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Posts Tagged ‘black swallowtail’

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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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 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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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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As we rush towards the end of September, the number of butterflies is continuing to drop and many of the ones that I see are faded and tattered. Yet somehow, despite the obvious signs of age and infirmity, they manage to adapt and survive. I photographed this Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

For folks of my generation, the title of this blog will immediately bring to mind the memorable song by that name as sung by Gloria Gaynor in the late 1970’s.

“Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive
I will survive”

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is always a little tricky taking photos in the bright sunlight, but I like the way that this photo turned out of a Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes)that I encountered last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Why do I like it? It is often really difficult for me to describe precisely why I like a particular photo, particularly when it is one of my own, which makes it almost impossible for me to assess it objectively.

I love it when viewers take the time to describe their reactions. When I posted this image in Facebook in the Nature Lovers of Virginia group, Patricia Holt made the following comment that absolutely delighted me.

“This photo is a pleasure. I love the way the lower flower is a darker hue mimicking the darker spots lower on the butterfly. The way the spots on the butterfly are narrower at the top than the bottom contrary to the flower petals. It struck me how there’s a vague sense of a mirror image but not. Definitely the light and you have captured a feeling of balance as in yin yang. So pretty!”

As is generally the case, I recommend clicking on the image to get a better look at some of the wonderful details in this image.

Have a wonderful Friday.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How close should I try to get to my subject? How much attention should I pay to environmental elements when composing a shot? When is the decisive moment to grab a shot when the subject is in motion? These were some of the thoughts swirling through my head when I spotted this Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

There are several dark swallowtails in our area, including the Spicebush Swallowtail, the Pipevine Swallowtail, the dark morph of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and the Black Swallowtail. Sometimes it is hard to tell them apart, but in this case I spotted the black dots inside of the orange dots in the area between the wings, one of the identifying marks of a Black Swallowtail.

The first shot was one of the earliest shots that I took and I remember staying far enough away from the butterfly to be sure that I included the curl of the leaf coming out of the stalk of vegetation. I also tried to time my shot to catch the butterfly with its wings spread wide and was mostly successful.

I moved in closer and captured the second image, which shows more of the details of the butterfly. Although the camera settings remained the same, the background is more out of focus than in the first shot, because depth of field tends to get shallower when you get closer to a subject. I also tried to shoot from a slightly higher angle by standing on my tiptoes—you can see more of the vegetation over the butterflies left eye in the second image than in the first.

I chased this butterfly around as it flew about and waited patiently for it to perch again. I captured the final image when it landed on a different kind of plant. Normally a shot like this when the subject is facing away from you is not a good shot and is derisively referred to as a “butt shot” by many photographers. In this case, however, I was struck by the way that the angle of the butterfly’s wings complemented the angular shape of the plant’s leaves and I like the abstract feel of the image that I captured.

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Although I did a posting fairly recently featuring a Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes), I like this image so much that I decided to give you another look at this striking species. I spotted this beautiful butterfly last Sunday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it was gather nectar from some kind of thistle flower. As I mentioned in the previous posting, you can distinguish this butterfly from similar species by the orange dot on the lower wing with a black dot inside of it.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In our area black-colored swallowtails also include dark morph Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, and Pipevine Swallowtails, so identification can be a bit tricky.

I can tell, however, that this butterfly is a Black Swallowtail because it is the only one of the dark swallowtails with a black dot inside of an orange dot on the edge of the wings near the body, a characteristic that you can see in the photo below. Unlike most of the butterflies that I have photographed, this one is not actively feeding, so its proboscis is curled up, rather being extended. If you double-click on the image, you can get a closer look at the curled-up proboscis and other wonderful details of this beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was really thrilled to spot this spectacular Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) last week as it fed on some kind of thistle plant at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There are several dark swallowtail species in our area and I often have trouble telling them apart. In this case, though, I could see the distinctive back dot inside the orange dot which is telltale sign that this is Black Swallowtail. I highly recommend a helpful posting by Louisiana Naturalist that points out way to distinguish among four dark swallowtails—it is a reference that I repeatedly return to when I have a question about a dark swallowtail.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This spectacular Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) spread its wings wide and seemed to be posing for fellow wildlife enthusiast Walter Sanford and for me as we explored Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past weekend. We have a number of different dark-colored swallowtail butterflies in our region, including the black morph of the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, the Pipevine Swallowtail, and the Spicebush Swallowtail, but this is the only place that I have encountered the Black Swallowtail.

Whenever I photograph a swallowtail that is black, I will usually refer to a very helpful blog posting by Louisiana Naturalist that compares some of the identification features of the four different dark swallowtails.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the coolest things about female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus) is that they come in two distinctly different colors, black and yellow. According to Wikipedia, that characteristic makes them dimorphic. I’m no scientist, so I had to do some research  to see what “dimorphic” means. If I understand it right, it means that there are two different phenotypes (called morphs) that exist in the same population of a species and they have to be in the same habitat at the same time to qualify.

I was thrilled yesterday to observe and photograph both variants at a local garden. The yellow ones resemble the male, although the male is only yellow and black and has no additional orange and blue markings. I have seen a lot of the yellow female swallowtails this summer. The black swallowtails, which have black bodies as well as black wings, seem to be more rare, or at least I have seen them only rarely this summer.

Which one is more beautiful? I’ll leave that call to each of you.

black_swallowtail1_6x8blog

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (black variant) UPDATE in 2020: I think that I misidentified this as an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and now think it might be a Black Swallowtail, though the angle keeps me from being sure about the identification

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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