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Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

When I spotted a small patch of milkweed while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this month, I stopped and waited. I knew that numerous butterflies are attracted to this plant. Before long, several butterflies in fact appeared.

Here are photos of two of them, both swallowtail butterflies. The first one, a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus), appears to be in perfect condition. Its wings and “tails” are intact and its colors are vibrant. By contrast the second butterfly, a Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus), is clearly a veteran. There are chunks missing from its wings and its long beautiful swallowtails are gone.

Do you find one of the butterflies to be more inherently beautiful than the other? Here in the United States, we tend to worship beauty and a standard of supposed perfection. We are daily bombarded with advertising messages that tell us we can look young again, that we can cover up our imperfections. The current focus on selfies and dating apps that allow you to judge others with a swipe encourages a kind of narcissism and attention to superficial appearances that I personally find to be unhealthy.

I remember watching a video several years ago about photographing nature. The photographer encouraged viewers to photograph only perfect specimens of flowers and insects, following the lead of those who say that in order to create beautiful photographs, you need beautiful subjects.

The photos here are my response to that kind of thinking. There is an incredible beauty to be discovered in the ordinary, everyday subjects that surround us, full of imperfections and blemishes. Take a moment today to slow down and truly experience that beauty.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have not yet spotted any Monarch butterflies this season, but last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I did see a number of the similarly-colored Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus). Viceroy butterflies are smaller than Monarchs, but the main visual difference between the two is the black line across the hind wings that is present with Viceroys, but not with Monarchs.

I chased after one Viceroy last week for quite some time and eventually managed to get these shots.

Viceroy

Viceroy

Viceroy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s always wonderful to see large colorful butterflies, like this Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) that I spotted last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I don’t know about you, but I find the spots to be a bit more orange than red and the body looks more grayish-blue than purple. Maybe the people responsible for naming the species say it in a different light. 🙂

Red-spotted Purple

Red-spotted Purple

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was thrilled to get a shot of this pretty Red-banded Hairstreak butterfly (Calycopis cecrops) at Occoquan Regional Park. These tiny butterflies are only about an inch (25mm) in length, so you really need a macro lens to get a close-enough shot that reveals all of the butterfly’s wonderful colors and patterns. It is also nice to be able to see the little “tails” protruding from the hind wings that I believe are responsible for the name “hairstreak.”

 

Red-banded Hairstreak

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Earlier this week I spotted this male Zabulon Skipper butterfly (Poanes zabulon) while I was exploring Occoquan Regional Park. I am not one hundred percent sure of my identification, given that there are hundreds of different species of skipper butterflies, but I am hoping that I am correct for the simple reason that I find the name “Zabulon” to be exceptionally cool. As some of you may know from the URL for my site, my middle initial is Q, which stands for Quentin, and I am irresistibly drawn to names that begin with infrequently used letters like Q, X, and Z.

In terms of the image itself, I really like the way that the warm orange tones of the butterfly stand out amidst the cooler shades of green in the foreground and in the background.

Zabulon Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When presented with a downward-facing flower, this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) was forced to choose an unusual angle of attack. Seeming defying gravity, this acrobatic butterfly hung upside down as it probed upwards earlier this week at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia.

If this were an Olympic competition, I would give him a 10 for both his technical skills and overall artistic impression.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As we move deeper into spring, more and more butterflies are starting to appear, like this beautiful Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus) that I spotted yesterday at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. Zebra Swallowtails are most often associated with pawpaw trees, which is helpful to know, though I must confess I don’t know how to identify a pawpaw tree. What I do know is that these butterflies are constantly on the move and fly in such an erratic way that I have trouble getting a decent photograph of one.

Yesterday I managed to get a shot of a Zebra Swallowtail when it paused momentarily at a small tree, perhaps a possible pawpaw. What I like about the shot is that it shows well the colors of the butterfly as well as its long “tails.” I could not decide how much to crop the image, which was taken from a pretty good distance away, so I am including tow versions of the image. Personally I am drawn most to the second one, but recognize that many folks may prefer the first versions, which draws you more quickly to the butterfly’s beautiful details.

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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