Sure this is one of my favorite butterflies. I’ve seen Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterflies several times. Always an OMG! butterfly, for when the morning is doing just fine, and you’re having good success with butterflies here and there . . . . One flies into your field of view, and it’s not a this or a that, its . . . OMG! a Milberts!!!! Battlestations!
That how I’ve felt when I’ve seen Milbert’s, a northern butterfly for those of us east of the Mississippi River. I remember each and every time I got that healthy buzz. Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania (2x) and here, Bonkers! unexpectedly in the middle of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory.
When the upper side is at a 90 degree angle to the strong morning sun, and your eyes are level with the wing surface, the sunlight dances on those reddish-orange wing bands. It looks just like fire! dancing. I saw this with my own eyes at Raccoon Creek. I subsequently read such an account in one of the butterfly field guides.
I’ve learned to temper my tales of Milbert’s, for when I ask folks here, there and everywhere, have you ever enjoyed a Milbert’s, my statisticians count a 99.874% No. Keep vigilant, for if you’re there enough, you just may.
Who’s seen a Milbert’s?
I’m asked many interesting questions with my work photographing butterflies. This one was bulls-eye to the reason for what I do. The Question? Which of your butterfly photos do you remember as being the most exciting?
Good question. it goes right to the heart of why do I do what I do? Almost no one, and no one I know, does what I do nowadays. This July 25th image kept catching my eye, as I searched among more than 400 images for the answer to this query.
Burma? No. Mexico? No. Salvador? No. Provence? No? Mongolia? No. Raccoon Creek State Park, here in southwestern Pennsylvania. A bright sunny morning, and I was there well before 9 A.M.. The usual customers came to the nectar bar, that day offering the following treats: Milkweed nectar, Teasel nectar (featured here), Black-eyed susan nectar and many, many others.
What an extraordinary place to be, for this lucky boy from Brooklyn! Then . . . Holy Cow! What’s that? It just swooped in, and descended on this teasel flowerhead. My first-ever Milbert’s Tortoiseshell!! (Exclamation marks required, because i was beyond ecstatic). Could I approach? I did, and it didn’t panic. Closer (dare I try?)? Yes. Raised my camera lens. Still there, Whew!
It opened its wings, wide. I was stunned. Why? The wings were parallel to the bright sun and, . . . Flames danced across the orangish-reddish bands. Flames! I had never seen anything like it. Ever. I tried to keep my mind clear, and I just kept shooting, as it offered good looks to me. I was yes, praying that 1 or more of my exposures would satisfy.
That’s why this post is entitled ‘Butterfly Battle Stations!’ A rush of adrenaline, ecstasy, and appreciation, as G-d shared a bejeweled treat with . . . me.
Painters keep painting. Writers keep writing. Athletes keep playing tennis, softball and coach their beloved baseball, basketball or football, if they can. Gardeners keep gardening. Folks hunt and fish for a lifetime, if they can.
When I caught this image of Nymphalis milberti, at the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory, I was ecstatic. Her coloration was fresh and rich in color. Rarely seen, and at the southerly edge of its range, it was also well into the perennial beds, preventing me from stepping in to get closer. So, this image was taken at some distance, and each time I view it, I return to the same thought, I want to get a closer image of an equally magnificent Milbert’s.
So 2014 looms ahead as, I hope and pray, a bust-out year. Given limitations of time and $, I aim for some combination of destinations, to broaden our selection of butterfly images and knowledge. Challenge with a capital ‘C.’ I’m not Pyle. I am a member of NABA and Xerces. Nevertheless I have a paucity (an especially useful word here) of contacts and useful advice about the potential destinations that I want to get to: The Keys, Mts. Greylock and Everett, Mt. Meron, Ontario, Portal, a special locale near Albany, Telluride and Regal frit habitat. Fuji film, macro-lens, gluten-free wafers, Redwing boots, Brown hat and raring to go.
You see an image of Nymphalis m. I see challenge. Long drives, airports, motels (?), scouting for gluten free stuff- and then joy! Sheer joy ahead. G-d willing.
OMG! Bingo! Score! Thank YOU! September 14th along the front walk to world known Phipps Conservatory, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the middle of the city, 1/4 mile from the University of Pittsburgh and 1/4 mile from Carnegie Mellon University, half of whose students have travelled thousands of miles to study there. There, surrounded by hundreds of acres of verdant Schenley Park, our Nymphalis milberti hungrily sips the nectar produced by planted Tall Verbena.
I was there too, right time right place. What a rush! when a Milbert’s tortoiseshell flies in to a flower bed that you have staked out. This one tolerated the safe distance that I kept from it. My challenge was to avoid entry into the spacious flower bed, and, capture macro- images of the exquisite butterfly. It worked the verbena slowly and methodically. I had to be especially patient, as it seemed like hours went by, as it collected at each and every flower on the verbena flowerhead. My teeth grinding caution paid off, as it flew to these verbena, closer to where I was waiting. Pop! pop! pop! Pop! I shot away on slide film (Yes, slide film) and re-loaded several rolls of Fuji ASA 50.
I am pleased with this and a couple of other images. This is a beautiful butterfly. Enjoy the extraordinary upper wing colors, and contrast them with the stark ventral wing design. Yay! to the Craftsman who fashioned this gem of a creature. And Congrats! to these Milbert’s, who have straddled the 20th and now the 21st centuries, seemingly unaffected by all that we say and do.
Yesterday I picked up Robert Michael Pyle’s Mariposa Road for a second read. Now, that was a good decision. Joy in reading. Ah, if he would find this post and make Comment. Right place, right time, right share?