Home Again

Click on any image to enlarge.

June first, 2008

My first visit to the Northeast this year, occasioned by events at Yale, was met with — what else? — RAIN! A field trip to Yale Myers Forest was rich in redstarts and raindrops, bursting with birch-bark and devoid of butterflies. After yet another rare spring hairstreak hunt in South Jersey — one blessed sunny day brought it out — I aborted further plans for Florida, skedaddled home, and was glad to be there. We are encountering an unwanted reprise of cancer, and I needed to be home with Thea.

As she gained strength between surgery and chemotherapy, she urged me to get out at it. This allowed me to pursue the late spring butterflies of a later-than-usual spring in our own backyard Cascades.

For five days I skirted the heavy run-off between the volcanoes, one of these days actually sunny! I camped beside Stonehenge, on several kinds of public lands, and in a freeway rest area where I watched a drug deal go down as I prepared specimens.

I found Indra, swallowtails, Dark Wood Nymphs, Great Arctics, and Luci Blues — in all, 21 species new for the year. This brings the total to 199 — nearly a quarter of the fauna in five months.

But beyond the mere numbers, every day I’ve looked into the lives of creatures doing what they do to survive, doing the best they can in the face of a cold spring, a warming world, wildfire, and everything that we exact from the land. And sometimes, because of it — like the fritillaries, skippers, and sulphurs, all drinking from a ditch beside an alfalfa field, moistened by irrigation sprinklers.

A moth with a poetic name, Euclidea cupidea — and a big, rare Pine Snake, both cryptic against the South Jersey pinelands, (see photos) give me reason to continue this crazy caper, as does a Ceanothus Silk Moth — her eggs mostly laid, her body spent on a country back road — as much as all the butterflies in China.

Next: Southern Cal. Redux, Alaska, Illinois, and a great loop through the western ranges. And the beat goes on.

Photo: Pat Sutton

Photo: Pat Sutton

Photo: Pat Sutton