It was a joy! A total joy to arrive at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area’s Spring Creek Unit, and be surrounded by ballet. The dancers? Palamedes swallowtail butterflies, all earnest to find nectar, with these thistles the clear choice nectar bars.
There were worn ones, bird-struck ones, ones missing a ‘tail’ and most were very wary of me, leaving once I came within 15 feet of them. I was captivated by them, big, graceful fliers, able to gently move their wings, and be 30 feet away in an instant.
A photograph of one. I really, really wanted a fine photograph of one. Pop, pop, pop, pop, again and again. Film (Fuji Velvia slide film, ASA 50).
Here is my share with you. Males and females are similar, leaving us guessing here. A Southern butterfly, a very classy, very large southern butterfly. Good company to be with.
The beautiful butterflies descended onto the Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) blooms, reminding me of memorable celebrities appearing at awards ceremonies, fully adorned in fashionable gowns. With hair placed just right, their shoes, jewelry and accessories all contributed to near visual perfection. This time though, we were not in Hollywood, New York or Nashville. I was working those Tithonia blossoms, walking with eyes pealed for extraordinarily fresh winged beauties.
Many of the flyers were worn, would not cooperate. They did not pause to nectar, or sadly, were seriously birdstruck. Patience dictated that I not depress the shutter button on my Canon camera. Film is expen$ive and keepers require all the goods: good positioning, good light, good angle to the lens, good luck, good timing and . . .
Then she descended onto a nearby bloom. Oh, there was so much to like: Her blues were gushing. Those swallow tails were whole. Her blacks were solid and dense and orange spots were Florida orange. All of her white chevrons, spots and streaks were straight from make-up. This Tiger swallowtail dark form female was more than Cartiers, Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, all in one.
Absolute beauty in the Butterflies & Blooms in the Brair Patch, now pied pipering butterflies to the center of Eatonton, Georgia for what, Virginia, the 4th year now?
You’ll never guess which family of butterflies this rare baby belongs to? It’s only found at the top of Golan Height’s Mt. Hermon. Its schedule and mine unfortunately don’t come together this year.
Clouded Apollo butterflies fly on the mountain top in May and June. I met this female one up there in June 2008. It was an OMG! wonderful day as I was being regaled by many, many rare butterflies. This year I fly in late February, so now I can’t even go up, up, up there in a cable lift for another reason: A good covering of snow.
So back to . . . (here comes the hint to the opening question). It’s species name is Parnassius mnemosyne syra. Satyr? Whites? Fritillaries? Coppers? Milkweed butterflies? Blues? Anglewings?
It is in the family, Papilioinidae, with its closely related swallowtails and even more closely related parnassians. A different look, isn’t it?
This northern boy arrived in the Florida Panhandle, and was immediately greeted by Palamedes Swallowtails, lots of them. Here in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, you see them every few minutes. That’s fun for me, accustomed as I am to seeing swallowtails in Pennsylvania maybe once every 45 minutes, if that.
Papilio palamedes are big butterflies. They fly with a slow, difficult to predict manner. They sip on nectar actively, especially with thistle and other nectar pumping flowers. Photographing these very large butterflies as they sip nectar from blooms is a challenge. They move their wings almost non-stop. Lacking good dorsal (super view) face-time, you perk up when you see one like this, standing motionless on the trail. What a great photograph that will be. Uh, well . . .
Making an approach to a Palamedes on the trail is a Good Way To Lose Your Mind. No sooner than you are the 10 feet away: Bye! bye! There’s a human! This cycle repeated itself, day after day. This butterfly is not bird-struck, and still fresh. So having learned my lesson, I shot photographs from a distance, and am happy to share them with you.