Spicebush Swallowtails

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The spicebush was one of the first butterflies I took a picture of when I started this journey three years ago, and so holds something of a special place in my heart. My  sister, with that clear-eyed insight and hard-edged compassion she’s always had, realized I needed something. (Compassion, you might think, is not hard-edged at all; no, it should be soft and warm. Not so. When properly applied, without pity or condescension, it has the density and force of a cheerfully-thrown brick.)

Never much one for gardening herself, she knew my love of dirt and flowers. She hauled me off to the local stores, where we spent a few giddy hours picking out brightly colored things. By the next evening I had a balcony garden, complete with flower boxes, chairs, fairy lights, and a citronella candle in a fat blue pail.

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We sat out there, eating ice cream, smacking at the mosquitoes who apparently considered citronella “seasoning,” and watching fireflies. We were both college students, but — “think of it as my birthday present to you,” she said, and dumped a check onto a bookcase.

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Although it must have been odd to a butterfly to abruptly happen upon that bit of fanciful color suspended three stories in the air, they quickly adapted and visited my little garden routinely over that long summer. One of those first pictures turned into the front image of my blog. I’ve moved from that place, and the fairy lights are bagged and boxed, awaiting their next destination. But I’ll always associate spicebush swallowtails — always flitting forward even while feeding, their iridescent wings flashing defiantly in the sun (they only resemble a toxic butterfly, but they aren’t poisonous themselves, you see) — with hope and overwhelming kindness.

 

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Skipper on Ironweed

 

DSC_0030There’s an inherent risk with bug photography.

The story behind these shots: I hadn’t been completely sure if I would be able to go out and take pictures the day these were taken. Busy day, strong winds, etc. But I brought my camera. What I forgot… bug spray.

I got a few shots of skippers and a blurred picture of a giant yellow swallowtail for the cost of over 60 bug bites. That’s the point when I stopped counting as I sprayed, creamed, and bandaged the worst of them before heading into class.

Oops.

Do bug photography, prepare to get bitten.

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First Fall Monarch

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I was at the end of a walk, feeling a little tired and disappointed about not getting very many good pictures for all the weight of the camera I’d lugged along, when suddenly a bright orange shape winged above my head. The first monarch of fall. It landed high on a tree and tested its wings against the wind. Shiny, almost tentative, and with nary a scratch or peck on its scaled wings, it must have been a relatively young butterfly.

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I grabbed a couple of quick shots before my long-range lens – and my arms! – gave out, then headed back with the start of fall’s glorious copper flame dancing over my head.

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Flying Sulphurs

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I rarely catch butterflies in flight. Each beat of delicate gossamer wings somehow shoots them in another direction with the randomness of a toddler on pixie sticks.

Some days, though, if you want to take a picture of a butterfly, you have no choice but to follow the dancing, capricious flight through bramble and briar.

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And then, at the end of a merry and largely fruitless t- but enjoyable – chase that left my boots full of seed pods, the sulphur went back to the neatly paved path. 🙂

A sulphur on sulphur.

Walk in the Woods

A few weeks ago I stole some time from the spiky black-and-white demands of my to-do list, exchanging it for the peaceful greens and golds of some woods near my home.

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I do love these woods.

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My cell phone camera could just barely catch this Northern Pearly Eye butterfly as it rested on the bark. It didn’t stay for long, zooming off in the erratic flight of butterflies everywhere up into the canopy, where it was quickly lost in the fluttering of the leaves. I was thrilled – poor picture quality or no, it was the first time I’ve ever managed to get a Pearly Eye on film.

A wonderful walk.