Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday Vignette: Winged Visitors

A good stretch of rainy weather and the resulting explosion of flowers brought hoards of visitors into Southern California.  I'm not referring to the humans streaming into our desert areas to see the "super bloom" wildflower displays, although that's still going on.  Unlike that event, the visitors I'm talking about didn't cause traffic jams or crush plants growing in delicate desert ecosystems.  The visitors I'm referring to swarmed across the border from Mexico unencumbered by walls or border patrol agents.  And, according to most reports, they numbered as many as one billion.  The migration in question was that of the painted ladies, a species of butterflies, Vanessa cardui, that took advantage of favorable environmental conditions to disperse far and wide in search of food and mates.  I noticed them in my garden before I heard anything about their mass migration on the news.  They grabbed the attention of the media and that of almost everyone I spoke with last week as we watched them flutter along roadways, in parking lots, and just about everywhere.

This shot was taken in my backyard

and this one was taken in one of my front garden borders.  I saw what looked like a funnel cloud of them at my local botanic garden but didn't have a camera on hand.


That good news story was followed by another, one that hasn't received any news coverage that I'm aware of.  Last weekend, I noticed what I initially thought were tiny hummingbirds flitting through my garden and even buzzing our living room windows.  On closer examination, I realized that they were representatives of one of the so-called hummingbird moth species.  I've seen these featured in the posts of bloggers in other states but this is the first time I've seen any of them in my own area.

This hummingbird moth is also known as a hawk moth and as the white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata).  Like the painted lady, its wingspan is 2-3 inches and it hails from Mexico.

It flaps its wings so rapidly, even when siphoning nectar from flowers, it was hard to get a good photo.  I saw a lizard leap in an attempt to capture this particular moth when it was hovering mere inches above the ground but he failed in his attempt.


My last winged visitor is a regular returnee.  Like the butterflies and the moths, he was particularly attracted to the blue flowers of Echium handiense.

This is the common bumblebee (Bombus), not known as a big honey producer but one of the best pollinators we have


My coverage of these wonderful winged visitors is my Wednesday Vignette.  For more, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

28 comments:

  1. GREAT photo of the moth! They have been around here, too.

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    1. They're cute creatures, although I gather that the larva can cause significant damage if they arrive in large numbers. I'm glad of the opportunity to see them in person.

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  2. What a wonderful migration to be immersed in! I saw a photo of the blooming desert the other day, and wished I could see it in real life. It looked amazing! I agree with Hoov - that's a great moth photo! Happy Spring, Kris!

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    1. The super bloom looks to be larger and splashier even than the 2017 event, Anna, but the traffic issues made me reconsider making the trip this time. Lake Elsinore actually closed the area at one point because traffic, parking and damage to the hillsides caused by picture-takers became such a problem. They reopened the area but I understand the problems are still plaguing the city and local residents.

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  3. I enjoyed these photos of your winged visitors, but especially the hummingbird moth. I used to see them regularly in my garden in Massachusetts, but have never seen any here in Washington. You managed to capture a great photo of it.

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    1. I was pretty excited to have a few photos turn out okay, Alison. I had to scrap the vast majority as the moths just wouldn't remain still.

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  4. Isn't it fascinating to watch the insects in the garden? The hummingbird moth is a stunner, and clever you for getting such a good picture.

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  5. Wow, a billion PLs! That's quite the parade! :)

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    1. It was incredible to watch. A friend and I spent 15 minutes talking in a parking lot before getting into our respective cars and we must have seen a hundred or more flutter by in that period.

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  6. Oh, goodness. Just what I needed today. :) I love those hummingbird moths, and of course the butterflies and bees. Cheers!

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  7. Cheers! What an amazing sight it must be to see that many butterflies at one time. The painted ladies are charming, we have them too and the hummingbird moths. I'd love to see that many at one time. I saw photos of the super bloom - stunning! Lovely photos. Best, Kim

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    1. It's been wonderful to see that some species can recover from deep and persistent drought the way the poppies and the painted ladies have, Kim.

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  8. Kris, I'm curious, and this may not be the forum, so apologies in advance, but on our news last night (Australia) they was an article about the wall going through a butterfly and wildlife reserve. How do you think this will impact on butterfly migrations? Does your government require environmental impact studies before big construction? Which admittedly, they could ignore anyway.:( Great photos and the moths are stunning. Thanks for sharing. I love your blog, it has been a source of inspiration, Thank you

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    1. Brennie, under the current government administration, if environmental impacts are evaluated at all, they seem to have taken a backseat to political considerations on the part of the current occupant of the White House. The newest nominees to assume leadership of our Environmental Protection Agency and the Panel on Climate Change substantiate that conclusion in my view. As our current Congressional representatives don't have the sense and wherewithal to vote to override the emergency declaration related to "the wall," our hopes reside with our court system, which is already packed with challenges based not only on constitutional grounds but also concerns with environmental impacts and impacts on individual landowners with properties along the border. Suits based on such concerns will likely take years to resolve. While I personally would like to see the issue resolved more promptly based on common sense, failing that, I think we can hope that, by the time the legal issues are resolved one way or another, new leadership will be in place. This response is more convoluted in its phrasing than I'd like but, as current White House's policies infuriate me, I figure it's better than a stream of profanity.

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    2. Actually it made perfect sense! We have a similar-ish issue here, except ours is a coal mine....which will impact the great barrier reef and underground water reservoirs....sigh.

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    3. I'm sorry you're dealing with a similar dynamic, Brennie. Perhaps the best news is that so many kids all around the world are raising concerns about climate change and its broader impacts. As awareness increases, current environmental policies and practices may well be classified as crimes.

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    4. and here it is canned lions. Having been advised not to breed lions for petting, trophy hunting, then lion bones ... our noble leaders have decide to go ahead for 'conservation'. Not.

      Wonderful to have two successful Mexican invasions. And so encouraging to see how insects can bounce back, if given a fair chance.

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    5. I hadn't heard the expression "canned lion" and had to look it up. Trophy hunting has gotten a lot of coverage here, mostly negative although not strong enough to stop the sons of the occupant of the White House from participating in it. Disgraceful.

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  9. They’re all wonderful to see, but the hummingbird moth stands out, they’re so cool! I saw my first in New Mexico and was enthralled.

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    1. I really thought I had a hummingbird buzzing my living room window for awhile, Loree. While the moths move continuously, at least they're not as camera shy as their bird look-alikes.

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  10. I love all your winged visitors, what a treat. Great photos too.

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    1. Thanks Chloris. The temperatures shifted back to cooler levels this week and my visitors seem to have gone elsewhere.

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  11. How cool to see these in your garden.

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  12. Oh such visitors are always exciting Kris but nothing quite like a first time ever visitor! No butterflies here yet so far this spring but bees have been out and about :)

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    1. The painted ladies were early arrivals here but I've recently seen a few others flitting about. The ladies appear to have moved on, northward-bound.

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