or Green Commas - or why not Oreas Commas?

I had to laugh when I finally managed to photograph one of the commas. It was frantically flying non-stop around me so I stood still. Eventually it landed right at me feet. As I kneeled for a closer look I realized why. I was standing right next to some scat that the comma was coveting.

The highest level we drove to was the base of the old ski hill. It was still too cold for any flowers to bloom and the lack of butterflies confirmed the obvious. However, there were a few other bugs around. According to the VNHS InvertAlert, these are Misumena vatia and Sericomyia chalcopyga respectively, but don't ask me which is which.

The butterflies along Rhodo Lake road weren't too abundant except for Western Tailed Blues. I thought there would be a lot more Spring Azures like the male above, but they were quite scarce. The mythical Dreamy Duskywing did not materialize, but there were several false alarms thanks to a dark brown moth that was impersonating a duskywing.

The male Spring Azure seemed to be involved with the female above, but it was a case of "no means no!"

As mentioned, Western Tailed Blues were abundant, especially near mud or water. Most were busy in the mud except for the female above.

Mylitta crescents weren't abundant, but they were show up occasionally. They are one of my favorites and very photogenic. It's not common to see them nectaring so it had to be photographed.

I've never seen the Western Pine Elfins at Cross Road nectaring. They are too busy with their sentry duties. Maybe they're all males on Cross Road, and maybe this one is a female.

It was too early for the Pacific Rhodos at Rhododendron Lake, but the beautiful western bog laurel was in bloom. Most of the rhod buds were green. Only two or three showed any pink.

King for a Day

One of my favorite birds is the Belted Kingfisher. I love watching it in action especially when it is hovering like an Osprey or Kestrel before it dives for a fish. Because it is instinctively wary of humans, it is extremely difficult to photograph. I have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get some high quality shots, but it has been rare to get a good opportunity. One of those exceptional occasions was May 19 at Qualicum Beach. There are four pilings in the water near the rest rooms. At high tide the pilings provide an ideal perching platform for the kingfisher to rest, watch for prey, or to immobilize its prey. Ten years ago before I had any decent photo equipment I watched in fascination as a kingfisher was body slamming a fish on one of the pilings. Ever since then I always slow down as I near the rest rooms hoping to see a replay of that scene. In those ten years I've managed to see a kingfisher on the pilings occasionally, but it generally flies as soon as I get out of the car.

When I stopped on May 19 I expected the kingfisher to leave, but I was in luck. Instead of leaving, it flew to the distant piling while I set up my camera. A few minutes later it flew back. I could tell it was a male because it was blue and white with no rufous colour on its breast. Several times it dove in the water and returned to the piling, but it didn't catch any fish, and it was too quick to photograph. A few minutes later another kingfisher attempted to land on the furthest piling. It wasn't welcome. Kingfishers are extremely territorial. The first kingfisher didn't hesitate to put the run on the stranger. It took after the stranger, and did not stop until the stranger was out of sight. I waited a few minutes, and was rewarded when the kingfisher returned. I managed to get a few shots of the kingfisher sitting on a piling, but the fish shot didn't happen. Eventually, the kingfisher gave up in disgust and left. It didn't get its fish, and I didn't get my shot, but it was fun to see it in action.

Kingfishers are solitary and territorial. The only time they tolerate company is during the mating season when it is family time.

Male Kingfishers are blue and white. Females are similar but have the added rufous (reddish brown) colouring on its undersides.

Yard Birds

I have enjoyed many hours observing my yard birds. It has extremely gratifying to see some of them successfully raise the next generation, especially with a contingent of Cow Birds on the prowl. As mentioned, the hummingbird season has been the best in years and most of them have departed for their leisurely southern migration. From a high of six cups of nectar a day I'm now down to less than half a cup a day. All that remains are a few adult females and a handful of boisterous juveniles. Dark-eyed Juncos and Chestnut-backed Chickadees have been prolific with at least two generations produced. On the other hand, Red-breasted Nuthatches have been less abundant than usual. In the past there would be a constant stream of nuthatches to the feeders, but this year there are only a few. Last week a pair of juvenile Pine Siskins were seen being fed by their parents and likewise for the Purple Finches. Juvenile White-crowned Sparrows and orange-crowned Warblers have been frequent garden visitors. A surprise visitor was a juvenile Townsend's Warbler that foraged in the veggies until it was about a meter from my feet. Once it saw meet it flew to a nearby arbutus where it did some preening and posed for the camera.

The Black-headed Grosbeaks have been regular yard birds for many years, but I don't think I have ever seen a juvenile. Both the male and female have been difficult to photograph. The male has perched briefly for the occasional photo, but the female must have some kind of radar to warn her of my presence.

The Purple Finches have been the most frequent feeder visitors. I have seen the male feeding its offspring so I assume they have had a successful breeding season.

Juvenile hummingbirds have been everywhere in the past few weeks. Whenever I'm hand watering in the garden one usually finds the spray for a refreshing shower. Every morning when I peek out the bathroom window I usually see one flycatching from the garden fence near a large rhodo bush. You can trll they are juveniles from the clean line of green feathers on their throats. Adult females usually have a cluster of coloured feathers.

Good grooming comes natural to the young hummers. It's not unusual to see a juvenile perched on a sheltered branch attending to its personal grooming.

American Goldfinches have been another regular yard bird. I've seen the female several times collecting bulrush down for her nest. I did mention that the female Black-headed Grosbeak was a lot more wary than the male. Well, the same seems to be true about the female goldfinch. I've observed the male many times at the feeder but only seen the female a few times. Of course, it could be that she's attending to her nest and eggs.

Add the Warbling Vireo to your yard birds and you will have a nonstop chorus of bird song to cheer up your day. I don't recall them staying in past years, but I'm delighted to see and hear them regularly this year. I sat for a couple of hours to catch the female collecting down for her nest.

Dining with the Great Blue Heron

Have you ever watched the Great Blue Heron at an all you can eat buffet? It is absolutely remarkable how much food it can eat at one sitting. I had the opportunity to observe a GBH at a tidepool in Bowser a couple of weeks ago. I watched it for a half hour and watched it devour seven gunnel fish and one midshipman before I left, and it was still dining when I left. Fellow photographer, Wayne D. witnessed the same phenomena at French Creek when a GBH devoured several fish and then a 4 foot snake.

Gunnel fish are just appetizers for the GBH.


Notice the enlarged throat as the prey is ingested.

You would think that the a heron would be full after seven gunnel fish and one midshipman, but it was just starting.

Garter snakes are good for the garden!

Holyoak Disappointment

One of the locations I wanted to check out while doing my butterfly book was Holyoak Lake. Past reports indicated that it was a butterfly rich area. I finally got my chance on June 7 when Lorne C. offered to take me and Island Timberlands opened the gates. Most of the area was scrub clearcut and butterflies were scarce despite the perfect weather.

Our best sighting a Holyoak were a bunch of baby Western Toads. I was amazed at the variety of colours exhibited by the toads.

Clodius Apollos were our best sighting on the road to Holyoak. By the way, the road requires a high clearance vehicle.

French creek is one of my favorite venues for photography. Ducks, gulls, and shorebirds are the usual fare. Turkey Vultures are not the usual species one would expect to find there.

One of the reasons is the kamikazi crows that protect the area. I've seen them harass the kingfishers in the past, but this was the first time I saw them chasing the TUVU.

The crows were relentlessly harassing the TUVU until they left the area.

Garden Surprise

Dun Skippers are one of most difficult butterflies to find and also on the endangered list. Imagine my surprise when one came to me right in my garden. I didn't think there be any more new species for my garden list, but they just keep coming. After the Dun Skipper I was able to add a pristine second generation Gray Hairstreak yesterday.



Bird Poster

My poster is on display at: Victoria - Swan Lake Nature House. (Note: This poster has been produced in a more manageable size and is now available for $20 unlaminated and $32 laminated.)



















Port Hardy - MUSEUM


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