Skippers are Very Energetic, Sprightly Butterflies

Silver spotted skipper butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Our 2nd post for Silver (White) Spotted Skipper butterflies. One of the largest of the skippers, it will more than likely be one of the few Skippers that we’ll post. Skippers as of 2012 remain very under appreciated generally, so we’ll respect the general mood here.

Skippers are very energetic, sprightly butterflies and those of us who seek to observe butterflies spend lots of time with skippers. As already noted, they also keep us company when we tend to our gardens and flowerbeds.

Skippers are usually the first butterflies to seek nectaring flowers. I’ve seen them busily working flowers before the clock strikes 7 A.M.. They remain active well after 7 P.M. That’s a 12 hour day! Whew!

Our example here is about to send its proboscis (tongue) into the wildflower. This flowerhead is properly identified as Epargyreus clarus is a butterfly that we have all seen. It’s a little less flashy than others, it’s time that more of us took note of this butterfly that we see so, so many times from April to October.


Red Submarginal Bands, White Spots and Blue Spots on the Hindwings Assure You that It’s a Red Admiral Butterfly

Red admiral butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

This is our 2nd post of a Red Admiral butterfly. After having been rousted from the trail moments before, it flew to this tree and perched on it for quite a while. This is routine behavior for this species.

Each year the numbers of Red Admirals vary. 2011 produced a moderate number of these butterflies. 2010’s flight was much greater in number. The population fluctuations of this and most other butterflies remain an excellent subject for doctoral studies . . . too bad few have been done.

Red Admirals are like people who appear unexpectedly, chat you up energetically for several minutes and then carom off seeking their next pliable ear. These butterflies swoop in to where you are standing/working, fly from one spot to another as you move about and are soon seen winging it to some unknown destination.

The red submarginal bands, white spots and blue spots at the rear of the hindwings are the clinchers that assure you that you’re seeing a Red Admiral Butterfly.

So when you look up from planting those salvia, agastache, coneflowers or tomatoes and see this distinctive color pattern, you can be sure that during your brief break . . . you’ve been fortunate to have been in the company of a Red Admiral butterfly. And no sooner do you realize this, then you see . . .


When I was a Kid I Caught a Darner in My Hand in Mid-Air!

Darner dragonfly photographed at Phipps Conservatory Outdoor Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA

The camera was poised to photograph butterflies . . . w/o any in sight. Zip. Zero. But along came this darner . . .

Darners (AKA ‘dragonflies’) are like the sirens that mythically drew sailors onto the rocks. Why? Because I’m out to photograph butterflies and those darners instead appear and challenge me, or the boy in me, to try to capture a half-decent image of them. You know that photographing darners is another formidable challenge. And then how often do you capture the amazing intricacy of their wings?

Darners remind me again of how reckless we were when we were kids. Once, in a field in Brooklyn, having left my brains at home, and without any hesitation, I saw a large darner (?) flying near me and I (very quick in those days) caught it in my hand, mid-air! Triumph had no time to savor the moment, as an unbelievable torch of pain seared through my hand. My hand released it almost at the moment that I caught it. The excruciating pain lasted for 5 whole minutes. No blood, just an angry red gnash in my palm.

Though I continue to enjoy wildlife, I no longer capture critters with my hands. Period.

N.B., Would those who know please identify this darner?


Are You Surprised that Common Teasel is Critical to So Many Butterflies?

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

She’s furiously nectaring on teasel wildflowers in Raccoon Creek State Park in western Pennsylvania. She’s now our 5th post of a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly.

Strange, to me, that teasel that is so common along the sides of roads is so critical to so many species of butterflies. Lucky you if you have teasel flourishing on your lot.

It’s true, I love the rich coloration of swallowtail butterflies.

This Tiger swallowtail was especially thoughtful, presenting her full wingspan and holding that pose. The symmetry we enjoy here is not so easy to capture in an image. Tiger swallowtails are usually either difficult to approach or they are moving too quickly to allow for keepable images. So, even though we try not to have the main focus in an image centered, this photo merits center stage.

She has been feeding at Asclepias flowers (milkweed, butterflyweed) for several weeks now, and teasel surely is a welcomed new taste!


Esthete Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly Pauses on Butterflyweed Flowers

Spangle Fritillary butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

The caterpillars that they produce are hidden out there, equipped to endure frost. The last frost is now behind us, and surely those caterpillars have been busy!

So it’s just the right moment to post this stirring image of a Great Spangled Fritillary nectaring on butterflyweed flowers. We count the weeks before we see butterfly and wildflower together.

Speyeria cybele is among the largest of the fritillaries.

The freshest of them (males) make their appearance first, then the females make flight.

We see them in our gardens, parks and in sylvan settings that offer them wildflowers.

I used the word esthete this morning in an email.

You are viewing this blog and clearly that distinguishes you as an esthete!