The White Mountains in east-central Arizona in July are cool, scenic and an excellent place to see butterflies. A generous mix of wet, lush meadows, arid hillsides, flower-filled streamsides and varied elevations along with the presence of a number of endemic butterflies that may be full species, provides all the butterflying excitement one could hope for! Temperatures that average in the 70 to 80 degree range provide a pleasant climate for butterfliers.
The trip begins at 7 PM on Friday night in Tucson, Arizona. Saturday morning we will depart Tucson for the five hour drive to our tour base in Eagar, Arizona (7000 ft.), butterflying along the way. We will use a comfortable hotel in Eagar as our base for most of the trip. This will enable us to easily reach all of the prime butterflying areas without having to change accommodations.
From Eagar we will make daily forays to some of the best butterflying spots in Arizona. We will remain flexible as to the exact order we visit localities and the amount of time spent at each in order to take best advantage of hot spots and to enable us to work with weather conditions, not against them. Butterflies are more unpredictable than birds. Exactly where and when populations will appear is highly dependent upon local environmental and climatic conditions. The uncertainty heightens our excitement.
The following areas are illustrative of those we will visit. As time allows and depending on weather conditions we will visit other great butterfly spots such as South Fork, the Black River, and Three Forks. There are undoubtedly new places still waiting to be discovered.
One of the many places we're sure to visit will be Ditch Camp on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. This is a lush meadow on the North Fork of the White River where many butterflies can be observed nectaring at a wide variety of flowers. ‘Arizona’ Mormon Fritillary – a very distinctive and strikingly marked endemic population – and Aphrodite and Atlantis Fritillaries all fly together here along with Milbert's Tortoiseshell, West Coast Lady, and Hoary Comma. Some very nice skippers may be seen including Four-spotted Skipperling, Peck's Skipper and Snow's Skipper. If we’re lucky we may see Common Branded Skippers at the onset of their flight. Small Wood-Nymphs are often everywhere and we’ll keep on the lookout for the White Mountain race of the Common Ringlet. The endemic 'Arizona' Ruddy Coppers (which some believe to be a full species) will still be flashing their fiery topsides and we may see a sprinkling of the many blues that inhabit the mountains. Greenish Blues and Arctic Blues are distinct possibilities here.
Green's Peak Road
In sharp contrast to higher meadows just a few air miles away, this area is quite arid and supports entirely different butterflies. We will search for Spalding's Blue, always a great find, Square-spotted Blues, Pine Whites, Melissa Blues and Afranius Duskywings. There are usually many other common species around to focus one's eyes or camera lens upon. Fulvia and Arachne Checkerspots occur here along with Northern Cloudywings, Cassus and Orange-headed Roadside-Skippers, Variegated Fritillaries, Field and Mylitta Crescents, Dainty and Orange Sulphurs and many others.
South of Alpine
This is a favorite area to look for butterflies in Arizona. Driving south along U.S. Route 191 from the town of Alpine, we will work nectar sources alongside the road and along the streams and into the meadows. The higher elevations just a few miles south of Alpine may still yield butterflies that mainly flew in June. Some of these are Western Pine Elfin, Queen Alexandra's Sulphur, Thicket Hairstreak, California Tortoiseshell, Silvery Checkerspot, Rocky Mountain Duskywing, Tawny-edged Skipper and Western Tiger Swallowtail. Russet Skipperling is still possible and Mexican Cloudywings may still be on the wing.
Driving south will take us through some of the most beautiful scenery in the state. We'll stop here and there but especially at a meadow near Blue Vista. The meadow is located at the edge of the Mogollon Rim. The flowers often draw in an amazing mixture of butterflies and there are almost always surprises. Atlantis Fritillaries mix with Pipevine Swallowtails, Deva Skippers fly together with Queen Alexandra's Sulphurs and so on.
Driving just a few miles further south we will drop down in elevation, yielding a different flora and fauna. Near the Rose Peak area we will look for Green and Dun Skippers, Canyonland and Red Satyrs, and a bunch of hairstreaks, including Arizona, 'Canyon' Bramble, 'Siva' Juniper, and Great Purple. Nais Metalmarks should be common on the buckbrush blooms which always yield a surprise or two. Weidemeyer's Admirals, California Sisters and Colorado Hairstreaks are sure to delight all. Edward's Skipperling is quite at home here, just a few miles from colonies of the Garita Skipperling and we may get both on the same day. Mustard Whites, of the White Mountain flavor, are a sure bet along with Silver-spotted Skippers.
We have only mentioned a few of the more than 120 species of butterflies that call the White Mountains home.
On Day 8, Friday, we will drive back to Tucson, butterflying along the way.
The trip ends at 9 AM on the morning of Day 9, Saturday, in Tucson, Arizona.
Leader will be Jeffrey Glassberg.
Cost of the trip is $2295/person from Tucson. Cost includes double-based accommodations, lunches and soft drinks, ground transportation, airport transfers, tour leader fees and entrance fees. Not included are alcoholic beverages, laundry services, and other items of a personal nature. Single supplement is $350. This trip is limited to 8 participants.
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'Magdalena' Variable Checkerspot
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The White Mountains of Arizona