I managed to get there early, very early. The road to Raccoon Creek State Park, that 36.8 miles drive, took me through downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through the Ft. Pitt Tunnel, and then through miles of what’s known as “Parkway West 376.” That morning I sailed through the entire route, with hardly any need to slow down or come to a total stop.
Parked my Tundra truck at the Rte. 168 entrance to the state park, and hiked Nichol Road trail, my favorite stretch of park. It was still not 8:30 A.M., and I’d already seen male Eastern Tiger Swallowtails flying at full speed along the trail. It’s been decades since I began photographing butterflies, and time has taught me that most male butterflies are not worthy of the time it takes to approach them, and then chase after them. What’s their rush? They spend 95% of their time flying fast, searching for receptive females. It’s a fool’s errand to chase after them, hoping in vain that they might stop for a moment to rest.
Then there she was! Resting as females do, she on a natives plant, just 3 feet or so above the trail margin. She was spectacular. She was in no rush to leave that perch. I prefer photographing female butterflies. They are often gorgeous and they dislike wasting time and energy, flying desperately here and there, as those males do.
At this point in my work, spotting a fresh, undamaged female butterfly is cause for a smile. They often agree to pose, are less likely to bolt, and their rich beauty means I might score a wonderful image.
A winged beauty, willing to model for you and me.
There are three (3) closely related Emperor butterflies in the United States, the Asterocampa butterflies.
The most commonly seen Emperor is the Hackberry Emperor, Asterocampa celtis. It found in 40 states or more, mostly absent from the northwestern USA. Had one, a fresh one, in my yard, yesterday.
Less common is the Tawny Emperor, Asterocampa clyton, usually seen east of the Mississippi River, ands in 4 states west of the River.
Less common again is the Empress Leilia, Asterocampa leilia, known in 3 states bordering Mexico.
This one seen here is an Empress Leila. One of the amazing butterflies that I saw in that certain arroyo (boulder strewn dry creek bed). We played tag for quite a while until it finally relented, and agreed to allow me a handful of camera clicks. The Leilias I saw on those several trips to the arroyo never opened their wings for me, preventing me from sharing whether or not they were male or females.
Spending any time in an arroyo is not a good idea. A flash storm miles away can send a wall of water crashing towards you, and . . . . Now that I quietly reflect on that, I kinda feel like . . . .
White Tank Mountains Regional Park, Arizona.
I was just scrolling down some Facebook group sites and my eyes were again and again disappointed. People were posting their images of different tiny Israeli butterflies. I was especially drawn to images of rare, Protected Aricia butterflies. Most of their posts were of males, with their delicious reddish-orange spots along the margins of their wings.
Now I have spent hours seeking those same Aricia butterflies, with some success. Some, for they fly at breakneck speeds, making me rush after them, as they alight on a wildflower for 2.31 seconds, and then again speed away, to a similar bloom 20 feet down trail. Exjhilirating/Exhasuting. Both.
Their shares on FB had orange spots that were limpid, weak or washed-out. I remembered my own favorites, and it seemed to me that mine were richly hued. I didn’t hesitate for a moment to go to our Media Library of images, to see if my recollection was correct.
Here’s a favorite of mine. Aricia Agestis agestis. See my smile? I followed those bad boys for several mornings in my time, and I can now safely smile, for I like what I captured here.
That 12 hours flight, the drive to my daughter’s home, and days later, the 2.3 hour drive to the Golan region of Israel, an SPNI field house at SPNI Hermon. It’d blow your mind, as we used to say. Butterflying in the HolyLand.
This was a day that remains vivid in my memory. Angela, Barbara Ann, Dave & Joe led the way, to this largish prairie relict in Lynx Prairie Reserve, southern Ohio, just a handful of miles from Kentucky.
These Edwards Hairstreak butterflies were new to me, and this for sure was a fresh flight of them. Close approach to these tiny hairstreaks wowed! me, for their color palette was strikingly beautiful.
Shooting with my Fuji Velvia 50 slide film, I shot away, determined to capture those reds and blues amongst that handsome grayish brown, and sharp white and black.
This one will do just fine. I tried so hard to meet one universal goal of mine, capture the butterfly’s eyes in good focus, but the depth of field bugaboo denied my 100% success with that.
Winged beauty? Yep.