Thursday, January 23, 2014

Butterflies in Bayview

Gulf fritillary at Bridgeview Garden.  Photo: Footprints
by Jeffrey Betcher

On a recent afternoon in the Bridgeview Garden, Mary McClure pointed out a butterfly I couldn't recall having seen before. Even at the Bridgeview Garden, which for me is one of Bayview's most beautiful places, this butterfly stood out as quite the charmer. I was compelled to take its picture.

Later that day, a bit of online research turned up information about the gulf fritillary which likes Passion Flower leaves. Voila! The creature I photographed was not more than 5 feet from the rambunctious Passion Flower plant vining up the garden fence.

Still, I'm no expert at identifying insects, and thought I should check with someone who is. Peter Brastow, Senior Biodiversity Coordinator for Department of the Environment, responded to my questions about Bayview butterflies immediately.

"You are correct about the passion flower vine and the gulf fritillary which is actually, interestingly, our only non-native butterfly," he wrote in an email.

"Regarding butterflies specifically in Bayview," he went on, "the Sandhill Skipper flies in the saltmarshes since its host plant is saltgrass, and the western pygmy blue flies there as well since its host plant is pickleweed."

Though my mystery was solved, I was happy to hear from another local luminary in the world of butterfly experts, Liam O'Brien.

Western Pygmy Blue at Yosemite Slough.  Photo: Liam O'Brien
"How fortuitous!" Liam began. "I walked Yosemite Slough TODAY diligently dedicated to learning my birds and, boom! A female Brephidium exile: the Western Pygmy Blue. Our only Lycaenid (blues, coppers & hairstreaks) that overwinters (if you can call what we are experiencing "winter"?...) as the adult before you. A real find and quite Germaine to this conversation."

Beauty, it seems, comes naturally to Bayview, and often in small sizes and unexpected places.

See more information in the archives of Nature in the City.

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