|Brendan Collins surveying butterflies.|
Building off our past surveys in 2003 and 2008, VCE in cooperation with the White Mountain National Forest, has embarked on a 2-year project to better understand the population size and habitat use of the White Mountain Fritillary. We completed our first surveys of the year last week under deep blue skies and warm temperatures, perfect for butterflies. Hiking to random survey points scattered across the alpine zone is no easy task for our biologists. They logged many rugged miles of hiking, endured bothersome black flies, and ended each day exhausted. The fritillary is just beginning its annual flight. We were able to find about a dozen fresh adults nectaring among the alpine flowers.
In the 1880s the great lepidopterist Samuel Scudder wrote, “Probably no wandering collector has often seen more than eight or ten of these butterflies in a day’s scramble among the mountains …”. Later he wrote, “The [butterfly] indeed seems really doomed to destruction. In the scanty numbers that one may find upon the mountain slopes, one sees the sign of their early departure; for, in the many years that I have searched for them with special pains, I have never seen more that a dozen or two specimens in a single day.” Over a hundred years later his words still ring true. But we hope in a hundred more they’ll still be bouncing from one alpine flower to the next, perhaps with a little help from us.