Here are the results from two sweep samples of insects taken ten years apart at exactly the same location on the Section 16 Trail west of Colorado Springs. In both cases, 100 sweeps were made. In this area, which is relatively undisturbed in terms of regular application of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides, total numbers of insects seem very similar after ten years. T-Tests, both one-tailed and two-tailed, show p values that do not suggest significance. I chose a date one week later in 2019, as the season appears a bit behind average in terms of butterfly emergence dates.
I had the great pleasure to work with Bud Wobus and a group of alumni from Williams College this summer at The Nature Place, near Florissant, Colorado. We explored the geology and ecology of sites ranging from the Upper Sonoran Life Zone of Canon City all the way to the Arctic Alpine on Mount Sherman, west of Fairplay. In one day, we crossed Pikes Peak granite, Cripple Creek Granite, Wall Mountain Tuff, a massive lahar from the 39-mile volcanics, and more. Keeping track of it all wasn’t easy. Here are some highlights in photos.Wonders along the way were dramatic. This is probably only the second record from Teller County of the California tortoiseshell butterfly. Shelf Road.A pallid tiger moth still warming up to fly.
The pallid swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon, was lost in the wonder of a wet spot.The leach mining at Cripple Creek was of an unearthly scale.And from the Florissant Fossil Beds Quarry, we found a couple of these Curculionid beetles, along with lots of leaves and seeds…and a chipmunk family in the petrified stumps.Our group, above the Hole in the Rocks on Shelf Road. All brilliant, all fun.Crossbills, crossbills, crossbills everywhere.And the omnipresent golden-mantled ground squirrels.In the high country, Oeneis uhleri, Uhler’s arctic butterfly, hiding in the weeds.Pieris napi, the veined white.A day-flying moth, Schinia persimilis, in the Heliothine subfamily of Noctuidae.And Parry’s primrose below the alpine rockslides.This is a mere taste of Colorado’s wonders. If you haven’t been out west, you have a dream to live for. And, Williams people, I’ll send “Riding Out on the Lahar” by email. Other viewers here won’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
From Corpus Christi north along the bays, construction is proceeding at a fevered pace, driven largely by the Saudi Arabian Government, Exxon Mobil, and other large corporations. Much of the shoreline looks like this.
But some stretches are preserved, as at Sunset Lake just south of Portland, TX. Here you can find all sorts of treasures.
And as you drive north through the cattle (and oil) country, the wildflowers are unbelievable.
As a follow up to my earlier report on the butterflies and diurnal moths of the Pikes Peak Region, I took the advice of Steve Taylor and prepared a graphic of all 255 dates on which I counted butterflies, and on which the time, temperature, and other conditions were favorable to flight. This shows the “noise” encountered in this sort of work, as well as the extraordinary summers of 2012-2014. If there is a trend, it might show up as a decline after 2015, when levels are about as they were early in the study. Note that most of the points from 2015 on fall below the mean score of 72.5/h. However, the overall slope is very slightly up (+0.032x). I can’t wait to continue observations this summer.
If I restrict the data to just the 145 dates that are from Bear Creek Canyon, there is a very slightly different trend, this time downward (–0.12x), from about 91 to 74 over the 35 years. Maybe this is the apocalypse! More later!
For those not tuned in to Southwest Geology, a sill is an igneous intrusive that has inserted itself parallel to the surrounding strata (a dike runs at angles to the strata). Palisade Sill is a huge intrusive in northern New Mexico between Raton and Taos on Highway 64. You won’t miss it when you head west into the canyon out of Cimarron. The sill is made of Monzonite, which is on the continuum between syenite (very light in color) and diorite (medium in color) and has plagioclase and orthoclase feldspars in approximately equal amounts. In short, it is a lighter than granite, but generally similar.
My favorite aspect of this imposing formation is that the joint systems are at nearly right angles, which leaves enormous faces and a ragged, blocky crest at the skyline. And, of course, lots of rubble along the stream below. Here are some images of the crestline.
We keep a patch of milkweed in the back yard, and several patches of excellent nectar sources for butterflies. My favorite colors are monarchs on Tithonia. Check these out.
And then, of course, the milkweeds. Here it seems necessary to quote part of the great Richard Wilbur poem, “Two Voices in a Meadow.”
Anonymous as cherubs
Over the crib of God,
White seeds are floating
Out of my burst pod.
What power had I
Before I learned to yield?
Shatter me, great wind:
I shall possess the field.