Tuesday, June 7, 2016

High Elevation Butterflies

Our "backyard" here at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery is a wonderful complex of hiking trails that access the Mount Massive Wilderness Area. We have hiked a couple of the easier trails and did a portion of a longer, steeper trail just a couple of mornings ago.

With morning temps still in the 30's we weren't sure about butterflies, but were pleased to see a few flying in sunny areas of the trail.
Thicket Hairstreak
Our first sighting was this small, rusty red Thicket Hairstreak. No larger than a penny, they have the habit of continuously "sawing" their wings back-and-forth against each other as they perch. I think that this is supposed to confuse a predator into striking at the back of the wings where false eyes and antennae are found. Better to lose the back of your wings than your head!!
Western Pine Elfin
Next were these Western Pine Elfins. Even smaller than the Hairstreak, they were incredibly active with 2, 3 or even 4 of them whirling around each other so quickly that you could hardly follow them. Whether it was males fighting for territory or a courtship behavior we couldn't say, but they certainly were burning off some energy.
Margined White
While not as showy as the other two the Margined White was pretty in a subtle way. And they are larger and slower, making photography a bit easier!

While we found each of these at elevations above 10,000 feet, none of them are particularly rare or confined to high elevations. They must just like the cool summer temperatures up here. Hopefully as summer progresses and we start to see a few wildflowers we will find more butterflies.


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