Sharing the Outdoors, Chasing Butterflies

By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle
As you read this I hope to be hooking into my fourth pink salmon or second king of the day.
I’m in a “silver slump,” as my son calls it. I haven’t hooked a salmon or a steelhead all year — though I’ve seen plenty caught and landed and have the pictures to prove it. Today I’ll be setting down my camera and concentrating on pulling in a silver beauty. I don’t care if it’s large or small, pink or king, I just want a fish.
It seems I’m not alone in my desperation, however. The word in the fishing forums (gamefishin.com and washingtonlakes.com) is that the usual combat fishing rules have been abandoned and that it has turned into an all-out war on the waters of Puget Sound and at the Puyallup and Skokomish rivers.
There are kings running through in big numbers, along with the pinks, raising the stakes and causing tempers to boil.
One heartening topic keeps popping up in the forums has kept my faith in my fellow fishermen intact, in spite of the Silver Battle Royale — “If you pack it in, pack it out!”
Dedicated anglers, concerned with keeping the shorelines clean, are pleading their case, asking everyone to bring an empty bag to help with the clean up of banks.
If you are one of the outdoorsmen or women that make it a habit to pack out your own garbage along with a bit of somebody else’s, thank you. I’d bake you a cake (if I was any good at it), if I could.
If you are one of those selfishly messy guys or gals that litter our riverbanks with fishing line, beer cans, cigarette butts, hooks, yarn and corkys, I want you to know that it’s never too late to change your ways. Everything on the list — except the beer cans — can be easily stowed away in your pockets and tossed into any one of the convenient garbage cans in the parking lot on your way out.

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Chasing Butterflies
I have another big zero in my outdoors capture book this year, besides my bad luck catching salmon or a steelhead. I haven’t been able to get a single butterfly to sit still long to take its picture — until this week.
I’ve been chasing those flitting day fliers across lawns and parking lots and through fields for a couple of months now. Not a one would take the time to pose.
But on Sunday I found a little skipper that gave me a generous 30 seconds of camera time. Perched on the end of a stick I held in my hand, he looked right into my camera lens before he took off again.
Stunning. Simply stunning.
I’m fascinated by the faces of moths and butterflies.
Some of the faces are fierce and menacing and command a respect that I would not have believed if I had not taken the time to get a closer look.
Others, like the woodland skipper butterfly, are so adorably cute and curious-looking that you can’t help but smile.
Whenever I stop and take the time to watch things with wings — birds, butterflies, moths and even airplanes — there is a joy that wells up from inside my body that threatens to overflow into giddy laughter, if I dare to let it out. I try to hold the joy in the spaces between my full cheeks along the line of a full grin, but it doesn’t always stay there.
August is high butterfly hunting time. If you don’t have the energy or ability to chase them across fields or mountain meadows, you can simply turn on your porch light in the evening and wait for their sister moths to appear.
There are more than 11,200 known species of Lepidoptera in the United States; a great majority of them are moths. A moth may not be as colorful as even the most average-looking of butterfly, but they are easier to find in a greater variety of places and once you see the shimmer and shine of a moth close up, you’ll recognize their beauty.
Not all moths fly only at night, but all butterflies fly only in the daytime.
You can easily tell a moth from a butterfly by its antennae. The antennae of butterflies are slender and have an enlarged club at the tip. A moth’s antennae can be wide and feathery (a bit like a TV antenna) or long, slender and tapered at the tip.
I have a few favorite websites that have been of great help in identifying the bugs in my yard.
One is www.bugguide.net, another — the best moth site I’ve found — is at www.mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/WalkThroughIndex.shtml.
I picked up a handy field guide that has been invaluable in my quest for insect identification in my own backyard, “Insects of the Pacific Northwest” by Peter Haggard and Judy Haggard, published by Timber Press.
Happy hunting.
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Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer who enjoys watching and photographing the wildlife in her own backyard in Cinebar. Visit her wildlife and outdoor encounters photography blog, The (Almost) Daily Bird, at www.blogs.chronline.com/dailybird. Contact her via email at kz@tds.net or call 269-5017 to share unusual wildlife observations, or to discuss upcoming events and topics you would like to see covered in The Chronicle Outdoors section.

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