Wednesday, December 31, 2008

UCD professor again trades beer for butterflies

By Niesha Lofing

Sacramento Bee Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008

Free beer for a butterfly?


Arthur Shapiro, a professor at University of California, Davis, has launched his annual Butterfly-for-Beer contest and is hoping someone soon will turn in a live Cabbage White butterfly.
The contest, which has been going on for 38 years, rewards the first person to turn in a live Cabbage White with a pitcher of beer or its cash equivalent, a UC Davis news release states.
What's in it for Shapiro? He gets more biological data on the butterfly.

The Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae, lives in the Central Valley and is white or buff-colored, about 1 1/4 inches long and might have a few black spots near the edges of its outer wings. Its underside is yellow with a gray hue. It often is spotted in vacant lots and by the side of roads where wild mustard grows, the release states.

Shapiro, who teaches evolution and ecology courses for the university's entomology department, has found that the butterfly is emerging about a week earlier than it did 30 years ago, a shift caused by climate warming, he says.

In past years, the first sightings of the butterfly ranged from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22. This year, the first specimen was caught Jan. 19. Cool, wet and cloudy conditions seem to delay the butterfly's appearance, while sunny and warm days speed it up, the release states. The contest is limited to adult butterflies captured outdoors in Sacramento, Solano or Yolo counties.

Butterflies must be brought alive to the receptionist in the Evolution and Ecology office, 2320 Storer Hall, with full information about the time, date and place it was found.
If a butterfly is captured on a weekend or holiday when the department office is closed, it can be stored alive for a few days in the refrigerator.

"Almost every year someone brings one in in May or June and asks 'Did I win?'" Shapiro wrote on his UC Davis-hosted Web site.

Charlie Bear's Note: I saw a fresh male cabbage white butterfly at the Yolo Bypass on December 11, 2007. I should have caught it and taken it to Art Shapiro for the beer!

The photo is from Wikipedia

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Return of the Yellow-billed Magpies (?)

This afternoon, at about 1600 hours I was pleasantly surprised to see there were 12 yellow-billed magpies (Picea nuttalli) at the top of my neighbor's 70-foot redwood tree. These birds were once abundant and common in my neighborhood in Sacramento (about 3 miles east of the State Capitol). Flocks of 50+ magpies were not unusual. I have DVD footage I took about 5 years ago of about 80 of them and a large flock of crows (Corvus corax) in the redwood tree "fighting" with each other. Their screeching and calling at each was so loud and agitated that early Sunday morning that they woke me and Truman up! They are highly intelligent and social birds; their antics are amusing. When I watered my front yard with a lawn sprinkler during the hot Central Valley summers, flocks would land and they would take turns drinking water from the hose. But since West Nile Virus hit the area, you now only see one or maybe two or three yellow-billed magpies at a time. And that rarely. When I see the lone individual or pairs of them now, I often wonder how the behavior of these animals has been changed. I am a trained biologist, but I can not help but think that these highly social animals must be terribly lonely and confused by the loss of their comrades. So, I was sure glad to see the flock of these characters arguing and fighting with each other today! I am told that corvids are especially vulnerable to the disease. I have thought that West Nile Virus reached North America through the tremendous international trade in African parrots. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the disease first struck this Country in the New York area - JFK is a major Port of Entry for wildlife from foreign countries. Here in Sacramento, the crows, a corvid, dropped in number, but seem to be slowly recovering. They like to spend the night up on Richards Blvd north of the State Capitol, and you can see 100s of them perching on buildings and telephone lines, and walking around on the ground searching for food or socializing with each other. I hope the yellow-billed magpies are developing immunity to West Nile Disease as they are one of my favorite birds.
The photo is from which is run by the U.C. Davis Veterinary School.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Alfafa Sulphurs still out

Yesterday, Truman and I were enjoying a nice late morning walk out at the Yolo Bypass. While walking by a farmer's field of alfalfa, I was surprised to see two alfalfa sulphurs. They were both bright yellow males (?) flying about in a "stop and go" manner. Seems like thngs are flying later into the winter around here.