I typically got in about an hour or two each morning, after the high ranges had warmed up sufficiently for butterflies to be out, but before the daily storm parked itself on top of the mountain for the rest of the afternoon. Short as the time was, Utah yielded some very special butterflies.
The target for my trip was the abundance of coppers that Utah is justly famous for. Yes, I know, the mountain west also has a ton of tricky fritillaries, but I figured I’d experience one ID challenge at a time!
The first thing you have to now about Utah coppers is that some of the aren’t, well, copper at all. Like the Blue Copper, which was flying in most of the meadows at high elevations where its food plant, buckwheat, was in full bloom. The male is distinctive: It is, as its name indicates, bright blue. So blue in fact that on a previous trip to Colorado I misidentified this puppy as one of the blues until a kind colleague out west corrected me. The female is a more of a challenge, helped out in this case by watching which of the various coppers in the meadow at Guardsman Pass the male Blue Coppers were chasing.Other coppers were more typically copper-ish. Like the most common copper flying in the Wasatch and Uintas right now, Purplish Copper. You really need to see these butterflies in person in the sunlight to get the full impact of why their called “Purplish” — they have an amazing sheen, or at least the one that I saw in full sunlight over five days did!
And I kept trying to make some of the coppers into blues again. Take this one, for example. From the ventral aspect — all I saw for most of a blustery morning above treeline — it looks for all the world like many of the heavily spotted blues in the Rockies. But a good look at the top side, once the flowers stopped swaying so much in the stiff breeze, showed its family resemblance to the rest of the coppers in the area.