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Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

As I was wandering about Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week, I was struck by the large number of Common Buckeye butterflies (Junonia coenia) that I observed. Not only were there a lot of them, many of them appeared to be in almost pristine condition, unlike the tattered survivors of other butterfly species that are hanging on this late in the season.

I decided to do a little research and learned from bugguide.net that Common Buckeyes have two to three broods throughout the year from May to October. I had suspected that was the case and that helps to explain the “fresh” condition of the butterflies that I observed. What was a little more surprising to learn was that, “Adults from the south’s first brood migrate north in late spring and summer to temporarily colonize most of the United States and parts of southern Canada.”

I don’t know if the Common Buckeye butterflies in my area will migrate south to avoid the freezing temperatures that will soon be upon us or if they will remain with us. In either case, I love to see these little butterflies and marvel at the way that their colors fit in with nature’s autumn color palette.

Common Buckeye

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When they keep their wings closed, some butterflies match their surroundings so well that they are almost invisible. Question Mark butterflies (Polygonia interrogationis) look like dead leaves and at this time of the year there are plenty of fallen leaves littering the landscape.

It was impossible for me to me the distinctive autumn colors of this Question Mark when I spotted it earlier this month at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  I had to back up a bit in order to focus on the butterfly with my telephoto zoom lens and I actually had trouble seeing it when it decided to close its wings. Fortunately it spread its wings a little bit and I was able to capture the second image below.

A month or so ago it seemed like there were more dragonflies than butterflies, but now the ratio seems to have shifted. Butterflies, especially Common Buckeyes, are still flying in good numbers, while the quantity of dragonflies continues to drop.

Question Mark

Question Mark

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Butterflies in October? October has been a crazy month weather-wise in Northern Virginia where I live. Yesterday we had a record high temperature of 98 degrees (37 degrees C) and it feels a lot more like summer than autumn. Therefore it did not seem at all strange that I saw lots of butterflies on Tuesday when I visited Huntley Meadows Park.

I spent quite a while chasing after this beautiful little butterfly, which I think is an Orange Sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme). Most of the time the butterfly would perch sidewards and then fly away when I tried to circle around to get a better angle for a shot. I was thrilled when I finallly managed to capture this image with the butterfly’s wings partially open. I also like the way that the light helped to illuminate some of the details in the wings.

I look forward to the cooler autumn weather that will eventually come, but for now I am continuing to enjoy some of the delights of this endless summer.

Orange Sulphur

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, today is the first day of autumn. In my area, today’s high temperature is forecast to reach 90 degrees (32 degrees C), so it does not really feel like autumn yet. However, it is beginning to look like autumn, with browns and orange tones starting to appear in the landscape.

Fortunately there are still lots of butterflies around, like this Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus) that I spotted last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The color palette of this shot really speaks to me of this new season.

Given that seasons are determined differently in different places by using meteorological or astrological calendars, I probably should try to be scrupulously inclusive and wish everyone a Happy September Equinox Day rather than Happy Autumn.

UPDATE: I took this shot while photowalking with fellow photographer and blogger, Walter Sanford. We did not talk about when we/if we might post an image of this butterfly, but it turns out he also posted one today. Checking out his posting if you like to read another take on our adventure and see a slightly different approach to photographing this butterfly. Walter and I have different backgrounds that affect the way we express ourselves in our words and in our images. Our complementary posts help to remind me that “reality” is as much subjective as it is objective.

Viceroy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was looking into the bright sun when I spotted this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) feeding on a nearby flower. Normally that is not an ideal situation for photography and often renders the subject as a silhouette. However, I adjusted my camera settings and was able to capture the translucency of the butterfly’s wings and the shape and color of the vegetation showing through from behind the wings.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are beautiful in any situation, but when you surround them with red, orange, and yellow flowers, they absolutely explode with color. I was thrilled when I spotted this Monarch during a short visit to Green Spring Gardens this past Saturday morning. The butterfly was initially quite skittish and flew all around before finally settling on what I believe to be some kind of lantana flower. I had to maneuver around to try to get a good shooting position, but the butterfly stayed put for a minute and accommodated me. I was super happy when I managed to include some of the colorful flowers in the background and I just love the way that the colors work so well together.

monarch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this beautiful American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) during a quick visit this past Saturday morning to Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden not far from where I live. A lot of butterflies were active that day, but my eyes were immediately drawn to this American Lady, a species that I do not see very often. I had to chase it a bit before it stopped to feed on this flower, which was so popular that the American Lady had to share it with a much smaller skipper butterfly. The flower was growing near a fenced in area of public plots where people grow vegetables and the fence caused the striped effect in the background.

Although I spend most of my time photographing subjects in the wild, it was nice to visit a more cultivated place that was still ablaze with summer colors. I am quite conscious of the fact that the summer is slowly slipping away.

American Lady

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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