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Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Tiger Swallowtail’

The thistles  in bloom must have been absolutely irresistible to butterflies on Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was delighted to spot an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) and a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) feeding almost side-by-side at a small patch of thistle plants.

I love the color combinations in these shots that contrast the warmer tones of the butterflies with the cooler colors of the flowers and the background. I also really like the texture of the thistles that appear to be hard and thorny, but are actually quite soft to the touch.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Great Spangled Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some days I am guilty of overanalyzing my images, trying to figure out why I like or do not like them. Today, I decided to simply present this shot of a pretty Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that I spotted yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it fed on what looked to be some kind of sunflower.

I remember so well the words of the old Shaker song, “Simple Gifts” that I sang as part of a high school chorus:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be;
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed;
to turn, turn, will be our delight.
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Have a wonderful Sunday.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was definitely exciting to see my first Monarch butterflies of the season last Friday at Green Spring Gardens, but I was equally delighted to see some other beautiful butterflies that day. The one in the first photo is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on a flower that I later learned is a Mexican sunflower. I am pretty sure that the butterfly in the second image is a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus), although the angle of this shot keeps me from being absolutely certain. I am not sure what kind of flower it is feeding on, but it sure was pretty.

Although I spend a lot of time in streams, fields, and marshes, I enjoy visiting gardens from time to time. It is stimulating to all of the senses to see all of the bright colors and smell the fragrant flowers. There were plenty of bees too and occasional forays into the flowers by goldfinches and hummingbirds. It was a good day.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge grows so high that I have to point my camera almost straight up to get a shot of the butterflies that seem to really enjoy this flowering plant. Although it is a somewhat uncomfortable shooting angle, it allows me to include the sky in some of my shots, as was the case with this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on Monday.

I seem to be in an artistic mood recently. I noted this morning that this is the third consecutive posting in which the colors and shapes of my subjects have been of equal or greater importance as the subjects themselves. There is something about the first image especially that just seems so beautiful to me. I really like the way that the different elements in the image work together to create a harmonious whole.

In the second image, I deliberately violated one of the “rules” of photography and placed my primary subject in the center of the frame. Why? I wanted to emphasize the symmetry of the butterfly when it spread its wings. I think the photo works pretty well, though perhaps not quite as well as the first image, which has a slightly more dynamic feel to it.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was delighted on Monday to see that Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is now flowering at Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland refuge. Butterflies really seem to like all varieties of milkweed and I was thrilled to photograph several different species that were feeding on these fabulous flowers, including a Spicebush Swallowtail(Papilio troilus) in the first image; an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in the second image; and in the final image, a Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), a smaller skipper that I cannot identify, and a bee.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Silver-spotted Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What do you call a group of butterflies? There are apparently many collective nouns for butterflies in English, but my absolute favorite is “kaleidoscope.” The word combination “kaleidoscope of butterflies” captures well for me the magical and fanciful nature of these colorful creatures.

I was excited yesterday when I spotted an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) fluttering about near a stream at Prince William Forest Park—it was my first “big” butterfly of the spring season. I was even more thrilled later in the day when a spotted this kaleidoscope of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails clustered together on a rocky ledge at water’s edge, engaged in what is often referred to as “puddling.” Many species of butterflies congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in “puddling”, drinking water and extracting minerals from damp puddles or even from animal droppings.

According to a posting by Westborough Land Trust, “When tiger swallowtails emerge from their chrysalises, one of the first things they do – especially if they’re male – is to head for a mud puddle. There they fill up on water and get minerals needed for reproduction. They suck water and dissolved minerals up through their long “tongue” or proboscis, which they also use to drink nectar.”

It is really early in the season and all of the butterflies were in perfect condition, with fully intact wings and vibrant  colors. I am always energized to see the emergence of new life in the spring in plants and in all of the small and large creatures that I love to photograph.

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Is today the first day of a new season? It depends. If you use the meteorological calendar, today is the first day of autumn (or spring if you live in the Southern Hemisphere). If you use the astronomical calendar, however, you have to wait until the equinox on 22 September for summer (or winter) to end.

No matter how you calculate the seasons, we are already starting to see signs of transition. The weather is marginally cooler and some vegetation is dying off. It won’t be long before the leaves on the trees begin to change colors or, as is often the case, simply fall from the trees.

Many of the dragonflies and butterflies that I see are showing signs of wear and tear, with scratches on their bodies and tattered wings. While exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last week, I spotted several butterflies with somewhat unusual damage to their wings. The wings of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in the first photo seem to be in almost pristine condition, except for the fact that one of the tails and a portion of the wing is gone. What could have caused that kind of damage?

The Common Wood Nymph (Cercyonis pegala) in the second image had similar damage, but it appears that the damage affected both of its wings. I can’t help but notice the straight lines and almost right angles of the edges of the missing wing sections of both of these butterflies. Could a bird have caused that damage? It is a bit of a mystery to me and I would welcome any insights that you might have about the cause of the injuries to these butterflies, which nonetheless seemed flying capable of flying.

Happy change of seasons—fall or spring, as applicable—if you live a place that uses the meteorological calendar.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Common Wood-Nymph

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love butterflies and am thrilled that I am finally beginning to see them more regularly after a slow start to this season. I spotted this beautiful female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge perched high in a patch of what looks like Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Most folks who live in the Eastern part of the United States can probably identify an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) when they see one. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are large and have a distinctive pattern of bright yellow and black on their wings. However, not all Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies are yellow—females come in two distinctly different variants, black and yellow.

The yellow morph looks a lot like a male, but with a conspicuous band of blue spots along the hindwings that the males do not have. The dark morph female has similar markings, but most of its body color is black, like the one below that I spotted last week at Green Spring Gardens. The perfect condition of its wings this late in the season suggests to me that this is a newly emerged butterfly.

So why do the females come in two colors? I read an interesting on-line article about this subject entitled “Why are you that color? The strange case of the dark phase tiger swallowtail.” The author speculates that the dark morph is an evolutionary attempt to mimic a similar-looking Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly that predators know is toxic, a practice known as Batesian mimicry. So, in theory the dark morph would have a better chance of survival. For unknown reasons, however, the males do not seem to be as attracted to the dark morph females, “These guys are apparently traditionalists and prefer the good ol’ yellow and black that their species is known for.” So the genes that might benefit species survival are not always passed on.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Many butterflies are looking a little tattered this late in the season, like this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that I spotted on Tuesday at Green Spring Gardens, but I still find their beauty to be breathtaking. True beauty, I would argue, is often to be found in imperfection, not in some superficial notion of perfection.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

 

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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It seems like I have seen fewer butterflies this year than in previous years, so I was especially thrilled to spot this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) last week during a trip to Green Spring Gardens with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Normally by this time of the year I have seen lots of Monarchs and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, but I have not seen a single Monarch yet and only a few swallowtails. This butterfly was the only large butterfly that I saw that day—all of the others that I spotted were the much smaller skipper butterflies.

Generally I prefer to have a natural background when photographing wild subjects, but that was not possible in this case. The blurred background is part of the welcome center of the gardens. The bands of color at the bottom of the image add some visual interest without being distracting, so I am not all that dissatisfied with the way the shot turned out.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do you call a group of butterflies? I have always been fascinated by the collective nouns that we use in English for groups of creatures. I was delighted to learn that one of the collective nouns used for butterflies is a kaleidoscope.

“A kaleidoscope of butterflies” seems to be the perfect descriptor for this group of beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus) that I spotted yesterday. They appeared to be engaged in a behavior known as “puddling,” during which the butterflies, most often the males, gather minerals and other nutrients from the soil or other organic material.

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails

© 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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Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) were definitely enjoying this patch of Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) when I spotted them last Saturday at Riverbend Park. The butterfly in the foreground is a dark morph female and I believe the one in the background is a male. One of the cool things about Eastern Tiger Swallowtails is that females come in two varieties, one with coloration close to that of the male and one with the dark colors that you see in the image below.

This image is a a pretty straightforward presentation of a fairly common subject, but there is something about the composition that I really like. Maybe it’s the contrasting colors or the overlapping shapes. Who knows? So often I like what I like without being able to articulate the precise reasons why.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This seems to be the prime season for butterflies and I have been seeing lots of them this past week. I spotted this spectacular Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) as I was exploring Occoquan Regional Park last Thursday. It was attracted to a pink flowering plant that I think is some kind of milkweed—I am a whole lot more confident in identifying butterflies than plants.

I am happy with both shots, but must that I particularly like the background in the first image.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of us associate butterflies with flowers, but they sometimes can be found on the sandy banks of creeks, like this cluster of male Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) that I spotted earlier this month in Prince William County, Virginia.

I went looking for information about this behavior and learned the following on the thoughtco.com website:

“Butterflies get most of their nutrition from flower nectar. Though rich in sugar, nectar lacks some important nutrients the butterflies need for reproduction. For those, butterflies visit puddles. By sipping moisture from mud puddles, butterflies take in salts and minerals from the soil. This behavior is called puddling, and is mostly seen in male butterflies. That’s because males incorporate those extra salts and minerals into their sperm. When butterflies mate, the nutrients are transferred to the female through the spermatophore. These extra salts and minerals improve the viability of the female’s eggs, increasing the couple’s chances of passing on their genes to another generation.”

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Is the best image of a butterfly only one in which its wings are fully open so that you can see all of the beautiful colors and patterns? Generally that is the angle that most of us seek to shoot. This past Wednesday I was observing an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge when it struck me that the butterfly was “attacking” the flower from all kinds of different angles, even hanging upside down. Why shouldn’t I take the same approach with the butterfly (minus the hanging upside down part)?

I like the way in which the three shots below capture some of the activity of the butterfly and not merely its beauty. At times it seems like beauty and function are at odds with each other, that beauty is best captured in controlled settings like in a studio, where portraits are often taken.

I fully accept that the natural world in which I like to work is chaotic and out of my control, but in the midst of it I still find incredible beauty, a beauty that may be imperfect by some standards. I encourage you to look at your world from a different angle at least from time to time and you may be amazed by the way that a change of perspective can cause you to see things in a totally different way.

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© 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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Do you associate certain colors with certain seasons? For me, yellow is definitely a springtime color. After months of winter weather dominated by shades of gray and a palette of faded colors, spring explodes with bright colors, with yellow daffodils popping up all over the place. Usually I have to wait a bit longer for yellow to pop up in the birds and insects that I enjoy photographing.

As I was exploring with my camera this week, I ran across bright yellow subjects in two very different locations. One, a Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus) was quite appropriately perched high in a pine tree. The second was an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that appeared to be probing the sand on the bank of a forest creek. I suspect that the butterfly needed the minerals and salts, although I confess to initially thinking that butterflies needed only nectar from flowers for sustenance (and there were definitely no flower in the area of that creek).

Pine Warbler

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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There is not denying that it is exciting to capture unusual moments, like a snake swallowing a catfish, or to photograph a new species, as I have done recently with dragonflies. For me, though, there is something equally satisfying about returning to a familiar location and observing ordinary subjects. It is a different kind of challenge to present the ordinary in an extraordinary way, in a way that makes people stop and realize that natural beauty surrounds them every single day.

Last week, butterflies were really active at Huntley Meadows Park.  When I am in a garden, it is easier for me to guess where a butterfly will fly next, but in the wild, butterfly behavior is a little more unpredictable. When I noticed that a stand of what looks to be some kind of thistle was beginning to open, I hoped that the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that was flying about would be attracted to it. Eventually it flew to the thistle and I was able to capture this image.

Spectacular? No, not really. Beautiful? I’d say so. The image works for me, because it has just enough stopping power to cause views to recall how beautiful ordinary butterflies can be, to rekindle the childhood memories of being excited by butterflies, and to remember how exciting it was abandon caution and simply and joyfully chase after butterflies.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that I was chasing at Riverbend Park flew into some vegetation, I thought that I had lost it. Suddenly and almost magically the butterfly’s shadow was revealed on a large leaf as it moved about. I was thrilled to be able to capture the swallowtail shadow as well as a small portion of the butterfly itself.

It’s usually best to shoot with the sun at your back, but it worked out well in this case for me to violate that “rule.”

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Brightly-colored flowers and butterflies—-what a wonderful combination for a summer’s day. I spotted these beauties this past weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

The first shot features a little skipper butterfly on a spectacular, orange-red coneflower. The other two shots highlight the beauty of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in a patch of the more frequently observed purple coneflowers.

skipper on a coneflower

Eastern Tiger SwallowtailEastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I’ll often try to get shots of butterflies with their wings wide open, but when they turn sideward, you can sometimes get an equally spectacular view of them slowly sipping nectar. I can’t identify the flower, but the butterfly definitely is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that I chased about this past weekend at Green Spring Gardens.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Butterflies are always beautiful no matter what their condition, but there is something really special about seeing a perfect specimen with its wings wide open, like this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that I spotted this past weekend at Green Spring Gardens.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Hot, humid summer days may be a little tough on us, but butterflies seem to love them. I captured this shot of a spectacular Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park as it sipped nectar from what I think is Joe-Pye weed (g. Eutrochium). (I am a bit uncertain about the plant identification and wonder if it might instead be a kind of milkweed, but “Joe Pye” rhymes with butterfly and sounds cooler, so I’ll go with that as a possible identification.)

Unlike many butterflies that I see at this time of the year whose wings are tattered and torn, this butterfly seemed to be in perfect condition. The sun was shining brightly when I took these shots and I was really afraid of blowing out the highlights of this lightly-c0lored butterfly. I switched the metering on my camera to spot metering and was able to get a good exposure of the butterfly and the background went really dark, adding a bit of drama to the images.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus) were really busy on the buttonbushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis) at Huntley Meadows Park recently, including what looks to be a dark morph female. Females of this species are dimorphic—there are both yellow morphs and dark morphs—but males are only yellow.

If you look closely at the second image you’ll see that I managed to capture a “bonus bug.” a bee that is also feeding on the buttonbush. My photography mentor likes to use the term “bonus bug” to refer to insects  in our photos whose presence was unknown at the time the photos were taken.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some folks are really into chasing imaginary creatures with their cellphones. I prefer to chase living creatures with my camera and captured this image of a beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) yesterday as it was feeding at Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden in Northern Virginia.

The butterfly gave me multiple opportunities to get shots as it flew around a small area of the gardens, but it rarely gave me an obstructed view. Often it was partially buried in the flowers or turned away from me at an angle. When I took this shot, the butterfly had opened its wings and offered me a rare look at its body as well as its amazingly long proboscis.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Spring has definitely arrived in our area, but I was still quite surprised this past Saturday to see an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) at Huntley Meadows Park—it seems so early for butterflies like this.

I chased after the butterfly several times, to the extent that you can chase something while on a boardwalk, but each time the butterfly flew away. I had more or less reconciled myself to the likelihood that I was unlikely probably not going to get a shot of this early spring butterfly when I caught sight of it again.

The butterfly landed in a muddy open area where a flock of Canada Geese had previously been feeding.  There were no flowers around from which to get nectar, so the butterfly resorted to an organic source of nutrients.

This is definitely not the prettiest shot of a butterfly that I have ever taken, but it’s the first butterfly that I have photographed this season. Like the butterfly in the photo, I am content to settle for what I can find, hopeful that better things are to come as we move deeper into spring.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’m back from a brief overseas trip and it’s time to switch back from shooting in urban surroundings to my more typical nature images. In the meantime, here’s a shot of a beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) from a pre-trip visit to Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There were lots of other available thistle plants yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, but an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) and a Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) kept jockeying for position on this single flower, each seemingly determined to gain the upper hand.

Who knew that butterflies were so competitive?

Competitive butterflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Chasing after beautiful butterflies on a sunny summer day—it doesn’t get much better than that. I don’t know plants very well, but this appears to be some kind of thistle. I photographed this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) last Saturday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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