Evolution toys with organisms that can fly. Hundreds of thousands of insects capable of flight exist now – maybe millions. Who knows how many have failed? Some animals flew during the dinosaur era, including ancestors of modern birds (and a sampling of mammals, mostly bats, plus some gliders – like flying squirrels).

It’s probable that birds attract humans because many birds are colorful or distinctive in various ways and  because we envy their ability to fly. (Sure; some are unable. ...) We admire and enjoy some flying insects, too, including, if not especially, butterflies.

These musings are an overlong introduction to the brand-new, hot-off-the-press, first-of-its-kind field guild to Butterflies of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks by Steven Poole and published by the Grand Teton Association. Photographs and text by the author describing over 105 butterflies and skipper species that are found in the two parks. As with birds, on occasion other butterfly species will occur.

In his introduction, Poole remarks, “The butterfly, fascinating and beautiful, has been admired by people throughout the ages. Its form in rituals, art and text, to symbolize beauty, wisdom, love and rebirth.”

Steve also goes on realistically, “Humans will also scorn the butterfly for the destruction that the larval stages can cause, eating the foliage from trees and devastating entire fields of crops.”

Once one delves beyond the superficial in any aspect of natural history, one begins to discover new worlds. Steve Poole notes that butterflies “serve an important role in the food chain as first predictors and as a source of food for other insects and for birds.”

You notice butterflies. This field guide helps you see them.

A few thoughts on butterflies:

– They certainly live complex lives, from eggs to caterpillar to chrysalis to winged adult.

– The lives of adults range from days to a year.

– A few can overwinter, here, as adult butterflies.

– A few butterflies migrate.

– Host plants are specific for adults and to larvae.

–  This is a long-needed field guide for the two parks and timely for a growing hobby.

– Soon, perhaps, lepidoptera may be inventoried in the region through nature mapping or some other effort. I can visualize a butterfly checklist akin to bird checklists.

Field Notes: Pretty sure this’ll go down as a wet spring. Good for vegetation – wildflowers should be great; tough on some animals and birds.

Actually it’s summer in the Hole, because wood pewees have returned. Singing. Now, however, comes an observation from Susie Haberfeld, who discovered a catbird, the rascal, mimicking the pewee’s call on June 2. Louise Haberfeld noticed a catbird back on May 26. Not singing.

Significantly more Western tanagers reported this spring and for several years (Richard Thompson,  many others). Three Forster’s terns were in South Park on June 2. Dick Hobbins still enjoys crossbills and a first for his feeder, lazuli bunting. Sandhill crane colts are entering the world.

Robins and some blackbirds have first broods fledged, but some species may have delayed or lost theirs.

Of interest, an ovenbird was reported in Riverton on Thursday (fide Tom Axthelm). Not expected there, and an ovenbird was in Jackson on June 2. Gotta wonder.

Just you wait. Summer is nigh.

The Jackson Hole Bird Club will meet for socializing and birding on the Bert Walk north of the Visitor Center at the north end of Jackson on the highway, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 14. Open to all and free. (If inclement, meet on the deck of the Visitor Center.)

Notice: Petitions are available, now, today, to demonstrate once more and again that an extraordinarily large percentage – some 84 percent – of Teton County residents value wildlife and irreplaceable place above all else include in the current draft Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan. They expect that their conclusion be given top priority everywhere in the plan and are a powerful majority. Look for petitions in many business establishments all over. If you can’t find one or miss the deadline, call an elected official.

In fact, call one anyhow.

© Bert Raynes 2009


Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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