Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Friday, June 13, 2008

Skywatch Friday - NCAR

What could be more appropriate for Skywatch than a photo taken from the grounds of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado?

On Monday, John and I took one of my favorite hikes in the foothills of the Front Range. The hike up from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) traverses a range of habitats from dry grassland characteristic of the plains east of the Rockies, up to sub-alpine meadows. The hike does not get up into the tundra regions. That's probably just as well. As it is, this is a long and steep hike.

Wolf Spider. The small round things on her back are babies.

We began very early, and started seeing cool stuff almost immediately. The Calippe fritillaries were camera shy, but a mama wolf spider and her babies posed very nicely for us.

Western Green Hairstreak (Callophrys perplexa apama)

Western Pine Elfin (Callophrys eryphon)

The hike runs up Bear Creek Canyon . As we climbed the canyon, we were treated to a dazzling array of butterflies. Most unexpected of these was the Western Green Hairstreak. It's hard to believe that such a color can exist in the butterfly world. The males are especially brilliant as they sit on damp sand to take moisture and minerals. The Western Pine Elfin was a new species for me.

Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera sp.)

The plants were a mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar. I even saw a patch of rattlesnake plantain orchids. These were just beginning to put up flower spikes. But with rattlesnake plantain, the flowers are inconspicuous- the real show is the beautiful variegated foliage. The variegation on these plants is much more limited to the leaf midribs than what I'm used to. I suspect that this is a different species of Goodyera than the one I grew up with.

Anthaxia sp.- a metallic wood boring beetle (Buprestidae)

Longhorn Beetle. I think it's Stenocors obtusus- I'm trying to confirm this.

We progressed slowly, as we were taking pictures and collecting as we went. It was a good day for beetles. We found (but did not photograph) sumac leaf eating beetles at the extreme western edge of their range. There was one species each of longhorn beetle and metallic wood boring beetle.

Delphiniums near the turnaround point of the hike

We turned around at the trail junction on the ridge line. The trail here is in a meadow filled with beautiful delphinium flowers. We saw, the only two tiger beetles that we would encounter today right where we turned around. One would be the only Cicindela longilabris that I would see during my entire stay in Colorado. We also saw members of two high altitude genera of butterflies- the Arctics and the Alpines. The Uhler's arctic was difficult to photograph, but I did get one shot that, with cropping, gives an idea of the general look of these butterflies.

Uhler's Arctic (Oeneis uhleri)

By the time we arrived back at NCAR it was nearly 6 PM. We had one of those dinners where everyone just wolfs down their food and doesn't say much.

For more Skywatch Friday, go here.

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At 11:36, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are all nice photographs. And they make SWF an excellent post.

At 11:50, Blogger FO - 2 said...

GREAT view. :)
Interesting photos of all those insects.
I would SCREAM if I saw that spider..... ;o
I have just bought a book about insects. Interesting reading.

At 12:19, Blogger Dottie said...

Awesome photos! Breath-taking views you are seeing! The spider...eek! Although I think I'd handle seeing that better than I would a snake. I do not like snakes!

At 12:36, Blogger Tom said...

Well I enjoyed your walk... and all from the comfort of my chair.... you must come along on one of my walks sometime... a great post for Sky Watch..

Thank you for joining in with Sky Watch this week and helping to make it special.


At 13:11, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Doug, I call foul on out of state photos! Seriously, that must have been a great trip, and the other shots were awesome.... :)

At 15:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I looked and looked for the rattlesnake amid those plantain leaves. Oops!

At 16:45, Blogger Pat - Arkansas said...

Lovely photos (all but the spider, which was a good shot, but not at all "lovely.") Interesting and informational commentary, also. Thank you.

At 16:48, Blogger Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Gorgeous SkyWatch picture. The other nature photos are beautiful, as well.

At 18:37, Blogger Lemuel said...

I love that top picture!

At 19:49, Blogger Unknown said...

Awesome set photos!

At 21:14, Blogger Nora said...

I have always wanted to go there, the scenery looks amazing...and I like the insect photos also...great sky watching post...Happy Sky Watch Friday......lovely blue colors in your sky....we have rain and more rain....come and see my bride in the sky..if you already visited my blog, then thanks...cheers!!

At 00:41, Blogger Lilli & Nevada said...

that is the uglies spider i have ever seen and never heard of one either.
Are they poisnious?

At 06:18, Blogger cedrorum said...

Great post. I especially liked the pictures of the wolf spider and babies and the green hairstreak. Some day I'm going to have to get back out to this part of the country.

At 09:11, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

Great series of photos. Now this is my kind of post.
Well done professor, A+.

It's a party here today.
Come visit,

At 09:57, Blogger Ur-spo said...

I am pleased to say I did not jump up and shreik like a girl, so the therapy must be working.
What put me over the deep-end was the thought this monster is carrying its babies: I imagine it shoots them like projectile missiles!

At 10:18, Blogger robin andrea said...

I love seeing these photos, doug. The color on that green hairstreak is amazing. Great wolf spider shot too. I can't believe I missed all this fantastic wildlife when I was there in the 80s. That's what I get for keeping my nose in a book the whole time.

It is incredible how blue that high altitude sky is. Stunning.

At 19:26, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Abe- Thanks. It was a fun hike.

Ida and Dottie- Welcome to the Tapestry. Seems a lot of folks are responding to the spider pic. One of my co-workers was upset because I didn't bring it back to use in one of our displays.

wom tigley- Well, thank you for hosting Skywatch. It's a lot of fun. I've gotten to meet a bunch of new folks, and my blog traffic is up. What's not to like?

Dave- All's fair in love and blogging. Yes, it was a great trip. I should have one more post from it.

pablo- heheh. The variety that I grew up with had the white variegation extending all the way into the smaller veins on the leaves. The netlike pattern looked even snakier than the ones in this picture.

Pat- Welcome to the Tapestry. I thought the spder was lovely. I know, I'm weird that way.

Sandpiper- Welcome to the Tapestry. Thanks. You have a nice blog.

Lem and John - Thanks

Island Rambles- Welcome to the Tapestry. I enjoyed your blog. Victoria, BC is a favorite spot of mine.

Lilli and Nevada- Welcome to the Tapestry. The spider is venomous, but the venom is not particularly toxic to humans. You really have to mess with them to get them to bite you.

Cedrorum- At last, someone who appreciates the spider. Yes, it's a fine partof the country. BTW, I though of you out at the Fen this afternoon when a flock of cedar waxwings flew by.

Troy - thanks. And a fine party it is at your place.

Spo- Glad to hear it's working

Robin- Boulder is great. I had a wonderful trip.

At 08:50, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That spider is big.

I mean really big.

Shouldn't it be in a cage or something?


At 12:24, Blogger Amila Suwa said...

That Western Green Hairstreak looks like as if it is straight from a little kid's drawing book.

At 17:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Doug,

Colorado, such amazing scenery.
Like nothing I have seen. Thanks for posting the images.

At 19:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. HOW do I NOT see all the "bug" life you do? Are you carrying magnifying lenses all the time you're hiking or are you just trained to spot tiny life forms all around you. WHEN I SEE flying bugs in the yard, I never see them still long enough to focus in on them. I need a training class. BEAUTIFUL nature shots, Doug.

At 08:21, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What gives with all the arachnid haters steady hatin' on arachnids?

That green hairstreak is INSANE.

At 18:00, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Heather- One of my coworkers really wanted me to bring it back so we could put it in a cage.

Gallicissa- If anything, it was even more dramatic in person. The photo doesn't quite capture just how iridescent the green was.

Roy- Thanks. It was really splendid to see.

Mark- I do carry an hand lens with me, but mainly I'm just used to seeing things. It's fairly common for me to reprt seeing a particular species of butterfly whizzing by and to have a companion reply "What butterfly?"

Thingfish- Well, spiders seem to do that to folks.

At 02:27, Blogger This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Doug: You are excellant with your photograhy, I'm glad I searched a little more through your sight. Very nice SWF.

At 20:36, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Fishing Guy- Thanks and welcome to the Tapestry. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.


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