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Posts Tagged ‘Papilio glaucus’

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Last week I turned 60, but I am happy to confess that I still chase butterflies with much of the exuberance (if not quite the energy) of a child. There is something really special about the delicate beauty of butterflies that draws me in and the idea of their metamorphosis inspires me.

During a recent trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, I was thrilled to spot this female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus). She was feeding on an identified plant that must have been tasty, because she kept moving from spot to spot on the plant, offering me multiple opportunities to get some shots.

I especially like the fact that I was able to get the sky into some of the images, reinforcing for me the idea of butterflies flying freely and lightly through the open air. Now that’s the way to live a life.

swallowtail1_blogswallowtail2_blogswallowtail3_blogswallowtail4_blog

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The weather this week has been mostly gray and dreary and I felt the need for a burst of bright colors, so I am posting this image from last week of a two Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus) feeding on an unidentified flower against the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky. The butterflies were even cooperative enough to place themselves at different angles to add  visual interest to the shot.

swallowtails_blog

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Different flowers affect me differently—some attract me with their beauty or their fragrance or their colors. Others produce an emotional response, like sunflowers, which invariably make me feel happy.

The sunflower’s large size, bright colors, and bold graphic design appeal to me. The sunflower virtually shouts its presence to the world—there is nothing soft and delicate and hidden about a sunflower.

Like this Easter Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus), I sometimes enjoy the flowers one at a time. It was really fun, though, to visit a large field of sunflowers last month with some friends and to see row after row of these cheery flowers. I wanted to capture a group shot of the sunflowers, but I struggled to find a way to do so effectively (even though we had even brought along a little stepladder to give us a perspective from above the flowers).

In the end, my favorite shot (the second one below) focuses on a single sunflower, with other flowers a blur in the background. I used a simple 50mm lens (often called the “nifty fifty”) on my camera to make sure that I could control the aperture and throw the background out of focus.

EasternTigerSwallowtail lorez

sunflowers_blog

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As the beautiful afternoon light illuminated the wings of this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) from behind, I couldn’t help but think of a stained glass window. I love backlighting and these subjects seemed perfect to showcase the effect—I didn’t even have to worry about using fill flash to avoid shadows, because of the translucency of the wings.

I took this image yesterday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, yet another wonderful local spot for photographing flowers and insects.

stained_glass_butterfly_blog

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The sunflower was big enough that an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) and a bumblebee could peacefully coexist, though it looks like they had each carved out their individual spheres of influence and kept a respectful distance from each other.

coexistence_blog

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I am always amazed that butterflies can fly with wings that are severely damaged. This morning I encountered this beautiful female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that had suffered some major damage to the area where the wings attach to the body. Despite the tears to the wings, the butterfly seemed unhindered in its flight and was busily at work, flying from bush to bush.

wounded_blog

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I have not yet seen many colorful butterflies this summer, so I was thrilled this past weekend when I observed a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) feeding on a Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) and managed to get a couple of good shots.

The first image has a dreamy quality and a softness that I like, with a background that is almost pastel. The body of the butterfly is clearly visible, with its proboscis fully extended.

In the second shot, the colors are more vivid and the butterfly’s head is obscured. However, the wings are open wide and in a beautiful position.

My favorite is the first one. Is there one that you prefer?

swallowtail_blogswallowtail2_blog

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I was really surprised today when I saw the the familiar shape and color of a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus). Somehow I had expected to see them much later in the spring.

Normally I like to try to get photos of these beautiful butterflies perched on colorful flowers, but there are no colorful flowers yet in the marsh. Unfortunately, the butterfly that I was able to photograph decided to perch on the decomposing carcass of a snapping turtle (as you can see in the first photo). Most of my other shots were at least partially obscured by the grass.

Gradually the cast of characters is coming together that will probably play leading  roles in my blog postings in the upcoming months, the birds and beasts, and the reptiles and amphibians, not to mention the plants and flowers. I can hardly wait.

swallowtail1_blogswallowtail2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Almost everywhere that I have seen flowers the last few weeks I have seen skippers. One of the few varieties that I can identify is the Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus) which I feature in my first photo.

Silver-spotted Skipper

Many of the other skippers, however, look almost the same to me. Wikipedia says that there are more 3500 recognized species of skippers, so I don’t feel too bad about my identification difficulties. Here’s a photo of one of the 3499 non-Silver-spotted Skippers on a sunflower.

Unidentified skipper on a sunflower

This must be the season for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), because I see them almost everywhere too. I’ve posted lots of photos of swallowtails recently, but I figure that the bright color of the swallowtails will complement the more muted tones of the skippers. Besides, the different lighting and angles of the shots makes them very different photos for me, even when the subject is the same.

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail against the sky

Looking downward at a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The angle of the lighting and the unusual framing of this photograph of a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) set it apart from other photos I have taken of the same species. (See my postings from 8 August and 21 July for other shots of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.)

The light is uneven and there are areas that are not sharp, but I like the overall effect of the photograph.

Click on the image to see more details.

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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.

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (black variant)

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (yellow variant)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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