IBCM V - Lake Skinner and the Quino Checkerspot
Wednesday was the final day of the IBCM California workshop. The weather forecast had been marginal, however we woke to a gloriously sunny day as we headed out for the Lake Skinner unit of the Southwest Riverside County Multi-species Reserve. The reserve is home to numerous endangered species and we would learn about, and perhaps see, the Quino Checkerspot butterfly. The preserve is perhaps the most beautiful place that we visited on this particular workshop. There had been snow at the high elevations, so the views of the nearby San Bernadino Mountains were particularly impressive.
The meeting room at the reserve is in a charming old one-room schoolhouse. A pair of Great Horned Owls were nesting in a large eucalyptus tree right outside. Unfortunately, my photo of the cute, fuzzy owlet did not turn out well, however one of the adults posed nicely on the building. One of the talks was given by Ken Osborn, who also spoke to us on the first day of the workshop. Ken presented a fascinating account of how local geology affected the soil chemistry, which in turn affected the growth habit of the checkerspot's host plant. It turns out that the caterpillars feed on the type of leaves that the plant produces on one soil type but not the other, so geology combines with host plant presence to determine the distribution of the species.
The meeting room at the reserve is in a charming old one-room schoolhouse. Nearby, a pair of Great Horned Owls was nesting in a tall eucalyptus tree. Photos of the cute, fuzzy owlet did not turn out well, however one of the adults posed nicely on the building. Ken Osborn, who also spoke to us on the first morning of the conference, gave a fascinating talk about how the local geology influences the distribution of the Quino Checkerspot.
As interesting as Ken's talk was, it was such a beautiful day that we were all eager to venture outside, both to see the preserve and to try to find the butterfly. This part of California is quite charming in late March. I really enjoyed walking in the softly green landscape and looking at the spring wildflowers.
It wasn't long before we started finding Quino Checkerspots. There was some concern that our visit was too late and that the butterflies would already be done flying for the year. Not so- we saw dozens of them and there were lots of opportunities for photography.
Quino Checkerspots are endangered because so much of their habitat has been converted to the ever-growing urban and suburban sprawl of southern California. It has been the subject of extensive conservation efforts and a lot of research. I hope that these efforts pay off in the long run. It's a very beautiful species.