Okay, about the Abaeis nicippe classification. Sleepy Orange butterflies were formerly called Euroma nicippe. Puddling in Cochise County is one thing, getting scientists to agree on taxonomy quite another. Besides which, several of the sulphur butterflies apparently cross-breed with each other rather easily, producing a significant number of hybrids that are flat-out hard to identify with any certainty. Even without hybridization, the Sleepy Orange and Orange Sulphur and Clouded Sulphur versions look enough alike to befuddle the casual eye, though the Clouded Sulphur tends to have distinctly yellow, not orange, dorsal wing surfaces.
What’s puddling, you ask?
Picture a puddle. Add a hundred or more butterflies gathered cheek-by-jowl…well, maybe butterflies don’t really have jowls. But they do huddle up really closely together when puddling, pulling moisture from moist earth if there’s no actual puddle. It’s pretty amazing they can get back into the air without having horrible collisions on takeoff.
They do it, though. One of their favorite places for a puddle huddle is the wash on Paloma Trail. After a rain, there are always a few low spots in the bottom of the wash that hold water, or at least damp dirt, for a while. I got some photos the other day, thinking to write a post about these winged beauties in conference, but the distance was too far. Blowing the photos up produced low res pictures that weren’t worth publishing. The butterflies–not all of which were Sleepy Orange types, though most of them were–seemed to be way too wary to let me approach close enough to get really good photos. Besides, I had places to go, people to see, things to do.
Today was a different story. Returning home from town, I was running ahead of schedule. The puddling bugs were in session. Most importantly, lo and behold, they weren’t easily spooked. I was able to approach to within three feet of their huddle without stirring them up much at all. I went home, grabbed the camcorder, and returned.
There was a whole lot of blessing going on. For some hours, the sun had been well hidden behind clouds–but just as I was parking the truck, preparing to walk down into the wash to camcord the little beauties and take still photos as well, said sun popped back out into full view. It was not far from sunset, the slanting rays of sunshine providing dramatic color contrasts in sunlight and in shade.
A photographer could ask for no better.
I was still parked in the wash, before making the journey home to retrieve the camcorder, when one of the neighbors arrived on his ATV. I pulled on up out of the wash and moved over to let him by, whereupon he grinned and pointed out, “They’re only butterflies!”
Why, yes. Yes, they are.
Of course, some of those butterflies in the puddle huddle were likely keeping an eye on us and telling their buddies, “They’re only humans!” It’s all in your perspective.
Ah. Here’s one that shows the small black marks on the forewings fairly well.
All righty then. Enough chit-chat. Next, a few more photos, sans text.