Follow us:

Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

May 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Spring means time for a butterfly hike

Morning Cloak butterfly

Quick, take the photo or this Mourning Cloak butterfly will fly away. (Matt Ironside/Seattle Times)

If you like the outdoors, there are a lot of reasons to like spring. One that would be near the top of my list is the fact that spring hikes often coincides with emergence of the butterflies.

The Pacific Northwest has so many. Admittedly, I’m not so good at knowing them by name, so for our readers with butterfly expertise, please feel free to chime in in the comments with common names, accounts and the Latin names if you know them.

And while my identification skills might be lacking, I sure do like seeing them flutter by as I walk.  We did our best to get photos but it takes a photographer with a better set of lenses and more patience than me to catch quality images. The ones in this post come from a recent hike near Cashmere.

In this trickle of water flowing out from a cliff face I noticed several clusters of small blue butterflies. On occasions they would suddenly explode off the rock and moss and filled the air with patches of confetti blue only two cluster again near a different patch of moss.  You can see two of these patches near the upper and lower right corners of the photo. Below is a blowup of one of the patches. (Matt Ironside/Seattle Times)

In this trickle of water flowing out from a cliff face I noticed several clusters of small blue butterflies. On occasions they would suddenly explode off the rock and moss and filled the air with patches of confetti blue only two cluster again near a different patch of moss. You can see two of these patches near the upper and lower right corners of the photo. Below is a blowup of one of the patches. (Matt Ironside/Seattle Times)

In terms of descriptions, I might as well start with the butterfly that is almost always first on my list in terms of being seen, the Mourning Cloak butterfly.

With chocolate brown wings edged in white, the Mourning Cloaks make up for their lack of splashy color with motion.

Despite there somber common name, my wife calls them the flamenco dancer butterfly.  Wary and quick, they alternate between flapping their wings with furious rhythm and gliding and quick dramatic circles.  The barely passable picture on the right marks my best of countless attempts to get one to sit still long enough for a shot.

One of many clusters of blue butterflies that will fill the air simultaneously when the whim hits them or you get too close.  (Matt Ironside/Seattle Times)

One of many clusters of blue butterflies that will fill the air simultaneously when the whim hits them or you get too close. (Matt Ironside/Seattle Times)

For roughly the first three miles of our hike there was constantly at least one Mourning Cloak in view along with numerous other butterflies.

There were big bright tiger swallowtails and all sorts of medium-sized brown spotted butterflies, and occasional hordes of the small blues that always seem to cluster where water and lupines can be found together.

I'm leaning more toward moth for this one.  But it was easily nice enough to include despite the fact it wouldn't stick around long for me to examine its dramatic tan pattern that went to brilliant orange when it unfolded its wings. (Matt Ironside/Seattle Times)

I’m leaning more toward moth for this one. But it was easily nice enough to include despite the fact it wouldn’t stick around long for me to examine its dramatic tan pattern that went to brilliant orange when it unfolded its wings. (Matt Ironside/Seattle Times)

One dramatic butterfly we kept seeing in multiple locations and never sat still long enough for us to photograph was what I think may have been the Stella Orangetip which has cream-colored wings that appear to have been dipped in bright orange on the tips where the wing widens at the top.

There were more that flitted away too quickly to be mentioned.  In all, they were a wonderful addition to the hike.  So if you get a chance to get out this weekend, keep an eye out for butterflies and, if you’re lucky, maybe you can slow down long enough to just spend some time looking at them and their vast variety of color.

Comments | Topics: butterflies, butterfly, Mourning Cloak

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►