Posts Tagged ‘brown butterfly’

I have been seeing little brown butterflies (or moths) flitting about in the woods recently, but have not gotten a good look at any of them, so I was thrilled when a Little Wood Satyr butterfly (Megisto cymela) landed on a nearby leaf this past Monday and remained long enough for me to get some shots.

I am not a hundred percent certain of my identification, because there are a lot of similar butterflies and the distinctions seem pretty subtle to me at the moment. Please let me know if you can identify this little butterfly with greater precision.

This is another photo in which I took the time to use my tripod and to focus carefully, shooting at a focal length just short of 400mm. The focus is a little soft, particularly for the leaf, but I think that it helps to give the image a kind of dreamy feel, though it’s a little early for a midsummer night’s dream.


Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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My day began with a brightly colored Monarch butterfly in a field of flowers and is ending with the more subdued colors of an Appalachian Brown butterfly (Lethe appalachia) perched on a tree. Together they provide us with some sense of the diversity of the coloration and habitats of butterflies. (I confess that I am not certain of the identification of the brown butterfly, because there are a number of species that are pretty similar.)

Perhaps you like to stand out from the crowd and the gaudy colors of the Monarch are more your style.  Maybe you prefer to blend in a little better like the Appalachian Brown and find its colors and patterns to be more refined and dignified.

Whatever your taste, there is almost certainly a butterfly that fits you and I encourage to join me in chasing the butterflies through the woods, the gardens, and the meadows.

Appalachian Brown butterfly in early September

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Back and forth I went as I tried to answer a simple question, “Comma or question mark?” You’re probably imagining that I was caught in some kind of punctuation dilemma, but that was not the case. No, I was not stuck in some special hell reserved for grammarians and editors, nor was I sweating out a standardized English test. Instead, I was trying to make a decision on the identity of this unusual looking butterfly that I encountered this past weekend.

Comma or Question Mark?

The colors of this butterfly almost perfectly matched the tree on which he was perched, facing downward in a way that almost perfectly camouflaged him. I rotated the image for the ease of viewers, hoping they will avoid the sore neck that I got as I turned my head trying to make out the details of the butterfly. In addition to the unusual color, the shape of this butterfly was pretty distinctive. What kind was he? As I was pondering that question, the butterfly—who had flown away and returned—opened his wings a little and I got a glimpse of the brilliant orange concealed inside his drab exterior.

A glimpse of orange

As he slowly opened his wings, more of more of the inside of his wings was revealed. The light shining through his wings made the colors glow like those of a back-lit stained glass window.

Back-lit wings

The butterfly flew away again, but amazingly returned once more and treated me to a full view of his open wings—his breathtaking beauty was revealed in full.

Beauty revealed

He sure was beautiful, but I wanted to know his name. Previously I had read about a butterfly called the Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma) and I had a vague recollection that he looked like this one. Wikipedia’s article on the Eastern Comma also helped explain why he was on a tree rather than some beautiful flower, like most of the butterflies that I have encountered. “This butterfly seldom visits flowers, but rather feeds on sap, rotting fruit, salts and minerals from puddling, and dung.”

I was still not sure of his identity, so I continued to search for clues. It turns out that there are two butterflies with similar shapes and colors. One is the Eastern Comma and the other is the Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis), really. I feel like I am in some kind of Abbott and Costello style routine akin to their famous “Who’s on first?” routine. (Here’s a You Tube link to the classic routine if you are not familiar with it. It is definitely worth watching.)

The key to distinguishing the two is the shape of the little white markings on the wings and whether the markings are in two parts or one. If you think back to punctuation, you can probably guess that the one in two parts is the question mark and the unitary one is the comma. The website Gardens With Wings has an article with side by side photos of the two butterflies in case I have confused you.

So, which one did I photograph? I think I saw at least two different butterflies, but the one in the initial two photos and the one below all seem to have the white marking in two parts, which make them Question Mark butterflies (Polygonia interrogationis).

Question Mark butterfly

To be honest, though, the marking looks more like a semicolon than a question mark. Why isn’t there a Semicolon Butterfly?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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