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Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

I was delighted this past Wednesday to spot several Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I often see news stories about Monarchs being threatened or becoming endangered, so I am happy whenever I see some. The ones that I saw looked to be in perfect condition—perhaps they have recently emerged and are preparing for migration.

I tried several different angles when photographing this Monarch. The first photo shows the detail of the butterfly best, but I really like the way that I was able to capture the curve of the vegetation in the second shot by shooting in a vertical format.

 

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There has been an explosion of butterflies in the last few weeks in my area. Throughout most of the summer, I felt lucky when I managed to spot a few large, colorful butterflies.  All of the sudden I am seeing lots of butterflies in multiple locations at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Here are a few of my favorite butterfly shots from a visit to the wildlife refuge last Friday. Quite often I will focus on a single species in a blog posting, but in this case I like the way that these three images work as a set that highlights the beauty and diversity of these wonderful creatures that I was blessed to photograph that day.

The butterfly in the first image is a Monarch (Danaus plexippus); the butterfly in the second image is a Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus); and the butterfly in the third image is a Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).

I like each of the photographs for different reasons, but, if pressed, I would probably say that the final one is my favorite. Do you have a favorite?

Monarch butterfly

Zebra Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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Hummingbird Clearwing Moths (Hemaris thysbe) act a lot like hummingbirds. With rapidly beating wings, they both hover and fly from flower to flower seeking nectar. Instead of a beak like a hummingbird, however, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth has a long proboscis that rolls out of its coiled tube to reach the nectar deep inside flowers.

Normally when I get shots of a hummingbird moth, its proboscis is fully extended and the moth is sucking up nectar through this flexible hollow tube. On Monday, I was delighted to capture this first image in which the moth’s proboscis was still curled up as it approached a thistle in bloom. The second image shows the Hummingbird Moth actively feeding through the proboscis.

From the first moment when I encountered one, I have been fascinated by these curious creatures. They seem almost magical, combining characteristics of different species, or perhaps mythical, like a centaur or a sphinx. It is always fun to observes a Hummingbird Moth in action, but you have to react quickly to get shots when you see them, because they are really fast and in constant motion.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The sunlight was a bit harsh, but I actually like the way that it turned the background white, drawing even greater attention to the beautiful Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Every now and then I will take a shot, like this one, that turns out more “artsy” and stylized than my “normal” shots. It’s hard to explain, but this simple photo really appeals to me.

Viceroy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Throughout most of the summer I have seen very few large butterflies. Recently, though, I have been seeing them in greater numbers. I do not know if this is somehow linked to the blooming of the thistle plants, but I have spotted numerous butterflies in patches of this plant during recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Last week I spotted this beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) high atop a plant and I captured the first image with the sky in the background. The second image is linked to a short video I captured yesterday of a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Most of the time I tend to associate Monarchs with milkweed, but this one sure seemed to be enjoying the thistle flower. Before long, it should begin its migration and perhaps this was part of the fueling process.

I am still experimenting with taking short videos with my iPhone and once again posted the video to YouTube. I have started a little channel on YouTube and have already posted a number of short clips, primarily of butterflies, bison, and butterflies, some of them with music tracks as accompaniment—I inserted some copyright free piano music, for example, in the Monarch video below. I have also experimented with some slightly longer compilations of clips with voiceover narration. Check out my channel Mike Powell if you are at all curious to see and hear what I have done so far.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I am still learning to take videos with my iPhone 11. During my recent road trip, I convinced myself that it could be used with large subjects like bison and wild horses. I wasn’t sure, however, if it could be used effectively with the small subjects that I enjoy photographing.

Yesterday I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my favorite local wildlife photography spot, and kept my iPhone in my front pants pocket—normally I keep it in my backpack, which it is much less accessible. I was still using my Canon 7D with the Tamron 18-400mm zoom lens most of the time, but I made a conscious effort to look for subjects that I could also film with my iPhone.

I was astonished when I encountered a relatively cooperative Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus). Normally these butterflies are extremely skittish and it is a challenge to get a photo of one, even with a long telephoto lens. How could I make a video of one when I would have to be really close to it?

The first video, which is hosted in YouTube, is a short clip I was able to capture of a Zebra Swallowtail. I added a piano track as accompaniment to enhance the experience.

The second video features an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) feeding on a colorful thistle plant. This video was a bit easier to capture, because the butterfly was perched much higher and was really preoccupied. I was therefore able to frame the video much better. Once again I added piano music to the video, using the copyright free music available in the YouTube Studio.

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I have chosen to embed YouTube links to the videos rather than place them directly in my blog, where they would count against the blog’s data limits. In order to have an image appear for this posting in the Reader section of WordPress, I have reprised an image of a Zebra Swallowtail that was in a May 2022 posting.

I am having fun playing with videos and think they give a slightly different perspective to my normal blog postings.  What do you think? Do you enjoy these kinds of short video clips?

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Goldenrod was in full bloom on Wednesday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, attracting all kinds of insects, including a little Skipper butterfly and a colorfully-patterned Ailanthus Webworm moth (Atteva aurea). I believe that the butterfly is a Sachem Skipper (Atalopedes campestris), although it is hard to be confident when identifying skipper butterflies—there are quite a number of similar looking species.

I love the intricate orange, black, and white pattern on the body of the Ailanthus Webworm moth, a type of ermine moth. This moth looks quite a bit like a beetle when it is at rest with its wings tucked in, but reportedly it looks like a wasp when in flight. I encourage you to click on the image to get a better look at the wonderful details of the two insects.

When I composed this image, I was conscious of the fact that my primary subject, which was initially the skipper, filled only a small part of the frame. However, I really liked the brilliant yellow of the goldenrod and framed the shot to focus viewers’ attention as much on the sweeping curve and color of the goldenrod as on the insects. The goldenrod became the co-star of the photo and therefore has equal billing in the title of this blog posting.

goldenrod and insects

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Tuesday was a wonderful day for butterflies at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I was delighted to see lots of them, including the three orange varieties that I am featuring today. First up is a pretty Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Although its wings show some damage, it was happily feeding on some milkweed. Recent reports have shown that Monarchs are endangered, so it is always exciting to spot one.

The next photo shows a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus), which is visually quite similar to the Monarch. As I have noted before, the biggest distinguishing feature to tell the two species apart is the line on the hind wing of the Viceroys that Monarchs do not have.

The final orange butterfly is the much smaller Pearl Crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos). I see Pearl Crescent butterflies much more often than its larger counterparts, but they are usually quite skittish and perch so close to the ground that it is a challenge to photograph them.

Many of you know that I really like the color orange. I frequently wear a pair of orange Converse All-star sneakers and drive the orange KIA Soul that made a guest appearance in a recent blog post. For me, the color is warm and comfortable. Although it is often associated with the autumn, orange is very much a summer color too, as you can easily see in these butterfly photos.

Monarch

Viceroy

Pearl Crescent

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Here are some shots of butterflies that I spotted yesterday while hiking in Mt Rainier National Park. All three were photographed at over 6000 feet altitude (1829 m), flying among the wildflowers and other vegetation.

I think they are an Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon), an Edith’s Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha), and an Arctic Fritillary (Boloria chariclea), none of which I had seen previously. As I have mentioned before, I am not very familiar with Western species, so I therefore welcome corrections if I have identified these butterflies.

Today is my last full day in Washington State—I will begin my long drive back to the East Coast tomorrow and my blog posting schedule will almost certainly will be sporadic during this coming week. With a little luck, I’ll be able to capture some images along the way that I can share with you when I am finally home in a week or so.

Anise Swallowtail

Edith's Checkerspot

Arctic Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It should not come as a surprise to readers of this blog that I kept my eyes open for insects as I hiked about in Mount Rainier National Park earlier this week. The pickings were pretty slim, despite the fact that I passed through a variety of habitats.

At one particular stream, I noted some dragonfly activity, with multiple large dragonflies patrolling over the water, endlessly zooming back and forth. I hoped in vain that one would land, but eventually settled for trying capture a shot of them as they flew by. I was thrilled to actually succeed with one shot, which I think might be a Paddle-tailed Darner dragonfly (Aeshna palmata).

While I was chasing the dragonflies, I came upon the distinctive butterfly in the second photo. I believe that it is a Lorquin’s Admiral (Limenitis lorquini), as species that is new to me.

The final photo features some kind of Comma butterfly. The Pacific Northwest has different varieties of Comma butterflies than I am used to seeing in Virginia. I think this one might be a Green Comma (Polygonia faunus).

One of the real joys of traveling is having the chance to see new species and I am happy that this trip is providing me with such opportunities. If you happen to be an expert on any of these species and notice that I have misidentified them, please do not feel shy about providing a correction.

Paddle-tailed Darner

Lorquin's Admiral

Green Comma

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Normally I try to do a posting to my blog every day, but for the next three weeks my posting schedule will be much more erratic. I am in the final stages of packing my car for a trip to visit my son and his family outside of Seattle, Washington. There are multiple decision points along the way and I have not yet decided on my final route, but no matter how I go, it is likely to be about 3,000 miles (4828 km) each way.

I have some camping gear with me, including a water jug that holds six gallon (23 liter), so I may well be spending some time disconnected from the virtual world. I’ll try to take some photos along the way and will share them when I am able.

I am leaving you with a shot of a pretty little butterfly, which I think is a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) perched on some Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). I love the different shades of orange in the image.

In case some of you do not know it, my KIA Soul, in which I am driving out West, is orange in color. It is a coppery orange and not a pumpkin orange and it definitely stands out in a parking lot. My license plate holder has SOUL on it and my license plate itself is “BLESS MY.”

I am attaching a couple of photos of my car from January 2016, after a big snow storm. So many of us throughout the Northern Hemisphere are suffering from oppressive heat and I thought that the sight of snow might cool us off a little. I’ll close with a joke that I say on-line today that is a perfect fit for my quirky sense of humor—”Just be thankful that it is not snowing. Imagine shoveling snow in this heat!”

KIA Soul

KIA Soul

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have not seen very many Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) this summer, though I did spot a similar-looking Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Monarchs were in the news last week. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, “The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a Switzerland-based conservation organization that monitors the status of wildlife, added migratory monarchs (Danaus plexippus plexippus) to its list of threatened species this week.”

I decided to include an image of a Monarch that I captured earlier this month as it was feeding on a cone flower. I thought I would have more chances to photograph more monarchs, but this one was the only one that I have seen in July.

How do you tell the two species apart? The main visual difference between the two species is the black line across the Viceroy’s hind wings, which Monarch butterflies do not have. Both are stunningly beautiful.

Viceroy butterfly

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was delighted to encounter this group of butterflies last Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Several Zebra Swallowtails (Eurytides marcellus) and one prominent Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) were poking among the rocks, drinking in salts and other nutrients. If you look carefully at the image, you will see that one of the Zebra Swallowtails (the one to the right of the Spicebush Swallowtail flying—apparently it wanted to join the party.

Did you know that one of the collective nouns for a group of butterflies is “kaleidoscope?” I think the word is a a perfect descriptor for these multi-colored swirling beauties.

kaleidoscope of butterflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was hot and humid when I went trekking with my camera this past Wednesday and most of the wildlife seemed to be taking siestas in the shade at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I could hear the sounds of birds, but spotted only a few of them. Even the dragonfly activity seemed to be lower than normal.

Fortunately, a good number of butterflies were active. In fact they were so active, that I expended a lot of energy chasing after them. I noticed that several of them were showing some wear and tear, with visible damage to their wings.

The first and third photos show Black Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio polyxenes), while the butterfly in the middle shot is a Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus). None of these images is spectacular, but I like the way that they work together as a set, with the green vegetation in the background of each of them serving as a unifying element.

Have a happy weekend and chase a few butterflies if you can find them—it will make you feel like a child again.

Black Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love the simple beauty of Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae). They are mostly white with a few touches of black, but if you get a close-up look, you discover that they have stunningly speckled green eyes. Cabbage Whites, in my experience, tend to be pretty skittish and do not stay in one place for very long. If you were to track my movements, you would probably discover that I spend a good amount of time chasing after these little beauties.

Last Friday I was able to capture these images of a Cabbage White butterfly as it flitted about some pretty purple flowers at Green Spring Gardens. The first shot is my clear favorite of the three thanks to its saturated colors, out-of-focus background, and interesting composition. The other two images, however, are interesting in their own ways, showing a more dynamic view of the butterfly at work.

I am not a gardener, so I tend to view this butterfly almost exclusively from the perspective of its beauty—the same is true with invasive species of animals and insects. I fully recognize that this butterfly is considered to be an agricultural pest and can cause damage to crops, but that, in my eyes, does not diminish its beauty.

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was a bit surprised and absolutely delighted to see my first Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of the year yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I love to see these colorful butterflies, but each year it is a bit of a hit-or-miss proposition, as habitats for Monarchs continue to be threatened and their numbers seem to be declining.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although I enjoy photographing large, colorful butterflies, like the Zebra Swallowtail that I featured in a recent posting, I also love to photograph smaller, more nondescript butterflies. I spotted this pretty little Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and chased it about as it gathered nectar from several early spring wildflowers.

There are over 3500 species of skipper butterflies worldwide, according to Wikipedia, and the Silver-spotted Skipper is one of the few that I can reliably identify. Many of the others that I see are so similar in appearance that I have to pore over identification guides to try to figure out what kind they are. Often I end up guessing and am wrong just about as often as I am right in identifying a skipper.

Silver-spotted Skipper

Silver-spotted Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled to capture this image of an Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma) during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When its wings are closed, this butterfly blends right in with the bark of the trees on which it frequently perches, so it was nice that it chose to perch on some green leaves.

Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Zebra Swallowtail butterflies (Eurytides marcellus) are amazingly skittish. They fly all about, approaching plants as though they were planning to land and then change course at the last moment. I was thrilled during a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when this beautiful Zebra Swallowtail landed on a small wildflower and stayed still long enough for me to lower my monopod and focus on it.

I was shooting at the extreme end of my long telephoto zoom lens and was not sure if I could capture the fine details of the butterfly—the lens is supposedly soft at 600 mm. I was delighted when I saw my shots on my computer to see that I had managed to capture the beautiful red markings that really pop amid the zebra stripes pop on this swallowtail. Even the long antennae and the “tails” of the butterfly are pretty sharp.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was delighted yesterday to spot this beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the first one that I have seen this season. At this time of the year I am always struck by the pristine look of the newly emerged butterflies—later in the season they will become tattered and faded.

In my area we have four different black swallowtails—the Black Swallowtail, the Spicebush Swallowtail, the Pipevine Swallowtail, and the dark morph female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between the species, but in this case it was really easy. Male and female Black Swallowtails can be identified by the black dot inside the orange dot in the middle of the bottom of the hind wings, as you can see in this photo. Several years ago I came across a wonderful posting by the Louisiana Naturalist that has side-by-side comparisons of these four species and tips on how to tell them apart.

Last Friday, Jet Eliot, a wonderful writer and blogger who lives on the West Coast, wrote a fascinating blog posting entitled Swallowtail Butterflies that looked at some of the swallowtails in her area as well as others that she has encountered during her worldwide travels. The photos in the posting by Athena Alexander are astounding and Jet’s prose is informative and inspiring. I encourage you to check out the posting and leave you with this wonderful snippet from Jet—”I am often buoyed by these dancing kaleidoscopic creatures who start out so immobile and teensy and dark, and as each day turns to the next, they somehow know what to do. Soon they have mysteriously blossomed into delicate splendor.”

Have a wonderful weekend.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Quite often the simplest of subjects can be incredibly beautiful, like these little white butterflies that I photographed last week. Many folks might dismiss these nondescript creatures as moths or simply ignore them. It really is worthwhile to slow down and look at them closely.

The butterfly in the first photo is a Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) that was feeding on a patch of what I believe is purple dead nettle. Although it looks like a macro shot, I captured the image at the 600mm end of my telephoto zoom lens.

I took the next two pictures with an actual macro lens, my trusty Tamron 180mm lens. The tiny Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly (Cupido comyntas) has a wingspan of about an inch (25 mm) and I was thrilled to capture so much detail of its beauty, including the little “tails.”

Beauty is everywhere.

Cabbage White

Eastern Tailed-blue

Eastern Tailed-blue

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Recently I did a posting that featured Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus)—see Swallowtails in the forest.  None of those butterflies seemed to be involved in searching for nectar and seemed content to take in minerals and water.

Last Friday I returned to that same location in Prince William County, Virginia and discovered that the butterflies were taking advantage of the few small flowers that were blooming. In the first photo, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was nectaring on the small bluets (Houstonia caerulea) that are sometimes referred to as Quaker Ladies. The butterfly was so low to the ground that it looked like it was dragging its “tails.”

The butterfly in the second image is a dark morph Eastern Tiger Swallowtail female. Females of this species are dimorphic—there is a yellow variant that looks like the one in the first photo and a dark variant that looks like the one in the second image. The dark morph female was almost flat on the ground as she gathered nectar from a very short dandelion.

As more flowers begin to bloom, I am sure these butterflies will have a better selection of sources of nourishment, but the early arrivers have to make do with a really limited menu of choices.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday I saw a surprisingly large number of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus) as I explored a stream in Prince William County, Virginia. I used to associate these butterflies with gardens, because that is where I had previously seen them most of the time. Over the past years, though, as I have searched for early spring dragonflies, I have gotten used to seeing these colorful butterflies alongside the streams, often congregating in groups to drink and extract minerals from puddles (see my blog post from last year called A kaleidoscope of butterflies for more information and a photo of this phenomenon).

These swallowtails seemed content to fly about continuously, searching and exploring, but rarely perching. When they did come to the ground, they often landed in patches of fallen leaves, as you can see in the second and third images. I was happy when one of the butterflies opted to perch on a fern, which made it a little easier for me to photograph it.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I note the transition to spring in small ways, quite often in the reappearance of familiar species of plants, insects, and other living creatures. I was delighted on Monday to discover that tiny Virginia Spring Beauty wildflowers (Claytonia virginica) have already started to push their way up from the forest floor in Prince William County. According to Wikipedia, the individual flowers bloom for three days, although the five stamens on each flower are only active for a single day.

On the same day, I spotted an Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma), the first full-sized butterfly that I have been able to photograph this year. I was not able to get very close to the butterfly, but you can see the beautiful orange pattern of its inner wings in the middle shot below.

The final image shows a Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) that I spotted last week. This species seems to be found only in shallow marshy areas and I rarely encounter one, so it was exciting to be able to photograph it.

We all celebrate different signs of spring at this time of the year (or of autumn if you live in the Southern Hemisphere). What indications do you look for that signal the change of the season?

Spring Beauty

Eastern Comma

spotted turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was happy on Monday to photograph my first butterfly of the year, which appears to be the appropriately named Spring Azure butterfly (Celastrina ladon). Earlier this season I have spotted several Mourning Cloak butterflies, but was not able to get a shot of any of them.

The Spring Azure butterfly is only about an inch (25 mm) in size, but has some wonderful details that I was able to capture. It is fairly nondescript in color until it opens its wings and reveals a beautiful shade of blue—you get a small glimpse of that wonderful blue in the second image.

I had to pursue this butterfly for quite a while before it finally landed. An outside observer might have have wondered what it the world I was doing, but chasing butterflies always makes me feel like a child again.

It won’t be long before I see much bigger and more colorful butterflies, but this one is special to me as the first butterfly of the spring that I was able to photograph.

Spring Azure

Spring Azure

Spring Azure

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The situation in Ukraine is growing increasing grim as Putin’s attacks become more indiscriminate, causing countless civilian casualties and unimaginable suffering and devastation.  Please pray for peace.

#sunflowersforukraine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am happy to see that some butterflies are still with us as we move deeper into November. Eastern Comma butterflies (Polygonia interrogationis), like the one in first photo, overwinter as adults, rather than as eggs or pupae as most butterflies do, so there is a chance that I will continue to see them for a while longer if the weather does not get too bad.

Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia), like the one in the second photo, cannot tolerate cold temperatures. Some of them, according to Wikipedia, migrate to the south for the winter and then return when the weather warms up in the spring.

I was most surprised this week to spot the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) in the final photo—it had been a month or so since I had last seen a Black Swallowtail. This species spends the winter in the chrysalis stage, and adults emerge in the spring to seek out host plants.

We are nearing the end of the butterfly season, but I am delighted to share my walks in nature with these fragile little creatures for a little while longer.

Eastern Comma

Common Buckeye

Black Swallowtail

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I am shocked and delighted by the number of butterflies that I continue to see at the end of October, despite the cooling temperatures and decreasing number of hours of daylight. Last Thursday, 28 October, I spotted a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and multiple Variegated Fritillaries (Euptoieta claudia) and Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia).

The dominant browns and oranges in the color palette of these butterflies seems to be a perfect reflection of the autumn season, when the colors in nature seem more muted than they were during the spring and the summer. For me, though, there is an inner warmth and comfort in these colors, like the feel of a well-worn flannel shirt or the taste of an autumn soup.

Monarch

Variegated Fritillary

Common Buckeye

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was delighted and a bit surprised on Monday to spot this Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  thought the Monarchs had all left the area by now to head to warmer locations. When I posted this photo is a Facebook forum, I learned that viewers also have been spotting occasional Monarchs recently in other parts of Virginia.

Although the calendar tells us that we are well into autumn, we are still reminded from time to time of the beauty of the summer days that are gradually fading from our consciousness. Time moves on inexorably.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This past Saturday I visited Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia with several photographer friends and was pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of flowers are still in bloom. Those flowers kept the bees busy as well as an assortment of small butterflies, including this Variegated Fritillary butterfly (Euptoieta claudia).

This is a species that I do not see very often, so I was happy to capture a mostly unobstructed shot of it when it opened its wings—I am more used to seeing the somewhat similar Great Spangled Fritillary.

Variegated Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I had given up on Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) for the season, so I was thrilled when I spotted several of them on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I do not know if these are local butterflies, but I like to imagine that they are temporary visitors who stopped in to visit during their magical migration journey to warmer locations.

I photographed these two butterflies in different parts of the wildlife refuge. I thought about using only one of the two photos for this posting, but decided that I really like the impact that the images have as a pair, presenting a kind of yin-yang contrast in light and shadows and overall mood. What do you think?

Monarch

Monarch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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