07 November 2009

(un)Common Buckeye

A condensed summary of yesterday's butterfly notes, per Matt:

Observers: Matthew York, Heidi Trudell
Location: Lake Waco Wetlands
Date: 06 Nov 09
Time: 0845-1230

Butterflies included:
Tawny Emperor, dark
Dun Skipper
American Snout, 100's a-migratin'
Red Admiral
Common Buckeye, one individual had a seriously trippy genetic color deviation, completely dull-red on both underside hindwings
Little Yellow
Cloudless Sulphur
Painted Lady
Sleepy Orange
Gulf Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary
Phaon Crescent
Clouded Sulphur


I shall reply to my own post...

Regarding a note on the Common Buckeye individual I researched and took this excerp:

"Many autumn individual ("dry season") Common Buckeyes show rich brick red (often described as rose-red) under hindwings"


The text above was posted (along with a bird list) to the Central Tx Audubon list, and the photos below are to be taken in context with the post. Starting, of course, with the startling Common Buckeye who impressed us so much (the bold text in the list is mine, added for emphasis).

Here's the top view of any normal Common Buckeye, which this one appears to be. Generally you also expect the wings, when folded, to continue the drab grayish coloration (sans markings). The photo on the right betrays a hint of warm rusty color underneath. Brace yourself!

Holy seasonal-variation, Batman! That thing is BRIGHT. And gorgeous. And remarkably cooperative, for a buckeye (who are notoriously skittish). Neither of us has ever, to our knowledge, encountered this morph before. Perhaps Texas isn't a prime location for fall colors, so this fallen leaf mimic is in sub-prime habitat. Regardless, we're thrilled to see such a stunning creature (not to mention, wondering how we've missed this morph in the past if they're supposedly common).

Now, for two mini-portraits - dark Tawny Emperor and Matt:

The Emperor is deceased and Matt is reflected in a window. I'm familiar with insects bumping into windows, but this coincidental location (dead butterfly in front of a highly reflective window) doesn't seem causal in the demise of the emperor. Tis a window, after all. Not a windshield.

Now for your upside-down Red Admiral of the day:

...it's always fun to see variations on normal things (melanism in Least Sandpipers, for example) but it's not always easy to document the sightings or research how common the variations are. The internet now allows folks to document partially albinistic sparrows and follow up on leucistic hummingbirds. Have you spotted any of these anomalies in your yard? Or were you startled to learn that red morph Eastern Screech Owls actually DO exist? (I was quite certain they were imaginary, like Black Rails and Henslow's Sparrows)

Let us know (or send us pictures), we'd love to hear about the critters that keep you on your toes!

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