Butterfly activity seemed higher than normal yesterday on Figueroa Mountain. There were many dark orange California tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica) butterflies flitting around, always moving out of the way of the car when they were close to the road. There were also lighter-colored orange butterflies that, when flying in the road, occasionally flew under/into the car.
While walking in the “meadow”, I noticed bright yellow butterflies with a somewhat haphazard flight pattern, and light-orange butterflies flying fast and always in the same direction. I wondered what was at the end of that direction. The significance of this only started dawning on my otherwise occupied mind (flying butterflies are swept to the back because they are not photograph-able), when I was on a trail some miles away from the meadow. The flight in the same direction by the light-colored orange butterflies was possibly part of a migration.
On returning home, I googled for more information and came across Art Shapiro’s butterfly site, and saw that there was a painted lady (Vanessa cardui) migration further north. Since I thought my observations were of importance, I sent in the information that the migration had been observed on Figueroa Mountain. In an e-mail reply to a number of people, he stated that other reports had been received on this 5th day of the migration.
(Painted Lady on Zaca Manzanita)
(California Tortoiseshell on Zaca Manzanita)
While most of the migrating painted ladies do not stop for nectar or any other activity, I guess there are always the rebels in the crowd. [On edit: the butterflies stop migrating when they run out of fat.] I saw a large number in flight, but found one that had stopped for nectar, and another that seemed to be depositing eggs. The nectaring painted lady had tarried at a Zaca manzanita, a shrub full of insect activity at the summit of Figueroa Mountain.
I was photographing the many California tortoiseshell feeding on the manzanita, when the painted lady found a few urn flowers. The California tortoiseshell butterflies over-winter and fly the following spring until April/May. I had wondered what the source of their nectar was, and found it at this manzanita. (I had gone to the summit only to look for flowers of an unusual monkeyflower — which was not blooming yet — and came across a host of other activity.)
(Brown Elfin on Bigberry Manzanita)
(Brown Elfin chrysalis? on Bigberry Manzanita)
I also walked down a “promontory” near the serpentine sunflower area, and where many bigberry manzanita grow. I observed another butterfly whose host plants are found in the heath family (Ericaeae), seemingly to be in the process of depositing eggs – the brown elfin, active from March to June.
While in this area, I observed the second non-flying painted lady, that may have been depositing eggs – on what could be California poppy.
(Painted Lady on California poppy?)
And finally, many common ringlet (Coenonympha tullia) were seen. The information I sought about popcorn flower indicated that it was not a butterfly plant, but the common ringlet was occasionally seen on popcorn flowers. Common ringlets have three flights from February to October and their host plants are grasses.