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Looking Backward Dec. 31—Jan. 1, 2019

January 10, 2020

2018 was the single worst butterfly year since this project began. It was the only year when butterflies were at a low ebb both in numbers and diversity at BOTH high (SV,CP,DP,LC,WA) and low (RC,NS,WS,GC,SM) sites. Usually wet years are good in the mountains and bad in the Valley, and vice versa for dry years. In 2018 it was bad everywhere. So it should not be surprising if 2019 was a better year.

Looking Backward Dec. 31—Jan.1, 2017

April 04, 2017

This is the year the drought was at least put on “pause.” In northern and central California most stations received record or near-record high precipitation. Recall that the drought years were consistently good for most Valley butterflies, many of which recovered to levels seen before the systematic decline that began in the late 90s. But the butterfly seasons at higher elevations varied from mediocre to awful, with species failing to be recorded in entire years at most sites.

Looking Backward Dec. 31—Jan. 1, 2016

December 25, 2016

Was this the fifth year of drought? Here are my numbers of site visits:

Site:2013201420152016 Suisun Marsh31323231 Gates Canyon32303331 West Sacramento34333533 North Sacramento32333333 Rancho Cordova31333134 Washington21212121 Lang Crossing18181817 Donner Pass18212215 Castle Peak7975 Sierra Valley18202019 Totals:233250252239

Sierran sites dried up and the season ended preternaturally early.

We’ll look at MIGRATORS and LOW-ELEVATION SITES first.

Looking Backward Dec.31—Jan.1, 2015

January 06, 2016
Conventional wisdom (i.e., mine) holds that the first year of a drought is good for butterflies, and the second is bad. 2014 was the third. 2015 was the fourth—unprecedented in modern California history. I kept up the tempo of site visits, with nearly-identical numbers per site to previous years.

Looking Backward Dec. 31—Jan.1, 2014

January 06, 2015
As I said a year ago, conventional (Shapiro) wisdom has it that the first year of a drought is good for butterflies, but the second is bad. How about the third? 2014 was the third drought year, as was much-discussed in the media. I was able to maintain the tempo of site visits, despite a serious accident on Sept.11 that had me in the hospital for 3 days, and knees that are increasingly unforgiving on Castle Peak.

September Song, 2013

August 28, 2013
Before Congress outlawed the practice, academics were forced to retire at age 65. That’s how UC Davis acquired Theodosius Dobzhansky; his previous institution sent him packing despite his being the greatest living evolutionary geneticist. Now old coots like me – I’ll be 68 in January 2014 – can stay around until infirmity or senility finally kicks in.

‘Butterfly man’ finds clues to climate change

March 31, 2011

In a functional classroom in a functional building on the UC Davis campus, Arthur Shapiro sits unassumingly in the corner. Rumpled, wearing well-worn Converse All Star tennis shoes, old jeans and a faded, zippered green hoodie, Shapiro could be just another student, except for his weathered face and bushy gray beard.

Painted Ladies, To Be or Not To Be?

February 28, 2011

Update: During the week of April 11, 5 more migrating Painted Ladies have been observed at various locations, all going N. There thus appears to be a migration afoot, but a minimal one!

Update: On March 12, 2011 at 11:54 AM, a Painted Lady in migratory mode, flying rapidly from SE to NW about 6' off the ground, was observed at Suisun City, Solano County--the first record this year known to me. It was small and pale, of the migratory desert phenotype.


Western Tiger Swallowtails

July 27, 2010

The "outbreak" of Western Tiger Swallowtails has continued for a second year. Elevated populations are reported at least as far east as Reno and as far west as Fairfield and Vallejo. The "epicenter" seems to be in Davis, however, where it has been on the wing every week since the last week of March, with no clear break between generations (very unusual), and at times in certain neighborhoods (e.g., College Park) one could see 5 or 6 individuals at one time.

Butterflies affected by Climate and Development

January 22, 2010
A new study covering 159 species of butterfly that were monitored for over 35 years has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This is the first major paper resulting from the remarkable research program of Professor Art Shapiro at UC Davis. Art's project consists of 11 sites which he visits every two weeks, and extend from Suisun Marsh in the Bay Area, across the central valley, and up and over the Sierra Nevada to a final point at Sierra Valley on the east side.

Gulf Fritillary colonizes Sacramento and Davis

September 18, 2009

There’s a new butterfly in town in the Sacramento metropolitan area. Well, almost new: it’s back after about 40 years. The Gulf Fritillary has returned, and it’s even breeding in midtown.