Albertson Fire Road

I got started on my hike up to China Flat at 7:30 am. As I walked along, I observed and photographed what I think is a Becker’s White. This will be my first formal observation of the species, if my identification is correct. Other butterflies I observed were several of the Northern White Skipper, the Mournful Duskywing (more of these this spring than I have noticed in previous years), and the Acmon Blue.

Alligator Lizards were abundant this morning, I lost count of how many, perhaps eight or nine. They were all well-camouflaged, but disturbed by the vibrations of my steps. Each one I encountered ran up the shouldered sides of the road to seek cover in the brush. Sometimes people mistake them for snakes.

The snakes were under cover today, but their trails crossing the road, some formidable in size, were easy to see. If I am on foot i.e., not on my bike, I check the left and right sides of the road or trails upon approaching a snake trail. Usually the snake has moved off and into deeper cover, but not always. I surmised that the time for gathering heat in full sun was past and now, unless there was an appetite to sate, these creatures incapable of regulating body heat were now seeking shade.

Orange Sulphur butterflies were present, but their numbers are decreasing as the floral resources dry up. I could not get a photograph of one today, as usual. The flight of this butterfly is random and unpredictable. What is predictable: My fumbling attempts to photograph the Orange Sulphur are excellent failures. My standard strategies, a slow, stealthy approach, finding a way to “hide” from the butterfly’s lines of sight–do not work with this species. Its sensitivity to movement is so acute that I do not have time to focus the camera before my butterfly subject zigzags away, either up and over the edge of a bank, or above to higher ground into denser brush where it can find other flowers (and I will not follow). But–knowing this does not prevent me from continuing to make an effort. I have included a photo I took of an Orange Sulphur from 2019: It was nearing the end of its life as can be seen by the frayed edges of its wings, but it could still fly well and did so, just a few seconds after I took the photo.

By S. Felton

S. Felton is a writer, photographer and amateur naturalist.

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