We went to Albany Hill in Albany, California for one last time before leaving for Ithaca, New York.
We have probably went to Albany Hill over a hundred times in just this year. Today was the last time. We took a bunch of photographs on the way, just to see how it will change by the next time we come back to Albany. A new segment has just been added to the Bay Trail this year with newly propagated willows (Salix) and alders (Alnus) along a man-made creek that mimics the rest of the trail perfectly. In a few year's time, we expect that it will grow in a lot.
The following are pictures of the two blocks of the trail that have always been here. Most of the trees are really declining as the season passes, but it is still rich with life.
At the end of the trail is Albany Hill. We did't see too much flying today, except for some skippers as detailed in here. We were not able to find any red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) larvae or eggs on the pellitory (Parietaria) even though the plants were getting clobbered in eggs all throughout the summer.
After exploring the outside of the hill, we crossed the creek to get inside. The pipevine here was in pretty bad shape, but there were still a one or two pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) larvae. A while ago we had come and found a least a dozen or two, so we suppose they either pupated or died.
Inside the hill, the scenery was a far step from when we first came in the Spring. The ground was covered in yellow hay and the trees were mature and dry. To our surprise, we saw a single western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) at some point. We took this as an opportunity to take a few pictures of ourselves one last time before we leave (as you may have noticed, the pictures of us have changed on this website).
On what is one of our last trips to Albany Hill (Albany, California), we found some checkerspot skipper (Pyrgus communis) eggs and adults and west coast lady (Vanessa annabella) eggs.
Fast and darty as always, it was hard to get close to this checkerspot skipper (Pyrgus communis) to take pictures of it. Unlike other skippers, we almost always only find them near mallow (Malva), which the larvae eat, or dry grassy areas in general where the plants grow. We have never seen them nectar at anything except for mallow flowers and the flowers of other small plants on the ground.
Although we see checkerspot skippers throughout the year, the only time we kind actually find a decent amount of their eggs is towards the end of summer. A few weeks ago we found one and today we found another with trying very hard. Of course, we have never known them to be very common around here, so it was still a nice find. We would have taken it home if we weren't leaving in a few days. We also found at least a dozen or two west coast lady (Vanessa annabella) eggs scattered around. It seems that the painted ladies (V. cardui) take the spring, red admirals (V. atalanta) take the summer, and these west coasts take the end of summer and fall.
Today we found two gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) eggs on mallow (Malva) at Albany Hill (Albany, California).
Along with the common checkerspot skippers (Pyrgus communis), west coast lady's (Vanessa annabella), the gray hairstreaks (Strymon melinus) get easy to find on mallows (Malva) late in the summer and into the fall. We found two of their eggs today on mallow at Albany Hill. They are hard to differentiate from the checkerspot eggs at first glance, but they are flatter and greenish. They also tend to be laid in slightly more obscure places such as on the buds like one of the eggs we found. The other was on the underside of a leaf -- also typical.
Today we found a common checkerspot skipper (Pyrgus communis) egg on mallow (Malva) at Albany Hill (Albany, California).
As always, during the late summer common checkerspot skippers (Pyrgus communis) become common on mallows (Malva). It seems it is getting close and they are just starting to trickle in.
Today we found a single egg on mallow at Albany Hill. The egg is a tiny white colored dome shaped thing. Probably fresh. It was located on the underside of a leaf near the edge which is pretty typical based on last year's collections. There are actually lots of mallows growing among dead grasses and other little weeds, but there only seemed to be one plant -- a large and mature one -- that was getting all the attention because we also found some other stuff on it. We also saw an adult flying about nearby these mallows which was probably a female.
Lots of western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) pictures. . . all males.
Let's face it. Basically 100% of all western tiger swallowtails (Papilio rutulus) we observe at Albany Hill are males. It doesn't matter whether they are engaging in blatant male behavior such as patrolling or aerial fighting or hanging around near the willow trees (Salix) and nectaring, they are all males. Even the ones we see near the creek where we saw females this Spring are males. And no, they are not all the same individuals showing up over and over again each day. By now, we have probably encountered over 20 different males in the past month and zero females.
Its odd, however, because evidently the females must show up sometimes in order to mate and we did find larvae on one of the willow trees there. Perhaps the ratio is still simply too horrible for us to have any luck.
Below are pictures of a few we managed to capture.
This one was at the Ohlone Greenway Trail in El Cerrito, California.
Enormous 4.5 inches!
Rearing notes for our luna moth (Actias luna) second instar larvae. The stock originated as eggs from Alabama, April 2017.
Rearing Notes 6/30/17-7/5/17:
A few random butterfly sightings in Berkeley, California and at Albany Hill (Albany, California).
Anise swallowtails (Papilio zelicaon) courting on 6/29 in a school garden in Berkeley. We were trying to capture the male, a rather small and flitty individual, for possibly an hour before the female came in and they eventually disappeared. In the process, the male basically just helicopters from side to side over the female who, in this case seemed reluctant and kept jumping away from the male every time he approached.
We also saw a mylitta crescent (Phyciodes mylitta) nearby in the same garden. It happened to land and was very calm for several minutes while we photographed.
At Albany Hill we can probably see about a dozen different common buckeyes (Junonia coenia) every time we come, darting around annoyingly. We saw a pair courting today where the male landed right next to the female and followed at her tail each time she moved. We caught the two easily and tried to see whether it was possible to hand-pair these. It did not seem doable after taking a look at the males tiny and rather hidden genitalia. Below is the male of the pair.
Completely by accident, we found some pellitory (Parietaria) plants clobbered in red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) at Albany Hill (Albany, California).
For the longest time, we have seen red admirals (Vanessa atalanta) flying at Albany Hill, or even in the city, during the summertime. Last year we discovered just a smidge of stinging nettle (Urtica) growing inside the path of Albany Hill, but never found any of their eggs. Obviously, these plants weren't enough to support an actual population. In fact, Albany Hill data from 1995-1999 concluded that Vanessa atalanta were most likely vagrant since no Urtica was recorded at the site during that time. The authors suspected urban pellitory (Parietaria) or baby's tears (Helxine or Soleirolia) as the more probable host plants.
Today we happened to stumble across a plant growing along the fence outside of Albany Hill that was getting a lot of attention from a red admiral. We almost jumped when we saw that the tiny plant was utterly suffocated in fresh eggs. The plant, as it turned out, was in fact some variety of pellitory which belongs in the same family as the nettles. We found more of the stuff growing along the same fence, all covered in eggs or even first instar larvae. It was quite clear that the red admiral population was getting quite desperate and that they were basically dependent on these small plants, almost all of which looked so young that they could have only grown in this year.
Interestingly, we also found a single west coast lady (Vanessa annabella) egg today on mallow (Malva), another exotic weed. Whereas the atalanta eggs seem to have about 8-12 ribs, the annabella have at least two to three times that.
Today we caught a female common buckeye (Junonia coenia) at Albany Hill (Albany, California).
Just like the western tiger swallowtails (Papilio rutulus), basically all of the common buckeyes (Junonia coenia) we ever see at Albany Hill are males. Elsewhere too, such as along sunny trails in the Ohlone Greenway trail or the Berkeley Hills, they are always males perching on the ground. Females probably only visit these places occasionally and other times they are out and about laying eggs at who knows where.
It was fairly lucky, then, that the buckeye that we netted as it was nectaring at Albany Hill turned out to be a female. It was a very worn female with a broken hindwing that looks as if it had been bitten at or attacked by something.
To this day we have yet to find any buckeye larvae or eggs despite them being so common in our area. We considered trying to get this female to lay eggs, but it seemed surprisingly unpractical since we didn't have any host plants in our yard nor any kind of sleeve of cage small enough for it. We did bring it home, but released it the next day.
Today we witnessed a pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) laying an egg cluster on California pipevine (Aristolochia californica) at Albany Hill (Albany, California).
It really takes a person to go checking every day in order to see a moment like this. Today, we were lucky enough to witness a female pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor hirsuta) choosing a spot on the ground and laying eggs on a small, growing shoot of California pipevine (Aristolochia californica).
We had seen the butterfly nectaring when we first got to Albany Hill, which was an interesting sight. We instantly recognized her as a female by the drab coloration on the front side of the forewings.
About an hour later, she was still flying about around the pipevine. It was obvious that she was laying or intending on laying eggs there, and eventually she landed on the ground and waited for several minutes, touching the vine and twitching the ovipositor. Most females will spend hours investigating different shoots, landing on them but then leaving, but it appeared like she had for-sure chosen the right spot here. After a while, she very quickly laid a set of eight eggs over the course of about two minutes. The entire time she sat there, not flying out after each egg or really flapping the wings.
The freshly laid eggs are interesting. After collecting so many egg clusters, we have never actually seen how they look like immediately after being deposited. The eggs look slightly wet and smooth because the grainy substance coating them hadn't dried yet. These particular eggs were also very orange and pale rather than bright red, possibly because the coat that gives them the red color was not dried or due to variation caused by genetics because we saw another cluster, discovered yesterday, that was orange but appeared to be dried. We also speculated that older females have less of the red substance and laid smaller clusters such as this one.
After we looked around, we discovered many egg clusters and groups of young first or second instar larvae that we hadn't before because they were all located so close to the ground. Last year during June, we also recall finding most of our eggs near the ground in the Berkeley Hills. It is likely that this is a common trend for the later season flights because this is where many of the new shoots/plants, now an extremely scarce resource, are located.
This timeline is a series of daily posts recording our observations on and experiences with various insects in Albany California and surrounding areas, from 2012-2017. Since we did not publish this site until 2016, posts before that were constructed retroactively. Starting in August 2017, we moved to Ithaca, New York; posts from there on can be viewed at Timeline 2017-present: Ithaca, New York.
August 2017 (49)
July 2017 (121)
June 2017 (79)
May 2017 (77)
April 2017 (91)
March 2017 (35)
February 2017 (12)
January 2017 (10)
December 2016 (12)
November 2016 (26)
October 2016 (49)
September 2016 (84)
August 2016 (94)
July 2016 (99)
June 2016 (53)
May 2016 (21)
April 2016 (4)
January 2016 (1)
August 2015 (3)
July 2015 (3)
June 2015 (2)
June 2014 (3)
May 2014 (1)
April 2014 (3)
March 2014 (3)
December 2013 (2)
November 2013 (2)
October 2013 (5)
September 2013 (11)
August 2013 (15)
July 2013 (9)
June 2013 (5)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (3)
March 2013 (2)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (2)
December 2012 (2)
November 2012 (1)
October 2012 (2)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (5)
July 2012 (1)
June 2012 (1)
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
- Not every species we encounter is necessarily presented on this site, rather a selection of those that were of particular interest to us and that we felt were worth documenting.
- We can't guarantee that all species have been identified accurately, particularly taxa we are not as familiar with.
Battus philenor hirsuta
Coenonympha tullia california
Langia zenzeroides formosana
Orthosia hibisci quenquefasciata
Papilio machaon oregonius
Papilio polyxenes asterius
Samia cynthia advena
Papilio glaucus × Papilio rutulus
Papilio polyxenes asterius × Papilio zelicaon
Araneae (Class: Arachnida)