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#278 Poweshiek Skipperling

Critically Endangered

Around the World in 80 Days - Day 69

Our train ride across the US had made it to Chicago now. These butterflies used to live in Illinois, but are extinct there now. According to one source, they are the most endangered species in Michigan. A survey of almost 30 sites in the US and Canada managed to find only 96 total butterflies. Of those 96, Manitoba had 51, and 35 were found in one 37 acre spot in Michigan. The handful found elsewhere were also found in Michigan, none have been seen in Wisconsin since 2008, none have been found the other states they once were common in as well. The year prior to this last survey there had been 200 found, so in spite of there being protections in place, the numbers are obviously going in the wrong direction. These were once so common, that in the 90's biologists researching other endangered animals were actually swatting them to get them away! They require a specific habitat of prairies with grass for the caterpillars to eat and certain flowers for the butterflies. Invasive species, fire, fire suppression, fungicides, pesticides, development, and overgrazing were all listed as reasons for their population decline. Unlike some butterflies, they don't migrate. The caterpillars are able to tolerate freezing temperatures and so they are able to winter in their habitat.

I've tried to vaguely hint at the Black-eyed Susan flowers that are one of their favourites. I do not want to have scenery with this series, I very specifically chose not to, but the butterfly did not look right just sitting on a field of green. Rather than hinting at leaves, I felt that the flowers would be better. These butterflies have an interesting way of sitting with their wings sort of half folded half open. To me it makes them look like friendly, fuzzy little fighter jets almost.

Yesterday I realized that my poor vision does more than just annoy me and make me worry about my future ability to make art. When I went with my son to one of the beaches he wanted to check out, we looked at the trails to get down onto the beach, and I had to let him go on his own. See, I have multi-focal lenses. They are the type with no line in them. I've always known I am not confident going down stairs. If I have a railing to hold onto I'm fine. I always feel a little uncertain of my footing when walking down a hill, but as long as the walk is something like a sidewalk or a smooth hill, no sudden changes to the path, then I'm fine. The trail at the beach was nothing like that. It was steep, had serious elevation changes, and there was nothing to hold on to during the hike down. I started trying it, but I knew there was no way for me to be able to make it. It is very disheartening, and I felt bad for my son who would have rather had company on the beach. I think it may be because my lenses are supposed to go from a strength for reading (though I read better if I take my glasses off) up to being able to look off in the distance. That means that when I'm looking down at my feet, I'm essentially looking through reading glasses. Nothing is in focus and I cannot tell how far from my feet my next foothold really is. I'm wondering if maybe I need to have two pairs of glasses now, indoor glasses and outdoor glasses. Heck, I have a hard time with my glasses when I have a mask on. Not because of fogging, but because I have to wear the mask on top of the glasses which adjusts where the focal point is, and then I can't read labels. I also think I may need to get a better eye doctor.

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