Red-banded Hairstreak

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I had been thrilled to see butterflies on our walk, but I was ecstatic to see this tiny hairstreak. It has been a bad year for photographing hairstreaks. They’re not terribly common in some of the places I photograph regularly. The frequent grass trimming and lack of appropriate food keeps the numbers low. But there are usually at least a few flitting about, and this year I’ve seen a grand total of two. So when I saw the brilliant flash of blue and red, I squealed.

“What?!?!” my friend asked, no doubt thinking I’d seen a doubloon or at least something poisonous.

“It’s a hairstreak!!” I bubbled, while slithering through the middle of a flower garden on knees and elbows to get closer.

“Um, ok!” my friend responded, having picked up that a “hairstreak” was some type of butterfly. Pal and fellow photographer that she is, she gamely turned to keep an eye out for incoming wedding guests and anyone official who might not appreciate having a small woman with a large camera become embedded in the zinnias.

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Hairstreaks got their name from the thin tails on their back wings. These hairlike extensions resemble antenna to predators (see the white tips), and help trick anything wanting tiny butterfly for its meal into going for the wrong end.

 

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The most impressive and colorful part of this disguise is, to me, the eye spots and brilliant patch of iridescent blue scales on the hairstreak’s wings. When feeding or resting, the hairstreak rubs its back wings together, making the highly visible blue dots appear and keeping the antenna in motion. A little pearlescent showy display never hurt a butterfly trying to separate himself from the crowd and attract a mate either, and neither does the pheromones released by males from rubbing their wings together.

It was a great photo shoot. Well worth a few stares from passing bridesmaids. 🙂

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Blooper Reel!

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He’s laughing, open-mouthed. I swear.

We’ve all had it. Those wonderful pictures, perfectly lined up, all glowing light and smooth lines, and then abruptly SPLAT the silhouetted bird lets loose with a nice juicy one. Sometimes it’s photographer error, like the day I gleefully shot lovely macro photos at a rate that would have done an Olympic bobsled photographer proud. And sometimes, you just get … unlucky.

So here they are, for your amusement – Titanium Butterflies Bloopers!

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Exit stage left

 

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We have liftoff!

 

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Too slow, Joe…

 

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INCOMING!!!

 

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Nikon 5000, this is Cabbage White touching down on pad 1…

Painted Ladies

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This year, painted lady butterflies migrated in such numbers that they showed up as a 70 mile cloud on radar over Colorado.

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We didn’t have the numbers that Denver reported, but the painted ladies were happy to pose for photographs. 🙂

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Painted ladies are migratory, but the patterns aren’t always consistent and the numbers certainly aren’t. In that respect, they’re a wee bit like me… as I consider booking holiday travel and hum “should I stay or should I go?” For me, there’s dozens of factors to consider: traveling with a few random medical conditions is a little tricky. Scary as that is, we probably know even less of the factors that influence butterflies’ migration. Wind? Weather patterns? Availability of food? Lack of predators this year… and if so, why is that? Sun or magnetic fields or some sort of chemical trail or what as a navigation device? Either way, they seem to be better with their navigation that I am sometimes. I got us lost on the way home.

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Monarchs

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These are from the second week in October. I was so thrilled to find monarchs! Here they migrate south for the winter, and although they do have a flight in October it’s still pretty rare to get a good picture. The unusually warm weather for the first part of fall helped

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Monarchs live the longest of any butterfly in my area – up to 10 months.

 

 

 

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.

 

Mystery “butterfly?”

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About a week ago, I went for a stroll down the little nature trail in a local park. This little guy obligingly held still, checking the ground for minerals while I shoved my ridiculous cell phone right up his antenna to get a clear shot.

Well.

A nearly clear shot.

I miss my camera!

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I am having no luck identifying this little bug, though. It was light brown, held itself like a butterfly, flew like a butterfly, seemed to be hunting for minerals like a mud-puddling butterfly… and yet, it doesn’t look quite right for a butterfly. It was out around 2pm in the afternoon. I can’t find it in any guide to the mid-western or eastern U.S. It was small, only about the size of a blue or hairstreak.

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Ah, well. I wandered the forest path, blissfully unaware that my keys were missing. It wasn’t until I arrived at my car, still luxuriating in air golden with heat and humidity, that I discovered the loss. People talk about sound shattering the air, but that air, in the triple digits on the heat index, was impervious to the mere blare of a car alarm. The blanket of muzzy gaseous water just wrapped around the sound and smothered it. Shatter smatter, nothing would break that clingy heat.

It wasn’t as enchanting of a walk the second time round. I was just happy I didn’t get sick or faint. I stopped where I’d photographed the bug. It was gone, but my keys were there. One discovery!

One more to go… if anyone knows what type of wee beastie this is, I’d very much like to know.

Common wood nymph at the park

I have resorted to using my cell phone camera. While there are some things that this works quite well for — grocery shopping lists, quick selfies, that information on the back of a book that I just don’t want to take down — it’s not quite so ideal for butterflies.

This, as best as I can identify, is common wood nymph. Despite the “common” appellation, it’s the first time I’ve seen one in this area. The bright yellow on the wings highlights the eyespots very clearly in the second shot.

It was lovely and, for a butterfly being relentlessly pursued by an annoying two-legged waving a cell phone, a good sport too.  🙂

Camera Woes

I haven’t posted any pictures for quite a while. There’s a good reason for that.

20170811_142826.jpgI broke my first memory card! One of the first ones I ever owned, judging by the low number of gigs it stores. You can’t quite tell from the picture, but the card is bent slightly, the top and bottom have become separated, and the top corner’s plastic is broken.

The good news is I had already pulled the pictures off.

The bad news is the card at least partially broke inside my reader, and the reader, despite my best efforts, remains stubbornly jammed. Something, something small and evil and black plastic, has insinuated itself into the drive and refuses to become dislodged.

Finally, my long-range camera lens is being quite uncooperative. You all know, the heavy ones that stick out like gun barrels and cost as much as the standard pizza delivery car. To be honest, mine isn’t quite that expensive, but it’s valuable to me. Periodically it’s been getting out of alignment, or something that causes it to grind and fail to focus. It doesn’t matter how I beg or plead — or somewhat more productively, carefully clean and work my way gently through the settings — it sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. If you don’t want to disturb the wildlife you’re shooting, a long-range lens is vital. I know several photographers who work with different subjects and speak disparagingly of the long lenses, but they’ve never taken pictures of a wasp nest or a badger. I LOVE my zoom. I want it back!!

Too bad there are no camera stores in our area. Sending the lens to Nikon would cost as much as a new one, or very nearly. It doesn’t matter, though, because for a graduate student at the end of summer, it might as well be the cost to go to Pluto for summer vacation. So if anyone out there has had a Nikon lens suddenly grind, freeze, and fail, but only intermittently, let me know what the fix was!