Back to Butterflies!

This week, we were finally able to shift our focus from lynx cameras back to butterfly sampling. We returned again to survey at Sauk Mountain, and we were able to get our first survey of the year completed at Cascade Pass. Sauk Mountain was looking as beautiful as ever when we arrived there this week. It was the clearest day we’ve had up there so far, so the views were incredible. The pictures won’t do it justice, but you could see for miles.

A clear afternoon on Sauk Mountain

Because it was such a nice day, there were several hikers out on the trails, most of whom were generally curious and inquisitive of our butterfly nets. “Are you going fishing?” “Are you guys gonna catch frogs?” “Nope,” I say. “We’re doing a butterfly and plant survey for the National Park Service.” I love when I get to explain to people what we’re doing up there. It really fills me with a sense of pride explaining that I’m working with National Park Service and most people are so appreciative (and jealous!) of the work we are doing. It’s really great when people ask questions about our methods and project goals because a) it shows that they care, and b) they get to learn something new about the plant and animal species that they are currently enjoying out on the trail. Most conversations with hikers we encounter end with some kind of envious and/or facetious undertone. “Don’t work too hard!,” “Sounds like a tough job!,” or “And you get paid for this?!” Yes I do, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Confirming a Margined White

An Anicia Cherckerspot on Sauk Mountain. This is the first record of this species confirmed in this area.

As I mentioned above, we also got to conduct our first butterfly survey of the year at Cascade Pass. The hike up to our sampling transect at Cascade Pass is much more labor intensive than that at Sauk Mountain, but the views are equally as, if not more, stunning.

The view from Cascade Pass

Because the snow had just melted out, and wildflowers were only in their early stages of blooming, butterflies on our survey route were few and far between. Other wildlife in the area, however, was active and abundant. Near and on our survey route we encountered everything from marmots and pika to deer and mountain goats. It was quite majestic and it really felt like the quintessential National Park experience. I’m looking forward to getting back there in a couple of weeks when the butterflies will (hopefully) be in full flight!

NPS employees hard at work on Cascade Pass

A majestic scene on Cascade Pass

Finding time for a little fun at work!

I say a couple of weeks because next week I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to explore Mount Rainier National Park with the other butterfly crew that works there. I’m really looking forward to the experience, as I’ve heard nothing but great things about that park. Tune in next week to find out how it goes!

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