Twins…. & Me Still Learning to ID…


Hi actually I have twin daughters. I think most of you know that by now and both are completely level headed and adorable. I’ll maybe one day discuss two of the people I’m probably the most proud of however, that will have to wait. Instead I’ll toss up three difficult species that I struggle to identify especially in the field.

First, those darned squirrels! I think I finally got it figured out. I was lucky enough to get a shot of a Douglas squirrel recently so I can show a comparison.

Douglas Squirrel
The Douglas Squirrel

Red Squirrel
The Red Squirrel

Sure you say the lower guy does look a little more red… well, give it about a month and the coat of the Douglas is going to go more and more red as the summer winds on. So how to tell? First, it is a Red squirrel or Douglas squirrel if they have that wicked cool white eye line. Then next step… see the black line on the upper guys belly? It’s a black line that separates the upper color with his lower white belly. That’s what a Douglas squirrel has that a Red won’t and never will. So if your lucky enough to see that tummy line it’s an easy ID.

Now birds; the House Finch vs. the Cassins Finch. A few things tell you the difference; the Cassins has a more distinct eye-line and at least locally, a more distinct face pattern. The breast of the House Finch has more markings on it and the Cassins Finch has a rather clean and reddish breast. The tell tale sign that tells me every time however is the line of the beak. It’s almost an arch on the House Finch but only slightly goes down on the Cassins Finch. Here are a couple of shots to compare.

House Finch
House Finch

Cassin Finch
Cassin Finch

Cassin Finch
Top View Cassin Finch.

Now lastly butterflies…. This one really got me! Not having the trained eye of a scientist It took me a lot of time to be able to distinguish these two butterflies. I understood they were different but how? Both are Tortoiseshell butterflies and fall under the small group of brush-footed butterflies. A tortoiseshell simply looks funny when it is closed – it’s brown and mottled on the underside of it’s wings. It did not help that both landed on a nearby tree in a single group. I actually created circles so you can idenify the similar butterflies with the wings open and with the wings closed.

Compton Tortoiseshell & California Tortoiseshell

The original shot of both Compton and California and now my marked up version…

Compton Tortoiseshell & California Tortoiseshell

The hints are in the circles I put on the photo. On the right is a Compton because when its closed you see the mark that looks a little like a check mark (in butterfly circles it’s called a comma) that is only on the Compton. The second indicator is the two circles on the left butterflies – there should be really distinctive white marks in that circle and since there aren’t it’s a California Tortoiseshell.

Here is a photograph of a Compton Tortoiseshell while open. Other than those two indicators I can’t tell the difference.

 Compton Tortoiseshell

Okay now that you know here are a few pretty shots I got of the butterflies who covered an entire bush I think overall I saw on one bush about thirty butterflies.

Compton Tortoiseshell & California Tortoiseshell

California Tortoiseshell Butterfly
(p.s. This is a closed California butterfly – no comma – and it’s my favorite shot.)

Hopefully I didn’t confuse anything and I got it right and if not someone out there will correct me!



14 Responses to “Twins…. & Me Still Learning to ID…”

  1. 1 montucky

    Wow, what an excellent job of showing and telling! You have far more patience than I do! I was fascinated by all of these and you helped me identify a butterfly that I photographed today: it’s a California Tortoiseshell. I probably never would have figured it out otherwise. (Maybe I should just bring my photos and follow you around!)

  2. Great identification. I’m sure that took you a while and I commend you (if that really means anything).

  3. 3 mon@rch

    Identification is always tricky and what is great about nature is that there is always something to identify and learn from those field marks! Thanks for the great post!

  4. 4 aullori

    Hi Montucky, actually I could just as easily follow you around! I go to your flickr site regularly in order to help me identify things as well. 🙂 Thankfully you always title your photos with the name of the plant or animal.

  5. 5 aullori

    Your flattery is always welcome scienceguy! 🙂

  6. 6 aullori

    Thank you monarch for stopping by and visiting. I find the whole process fun and exciting.. just about the time I think I’ve got everything figured out and new species pops up and learning about it is half of the fun.

  7. 7 Bo

    Wow, I can see I’m going to learn a lot this season. Great ID tips.

  8. 8 Sumedh


  9. Nice tips on the House Finch vs. Cassin’s Finch! I’ve only seen one or two Cassin’s, and never long enough to really study the differences between them & House Finches, which we have in spades here. Good work on the squirrels & bflys too – I generally don’t even try with either of those! You also did a very good job photographing each of these.

  10. 10 ankush

    wow, i love the butterflies and the moth!

  11. Thanks Bo! I LOVED your most recent post!

  12. Thanks Adam! I’ll try to Id anything … being successful well that sometimes that’s a different tale. 🙂

  13. Thanks Ankush – they are very pretty. I have a really cool one on my wall going upstairs I think that poor unsuspecting guy is my next subject….

  14. Great photos Lori. Some of my favorite subjects captured in a very telling way. Nicely done.

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