Jeremy Tatum gives some well-deserved thank-yous. Since I am a bit of a computer dunce, I have had to lean heavily on computer experts to post the Invert Alerts. At one time we had a facility called Send2Page which enabled me to post items instantly and easily. But then about a year ago Send2Page vanished into cyberspace somewhere, which made things much more difficult – which is why, last year, there was typically a delay of several days between a submission and its posting. During that period Ann Nightingale who, in addition to her customary huge work-load, posted all the Invert Alert postings by hand. We all owe Ann a great thank you for doing that huge chore. May she be rewarded by seeing many species of birds during her current explorations of Vancouver Island.
Adam Taylor has now re-organized the VNHS Website, including Invert Alert, and we are now hopeful that I’ll be able to post contributions almost as soon as they are received, with luck on a daily basis once the invertebrate season gets underway again. I think all will agree that Adam has done a terrific job. Thank you so much, Adam. The postings for January 20 and 26 were test postings, with moth photos taken by Bill Katz specially for the purpose, and they seem to have worked, so we have great hopes for the future. Typically you’ll see only recent postings when you log into the site – but if you want to see earlier and archival postings – which I recommend – just look for the words INVERTEBRATE ALERT and click on them, and you’ll get all the earlier stuff.
Lastly, I still had to learn at my end how to post contributions when they are received, and, for that I have to thank Tia (Sorry, Tia, I didn’t get your surname!) of the UVic Help Desk for guiding me through the new email system recently installed here, and showing me how to do it.
In the meantime, as we await the arrival of the 2015 season, I amused myself by gathering the butterfly observations from the 2014 Invert Alert, and putting them together in an informal and unofficial “Butterfly Report”, which, with luck, will be reproduced below. Thank you to all who contributed observations.
2014 BUTTERFLY REPORT FOR
SOUTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND
This short unofficial report is limited in scope to an informal species-by-species summary of butterfly observations made in 2014 within the southern Vancouver Island birdwatching area and submitted to the Victoria Natural History Society’s Invertebrate Alert Website
I had originally thought of including this as a sort of addendum to the Annual Bird Report (ABR) for the area. But then I recalled that the ABR for 2014 is not likely to be published until about September 2015, at which time the butterfly season for 2015 will be almost over. That seemed rather too long to wait for a 2014 butterfly report, so we are posting it now on the Victoria Natural History website. I am not planning at present to print out a hardcopy (paper) version, but those who don’t have access to a computer and who would like a paper copy, let me know, and I’ll see if I can print one out.
There are other sources of information about our local butterflies that are not included, such as, for example, the results of the monthly Butterfly Counts held within the Victoria Christmas Bird Count circle, initiated by James Miskelly and now run by Aziza Cooper. These Counts provide additional and quantitative data on the numbers and seasonality of our butterflies, and are usually published each year in the March/April issue of the Victoria Naturalist. Another source of local data is the recent exciting book Vancouver Island Butterflies, by Mike Yip and James Miskelly. Whether the present report will in the future incorporate other sources of data, only the future can tell. At the time of writing (January 2015) I have not included the word “Annual” in the title of the report, for I cannot tell whether this is likely to be an annual compilation.
One thing that is apparent from perusing the pages of the Invert Alert (as the Invertebrate Alert is sometimes called for short), and hearing of the observations of Libby Avis, Derrick Marven, Mike Yip and other butterfly enthusiasts up-Island, is that there are many butterfly species on Vancouver Island that do not occur within the southern Vancouver Island birdwatching area, and which are therefore not included in this report. But there are also some butterflies that ought to occur in our area, some of which almost certainly do, but which were missed in 2014. We should keep a look-out for them in future years. These include (but there may be others), for example,
Dun Skipper, Clodius Parnassian, Sylvan Hairstreak, Western Pine Elfin, Western Tailed Blue, Anna Blue, Hoary Comma, Oreas Comma, American Lady, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Hydaspe Fritillary, Field Crescent, Common Wood-Nymph, Great Arctic. That is rather a large list of butterflies that were missed in 2014, and which we should all try to look out for in the future.
The first one of the year reported to Invert Alert was photographed on Apr 28 on Mount Douglas by VG. VG reported five on Observatory Hill on May 1. There were several reports during May and early June, the last one being on June 25 at Mount Douglas. Other localities included Mount Tolmie and Lone Tree Hill.
TWO-BANDED GRIZZLED SKIPPER
Only one was reported within the boundaries of our area this year – GH photographed one in the Highlands District on May 16.
The first indication of this species was of caterpillars being found on Reed Canary Grass at Panama Flats on June 1. By the end of June adults were abundant – sample counts being 20 at Cuthbert Homes Park on June 21, and 50 on Mount Douglas and 213 at Panama Flats on June 25. No more reports after that, presumably because observers wearied of recording them
WESTERN BRANDED SKIPPER
M&BMcG photographed one at Cordova Spit on Aug 18. There used to be – and apparently now still is – a small breeding colony there. It will be interesting to find a caterpillar to see if it differs in any way from that of H. comma, from which it was recently separated.
This formerly common butterfly is now quite scarce, and we record here all reports. Two were seen (one photographed) at the top of Mount Douglas on June 5. One was at the top of Mount Douglas one June 25, two there on July 27, and one there on Aug 3 and 7. It is anyone’s guess as to how many different individuals were involved. One was on Mount Tolmie reservoir on July 27, and one on Christmas Hill, Aug 8. All of the above were hill-topping butterflies. The only one reported from a former breeding area and not hill-topping was one at Island View Beach on July 6. No eggs or caterpillars were reported during the year, even though the caterpillars and even the eggs of this species are easy to spot.
WESTERN TIGER SWALLOWTAIL
The first one of the season was reported by VG near the Royal British Columbia Museum on Apr 7, an early date for the species. There were no further reports until May 11, when G&WA saw one at Thetis Lake. This was followed by another at Gorge Park by JGs on May 14. Thereafter they were seen almost on a daily basis, with MO’S reporting that by May 26 this and the Cabbage White were the two commonest species at Government House; and on June 25 VG found it to be the second commonest butterfly (after the Essex Skipper) on Mount Douglas. By July 21, JGs reported that Western Tiger Swallowtails were beginning to peter out, and few were seen after the first week of August. One late individual was seen at Swan Lake on Aug 20, the last adult of the season. Several caterpillars were found in Aug, feeding on willow.
PALE TIGER SWALLOWTAIL
Never as numerous as the previous species, the first individual was reported on May 16, by GH in the Highland District. Additional May reports were from Panama Flats on May 19 and Government House on May 26. Sightings continued through June and early July, the last being one in the Gorge on July 12. No reports of caterpillars were received.
First reported (six) by the Tuesday (birdwatching) Group during a trip to Witty’s Lagoon on July 15, and also seen (“lots”) at the University of Victoria on the same day. The species continued throughout Aug and into Sept., the last being reported from Pearson College on Sept 14.
This butterfly is one of the napi group, and could be regarded, depending on how one defines a species, as conspecific with the Green-veined White P. napi. At present, however, it is regarded as a full species in its own right (even though the immature stages appear to be indistinguishable from those of napi). The only sightings reported this year from within our Area were of two “probables” at their usual location of the railway line north of Cowichan Station.
None were reported in March. The first of the year was reported by AP on Apr 5, the first butterfly of the year other than those nymphalids that overwinter in the adult stage.
This abundant butterfly continued throughout the year, and was last seen, by AC, as late as Nov 10 near the Johnson Street Bridge – the last butterfly of the year.
This harbinger of spring was first reported on Apr 1 – one seen on Camas Hill by AC. The next report was of one of Mount Douglas on Apr 4, and then one at Swan Lake on Apr 7. Towards the end of the month they were becoming more numerous, with five reported from Mount Douglas on Apr 28, and 10 on Little Saanich Mountain on May 1.
Further reports continued until May 13. There were no further reports of adults after that date, although presumably a few individuals continued, unreported, for a short while thereafter. JBT found a first instar caterpillar on Barbaria vulgaris at Munn Road on May 17. Since the usual foodplant Arabis glabra is slightly scarce, it is good to know that caterpillars can feed on the much commoner Barbaria. The caterpillar fed up very rapidly, and, after several ecdyses, pupated on May 31. It will stay in that stage until April of 2015.
Sulphur butterflies can be difficult to identify, and observers in this area get few opportunities for practice, because all species are rare here. On the rare occasions when they do appear, the default species is the Orange Sulphur, and indeed a few Orange Sulphurs did turn up in August. In spite of these difficulties, three butterflies were seen by AC at Panama Flats on July 21. She photographed one, which seems to resemble the Clouded Sulphur more than it does the Orange Sulphur, and is tentatively listed as such here. Viewers who would like to see for themselves and maybe venture an opinion (with reasons) can see the image at http://naturevictoria.ca/invertjunjul2014.html for the date of July 22. JGs also saw an unidentified sulphur at Gorge Road on July 6
A sulphur was reported by MMcG from Martindale Road on Aug 17. From then until Sept 10 several (perhaps half-a-dozen in all) were seen there. Several photographs of the undersides were obtained, and, although sulphurs almost invariably settle with their wings closed, several photographers managed to photograph the uppersides in flight, too, showing a slight but certain tinge of orange, thus identifying these butterflies as Orange Sulphurs. Several observers watched hopefully for oviposition (the vetch Vicia cracca was abundant there, but it apparently did not interest the butterflies), but no egg-laying was seen. Single unidentified sulphurs, presumably of this species, were also reported from Tsehum Harbour on Sept 4, and on Oak Bay Avenue on Sept 14.
The first Purplish Copper for the year was reported by RJ from Whiffin Spit on May 21. The earliest Purplish Coppers each year are usually males, as was the Whiffin Spit butterfly. Another was seen at Island View Beach the following day. A further six were reported from Island View Beach on May 27. There were no further reports of this bivoltine species until Aug 4, when one was seen at Cordova Spit. One was seen on the East Saanich IR and another at McIntyre Reservoir on Aug 19 and again on Aug 29 and Sept 1. Several were seen in the stretch between Island View Beach and Cordova Spit on Aug 30. This is a stronghold for the species. Although caterpillars have not been found there, the larval foodplant is surely Polygonum paronychia. AC saw several on the East Saanich IR north of Island View Beach on Sept 7, and she obtained photographs illustrating the difference between the sexes, and between fresh and worn specimens. Some were also seen there by a VNHS outing. The last one reported was one on the East Saanich IR on Sept 20.
All reports are: RJ photographed one at Ayum Road, Sooke, June 1. BW had several in his Ladysmith garden, June 2. JGs saw one at Joan Crescent, Victoria, June 4.
WESTERN BROWN ELFIN
The first report of the year was of one photographed by BK on Summit Hill on Apr 11. He photographed another one here on Apr 28. MO’S photographed one at Government House on May 2. KV photographed one at Mount Douglas on May 21, the last report of the year.
The only report on Invert Alert was of two seen (one photographed) by AC on Camas Hill on Apr 1.
One reported by GA on Lone Tree Hill, May 7. One photographed by BK on Mount Douglas, May 11. One photographed by VG at Cattle Point on May 14; seen there again on May 16. One photographed by AC at Panama Flats, May 19.
WESTERN SPRING AZURE
First reported by VG in Oak Bay on Mar 29. Next report was of one seen by AC on Camas Hill, Apr 1. BK photographed one on Summit Hill, Apr 11. By Apr 23 and 24, several observers were reporting the species from different locations. They were common during the last part of April and most of May. On May12 RJ reported 25 to 30 mud-puddling at Camp Barnard. By this time the species was common enough that most observers ceased to record every individual sighting. By June numbers were starting to go down, though there were reports continuing until the last one seen on June 21. There is some evidence that the species is sometimes partially bivoltine (double-brooded) here, but there were no reports from later in the year. Several caterpillars were found in the flowers of Ocean Spray.
Although there were many sightings of the Silvery Blue on Vancouver Island outside our Area, this species, at one time common here, is now decidedly uncommon within the Area. However, an apparently reliable location to find the species is on the roadside lupines where the Colwood turnoff leaves the Trans-Canada Highway, where adults can be seen flying and ovipositing, and ova can be easily seen on the lupine flower buds from a surprisingly large distance. They were first spotted (five) by JGs on May 12. Several of them cooperated with VG on May 15, posing for photographs. Ova were seen there on May 16. JGs saw five adults there on May 18, and he also saw a Silvery Blue at the intersection between Helmcken Road and the Highway. BK found them at this second location on May 22. It would be well worth searching in late May for this species in the lupine patches that occur on the verges of several of the major roads in the Area.
The first Satyr Comma for the year, was one seen and photographed by VG in Oak Haven Park, March 28. Several were seen by G&WA on Mount Douglas on Apr 4. The species was reported commonly through April and May. Scarce after that, there were nevertheless a few scattered sightings up to July 8. Caterpillars were first found on May 31, and were easy to find during June and July, particularly in the nettles on the verge of Lochside Drive north of Blenkinsop Lake. A late caterpillar, doubtless from a second brood, was found near the Kinsol Trestle on Aug 9.
First reported on Apr 1 by MM and AC, who saw five at Camas Hill, one of which was photographed by MM while it was perched on AC’s hat. The next report was from RJ of two Green Commas feeding on a deer carcase at Camp Bernard on Apr 7. GH photographed a Green Comma and a Satyr Comma in the same photograph on Apr 11. The photograph appeared on Invert Alert on Apr 15, though the posting for that date seems to have been swallowed up somewhere into cyberspace. JGs reported one at Hector Road on May 7. JBT found a chrysalis at UVic on willow on July 5; unfortunately it contained a hymenopterous parasitoid.
We rarely see these species, and most of us, I think, are having difficulty in identifying them. We can perhaps simplify things by not pretending that the “Zephyr” Comma is yet another species, and by admitting that it is merely a race of the Hoary Comma. Whether this is correct or not, it is probably the pragmatic approach to take until we are more experienced with the identification of these butterflies.
There were no confirmed reports of Hoary Comma or Oreas Comma from within our Area in 2014. However, it is possible or even likely that one or both of them do occur in our Area. The problems are finding them, and identifying them. Please let me (firstname.lastname@example.org) know if you find any caterpillars on goosberry.
VG photographed the upper- and underside of a comma at Jordan River (somewhat outside our Area, to the west) on July 14 (see July 17 Invert Alert posting), which was clearly neither satyrus nor faunus. Based on the sharp separation between the blackish-brown basal half to the undersides of both wings and the paler grey outer half, this would appear to be most likely a Hoary Comma Polygonia gracilis. MY has photographed the Hoary (“Zephyr”) Comma several times on Vancouver Island somewhat north of our Area. See, for example his informative series of photographs on the Invert Alert for the date 2013 July 4.
This species is an occasional spring migrant, which has bred here. Only one report was received in 2014 – one spotted by AC on the Galloping Goose Trail, near Lindholm Road on Apr 1.
Like 2013, this was an exceptionally good year for the species, with far too many sightings to report them all individually. The first report was of one seen by JBT flying over the busy Shelbourne/Mackenzie intersection on Mar 8, the first butterfly of any species for the year. One was seen by IC on Mar 10, and another by CS in the same week, both in the Swan Lake area. Two more were reported by G&WA from Seymour Hill on Mar 12. There were no further March reports, but April started well with seven seen on Apr 1, and they were seen almost daily during the remainder of April. One noteworthy observation on Apr 4, described and photographed by AC in the Apr 7 Invert Alert, was of one being attacked and caught by – and eventually escaping from – a European Wall Lizard in Gore Park. On April 31, JGs saw one at another very busy urban location – outside the Walmart store at Oak Street.
The species was seen almost daily during May. We record here only some of the more notable sightings. One was seen on the Mount Tolmie reservoir on May 2 – a location where one or more could be found hill-topping in the late afternoons almost daily until June 7. JBT and WS reported ten or more from Latoria Park, Metchosin on May 12. Sightings of Mourning Cloaks continued through June and until July 13. A congregation of caterpillars (penultimate instar) was found on willow at Bow Park on June 7.
There were no August reports, but one was seen by AC at Aylard Farm on Sept 20.
2014 was not a major Painted Lady year. Nevertheless there were many sightings. No caterpillars were found in the Area, although caterpillars were found elsewhere on Vancouver Island. Most reports of Painted Ladies were of butterflies hill-topping in the late afternoons on Mount Tolmie, Mount Douglas, Christmas Hill, Highrock Hill. The first of the year was one noted by JGs on Mount Tolmie on May 2. There were several additional reports from there during May, with several photographs being obtained. It was noted that some of the butterflies were apparently in pristine fresh condition, while others on the same date and in the same place were very worn specimens. Speculation as to whether some had overwintered here while some had migrated in remain speculation. A few Painted Ladies remained on Mount Tolmie through May, June and July and up to Aug 19. Other localities from where they were reported included Mount Douglas, Christmas Hill, Gorge Road, Government House and Swan Lake. Several excellent photographs were obtained during this period.
After Aug 19 there was a lull. Then in September and late October there were several reports of Painted Ladies at different locations near sea-level. All of them were apparently in fresh condition. Thus singles were reported (and some photographed) as follows: Sept 22, Martindale Road; Sept 27, Esquimalt Lagoon; Sept 28, Iron Mine Bay; Oct 4, Willows Beach; Oct 7, Cattle Point.
WEST COAST LADY
The only sighting noted was one seen by JBT near the Jeffrey Pine at the top of Mount Tolmie, May 20.
The first report of the year was of one seen and photographed by MO’S at Government House on May 24. It was joined there by a second one, also duly photographed by MO’S on May 26. There were no further reports until July 6, when one was sunning itself on the Mount Tolmie reservoir. One could be seen there in the late afternoons on several dates up to the last sighting there on Aug 8. There was another Government House sighting on July 17. No caterpillars were reported this year.
The only reports from within our Area of this once-common multivoltine butterfly were of one near the Kinsol Trestle on Aug 9, and one at McIntyre reservoir on Aug 29.
A first-instar caterpillar was seen at Blenkinsop Lake on Apr 9. The first adult butterfly noted was one seen at UVic on May 31. One was photographed there the following day by BK, and another was seen, also on June 1, by RJ at Otter Point. Several were on Mount Tolmie on June 2. A chrysalis was found on Mount Tolmie, on Ocean Spray, on June 3. Lorquin’s Admirals were noted by JGs in the Gorge area, and by VG on Mount Douglas, on June 5. Thereafter they were being seen generally in June, and a number of splendid photographs were obtained. JGs counted 13 in Cuthbert Holmes Park on June 21, and 15 along Colquitz River Park on June 25. Good numbers continued through much of July (11 at Cuthbert Holmes Park on July 21), though by the end of the month they were becoming relatively scarce. First instar caterpillars were noted by JBT at Cowichan Station on Hardhack on Aug 2. Just a few adults were reported during August, the last one reported for the month being one that JGs had been faithfully watching in his mom’s garden in the Gorge area on Aug 26. There were no more until a surprising late adult seen by JBT at Swan Lake on Sept 27.
PELEIDES BLUE MORPHO
One was photographed by JW in a garden on West Saanich Road on Aug 1. This was obviously an escape from the Victoria Butterfly Gardens at Brentwood Bay. We include it in this report partly because it was such a magnificent butterfly to see and to photograph, but also because, if ever any exotic species becomes established in the area, it is good to have the early history on record.
This butterfly has gone through many different names, both English (usually some sort of “ringlet”, although it is not closely related to or resembling the original Ringlet) and scientific in the past few decades. In this report, I am reverting to its original name of Large Heath, with which I am assuming it is conspecific. Apparently the Vancouver Island population is considered to be of “Special Concern” in British Columbia, although it still appears to be one of our commoner butterflies here, at least in a few localities.
It was first noted this year, by VG, at Rithet’s Bog – one of its strongholds – on May 24, and at Island View Beach – another of its strongholds – on May 27. Quick’s Bottom is another good locality to find the species; AC counted 62 there on June 8, as well as three at Layritz Park, where JGs also noted them the following day. Sightings of the species continued through Aug at Island View Beach and Layritz Park, the last report being of a few at Island View Beach on Aug 30.
A fresh-looking Monarch was seen by JBT at Panama Flats on July 20. Since Monarch butterflies are apparently commercially available for release at weddings and for similar inappropriate purposes, sightings of Monarchs are inevitably accompanied with questions of their provenance, although, in the absence of other evidence, it might be reasonable to suppose that this sighting was of a genuine wild butterfly. Panama Flats has in recent years gained for itself a reputation for rare migrant birds. This Monarch sighting and a sighting of a probable Clouded Sulphur (see entry for that species) just two days later, suggests that Panama Flats might also be a good place to look for rare migrant butterflies.
Thanks go to all who sent in reports to the Invert Alert during 2014 – you all contributed to this report. Initials mentioned in the text are as follows:
AC Aziza Cooper AP Annie Pang
BK Bill Katz BS Bill Savale
BW Bruce Whittington CS Chris Saunders
GH Gordon Hart G&WA Gerry & Wendy Ansell
IC Ian Cruickshank JBT Jeremy Tatum
JGs Jeff Gaskin JW Jody Wells
KV Ken Vaughan M&BMcG Mike & Barb McGrenere
MO’S Marie O’Shaughnessy MM Moralea Milne
MY Mike Yip RJ Rosemary Jorna
VG Val George