Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fritillary Fun

Brad and I are now on our own, Ty left camp yesterday and won't be back until the 3rd when I fly back to Michigan. We now have the pleasure of holding down the camp, doing data entry and chillin' until I leave.

Today was sunny, warm (~60 degrees!) and calm. Obviously I was excited for the butterflies, but not so much about the mosquitoes. I had no idea that a huuuuuuge herd of Caribou would be coming through today, at least 1500 strong spanning the horizon. Quite a sight to see!

We had quite a walk to our sites to collect vegetation, and with the amount of Caribou, there are bound to be bears around, so we were packing heat in the form of a shotgun. Luckily, it didn't need to be used. On the walk I used my pathetic excuse for a butterfly net to trap butterflies. About 50% of them escaped the contraption, but the other 50% were harassed with my camera. Quite a few Booth's, Hecla and Labrador Sulphurs were around, but I didn't bother with them. I caught quite a few Fritillaries, and was surprised to find one that I have yet to see this season... I think.

First I'll start with the Arctic Fritillary, one I have seen this field season.
Pretty typical Arctic Fritillary (Boloria chariclea) underside.
Arctic Fritillary (Boloria chariclea) upperside.
Now here is one I am having difficulty with. I identified it in the field as a Freija Fritillary, but it doesn't match perfectly in my guide, and for a few minutes I was going between Freija and a really fresh Arctic. It does look pretty good for Freija compared to other pictures online, though. They are "supposed" to be early season flyers... I guess this one didn't get the memo.
Freija Fritillary, I think, underside. It isn't just a really fresh Arctic, is it? Opinions welcome.
Obviously more dark above than the Arctic Fritillary earlier in the post, with bigger/darker spots.
The birds... are pretty much gone. A lot of juvenile Semipalmated Sandpipers raging around the tundra and getting into trouble. We have only 2 active shorebird nests left, and one active Pacific Loon nest.

With this job wrapping up, you may be wondering what I'm doing after. I will be attending a friends wedding right as I get back to Michigan, then it looks like I'm coming back to Alaska. I will either be observing seabirds on a 3 week cruise through the Beaufort Sea on a converted crabbing vessel, or I will be "volunteering" as an observer on a ~9 day cruise starting in Adak and hitting the eastern Aleutians to pick up seabird crews that are finishing their field season. If I can get a "cold water immersion" class before the Beaufort trip, I will be observing on that. If I can't, I'm heading for Adak. Either way, its certain not to disappoint!

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