I was just musing over why we get so excited when we see a fresh Monarch butterfly, Giant Swallowtail butterfly, Red Admiral Butterfly or Metalmark butterfly. Yes, “we” for when I make my approach to a likely beauty, it sure is a rush when my eyes confirm that the object of my interest is OMG! gorgeous.
This image of a Question Mark butterfly triggered that thought. My scientific mind tells me that not more than 15% of us pay attention to such a butterfly as this, when we pass it, as it peacefully suns itself on a broad leaf at Raccoon Creek State Park, 45 minutes west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (8 hours west of New York City, for our international friends).
Those colors that melt together so seamlessly, that suggestion of strong arrested power, the black spots seemingly painted by Monet, the fascinating wing margins and how they come together . . . and that talk that lovers of fine art share when they face a masterpiece, all that sings here, but to few, very few eyes and ears. No?
You stop there when you went to the old Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat. I can’t count how many times I did in these last years, 2015 and 2016 and 2017.
Virginia hung this metal basket, often replacing the desiccated fruit in it with fresh, bananas, apples, orange, watermelon and more. That basket was busy from 8 A.M. to just before dusk.
Weeks ago, in the National Butterfly Center (NBC) in Mission, Texas I once again saw baskets, strategically set about the NBC’s acreage. There too I saw another tool that lures butterflies, common and rare. The NBC staff has set out ‘bait logs’ onto which they paint a glomp of a mix of fruit, beer and more. On those bait logs we saw Mexican Bluewing, Tropical Leafwing and many other uncommon butterflies.
This Question Mark butterfly looked very important when I saw it in the Habitat’s fruit basket. Fresh, I was pleased to view this image when it was processed. The “question mark ‘?'” itself pops! Those blue marks along the trailing edge of the hindwing show nicely, the wing margins look handsome and those ants on the melon remind of all ants everywhere, focused and purposeful.
Fruit baskets and bait logs, I’ve got them on my own future to-do list, being desirious of hosting butterflies and other wildlife.
When you watch the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals, you know who you will see on those 100 yards of football field in Cincinnati. Players of those 2 teams, and NFL referees. Maybe some medical techs and a doctor or two, and that’s it.
At this really neat town in Central Georgia, in their Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch these acres, masterfully designed by Virginia C. Linch, the wizard behind this successful habitat, you just never know what will fly in from above, or at ankle-height. You expect to meet Monarchs, Tiger swallowtails, Long-tailed skippers, Gulf fritillaries, Black Swallowtails, Giant swallowtails, Silver spotted skippers and some other butterflies. Exciting? Every single one of them. But that’s not the end of it there. Add to that excitement, the real prospect of seeing many, many other species of butterflies. Which ones?
Here’s one I was not expecting to see. A butterfly that much prefers to fly at the forest’s edge. Satyr that it is, this Question Mark butterfly kept to its zone. Fortunate for me, time and place were right. Necessity sent it onto a platform to warm itself in the early Georgia sun. One that always flees Jeff, it was briefly programmed to stay and warm, and that, that enabled my macro-lens to go to work.
I love browns and shades of brown, and well-turned form, and this young and fresh Question Mark butterfly sports it all.
I’m 2/3 through my read of Butterfly People by William Leach and this book has exercised my thinking about so much that we encounter in the field. Photographing butterflies, as with this Polygonia interrogationis is never monotonous, alway the next minute offering up the definitely unexpected. This one (male? female? They are difficult to sex) zoomed up from the trail and set down on this leaf.
Do they have the ability to think? Does it revel in the knowledge that without net on long pole, slingshot or firearm, I had no way to harm it? Only some 10 feet above me, why does it tease me so? Does it know that I shoot macro- and that I can get no better image of it than this? The summer Question mark, basking ‘at poolside’ without concern of gawkers?
Back to Leach’s tome about butterfly collectors during the raging last 1/2 of the 19th century. Experiences like this one so exasperated Edwards, Scudder, Doherty, Strecker, Holland, Staudinger, et al. Whether it be in Raccoon Creek State Park, or India, or New Guinea or Brazil. Do they do it to tease us? Do they have the ability to think?
I say Nah! It is of course attractive to think otherwise.
Aargh! I erred by not noting the date that I shot this slide. They show seasonal differences, helping us identify this as a “Summer form” Polygonia interrogationis. These Summer brood fliers have darker markings and shorter hindwing tails. If it were a Spring or Fall generation, the coloration would have been lighter and more orangey, with longer tails. So this must have been a late June or July photograph. I’ve got to be more careful with such things.
I notice often that my posted images differ from those of other photographers. This one here shows the butterfly resting in the high grass, a preferred morning situation for this butterfly. Many who share their butterfly images show the butterfly occupying nearly all of the image, with very little habitat included. I’ve given this much thought over time. The scientific extreme closeup photo or a photo like this one, showing the butterfly along with a good deal of its surroundings. I’m often tempted to pitch these into the trash, perhaps to conform to the general influence of those other field photographers.
But then I decide, Nah! I’ve always marched to my own drummer and I sometimes wonder how others got so, so close to these wary imagoes (That 19th century term for adults)? I’m also reminded that I don’t like it when media or movies bring their cameras right up to someone’s face. That seems too personal and shares skin features and blemishes that should remain hidden.
- Eastern Comma (michaelqpowell.wordpress.com)
- Is This a ? Egg? (roadsendnaturalist.wordpress.com)
- The Beauty of Butterflies (franzsfeaturedfotos.com)
- Must-See: Amazonian Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears (livescience.com)