Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A November Sighting of Vanessa atalanta on Orcas Island

Vanessa atalanta (red admiral) is one of the most widespread butterflies in the world. I do not spot them very often and my first inclination when this one caught my eye was it was a Limenitis lorquini lorquini (Lorquin's admiral), a butterfly I frequently see (lorquins-admiral). But in this case the markings were obviously wrong.   

This one was sunning itself on a south facing bedrock cliff of the Constitution Formation on Orcas Island. I was enjoying the sun and the south facing rock myself while waiting for a ferry to Lopez. I took care not to disturb the butterfly. Sun on a November day had not been expected nor was seeing a butterfly this late in the year.

The week before I noted a patch of young nettles on Orcas Island - the food source for Vanessa atalanta pupae. I was a bit surprised to see young nettles in the forest in the fall - more typically they are a early spring plant. Perhaps the mild San Juan winters provide a niche habitat for this butterfly. 

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