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Every year poses a unique challenge when trying to complete sunshine-dependent butterfly surveys in the Pacific Northwest, but 2020 definitely stands out. The initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic began just before the onset of the monitoring season for one of the endangered butterflies of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Fender’s blue (Icaricia icarioides fenderi). Fender’s blue surveys were, for the most part, able to occur as normal, since the survey method is inherently socially distanced and in line with COVID-19 safety protocols. We adapted the annual training into an online format and our dedicated team worked hard to get to as many sites as possible when weather conditions were favorable – just a few were closed for access. We’re so grateful for the logistical support of the Willamette Valley conservation and land management community!
Since 2016, IAE has coordinated annual surveys for the endangered Fender’s blue across its range in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Fender’s blue butterfly was listed as an endangered species in 2000 primarily because of its extreme rarity due to upland and wet prairie habitat loss and fragmentation. Sites in conservation with the butterfly have been monitored on a mostly annual basis for the last 10 years, and some, like those at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge near Rickreall, Oregon, have been monitored regularly for almost 25 years.
IAE is grateful for funding provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and assistance from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. A huge thanks to all surveyors, including Christine Calhoun, Riley Duncan, Andrew Esterson, Greg Fitzpatrick, Paul Hammond, Amie Loop-Frison, Peter Moore, Gary Pearson, Dana Ross, Duncan Thomas and Rhiannon Cochrane. We are grateful to all public and private landowners who support surveys for Fender’s blue butterfly on their land. Our continued appreciation also goes to Tyler Hicks for his assistance with distance sampling analysis.