Not much secret that my favorite butterfly is the Mourning Cloak Butterfly. Many have read of that surreal experience I had just weeks after the loss of Frieda A”H. That Mourning Cloak unsettled me, and I admit that I was unable to suppress tears that day. Whenever I am fortunate enough to again see a Mourning Cloak, I am instantaneously moved, much. Butterflies can do that, no?
Asked what is my #2 favorite butterfly, here I’m forced to think. Candidates for that distinction are the Great Purple Hairstreak, the Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, the Compton Tortoiseshell, the White M Hairstreak, the Two-Tailed Pasha (the HolyLand) and the Tawny Emperor.
Here’s a gorgeous Tawny Emperor butterfly, dazzling my eyes in a sea of browns and tans. At Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, just 8 hours from Broadway, New York, New York.
Are we seeing fewer and fewer of them? I remember when we saw many more of them in the ’60’s, ’70’s and 1980’s. When I seriously began photographing them in the 1990’s, what did I discover? They are inexplicably difficult to photograph! Their white wings discombobulate the camera/film, and most exposures of them disappoint. That is why I am pleased with this image.
I used to call them “European Cabbage White butterflies.” Most everyone called them that. Now, accepting that they are here to stay, all seem to now use ‘Cabbage White’ butterfly.
She sports those 2 black spots on her dorsal forewing, ID’ing her as a fine female.
Raccoon Creek State Park, southwestern Pennsylvania. Eight hours or so west of the Empire State Building.
Your heart beat jumps when a Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Butterfly flies in! Mine does. You just never see them in pairs or threes, and do you expect to see one? No. East of the Mississippi River, they are a northern butterfly.
When this one flew in, and set on this Teasel flowerhead, I was so Thankful for being there, being there then. Add to that the Milbert’s slowly worked the Teasel flowers, one by one, methodically. Better yet, it did not flee when I made my long, protected Macro- lens approach. Icing on the tiramisu cake was that the one was . . . gorgeous. Just look at that flash of nourishing orange on the dorsal surface of that right forewing.
I’m humbled by such limited experiences. I expect that few of you have been so fortunate as I’ve been, to have met and spent many minutes with Milbert’s (this one went to several Teasel flowerheads before it flew).
Raccoon Creek State Park, Nichol Road trail, southwestern Pennsylvania, about an 8-hour drive from the Statue of Liberty boat landing.
(Teasel is an alien plant, FYI, although truth be told, many, many butterflies adore its nectar (as do bees, such as the one shown on the far side of the Teasel)).
A butterfly that almost always looks a bit different from the one before, this Viceroy butterfly has faint black line barely seen along the trailing edges of its hind wings. Stronger than that are its striking white dots set in that vivid black band that traverses all of its wing edges, the rich orangish of its wings and the dramatic white dots of forewing tips and head.
Where will you see your Viceroy this 2021? It stays close to wetlands, streams, creeks and lakes, and doesn’t travel too far from its hostplant, willow trees and willow shrubs.
Folks like us, who seek butterflies to score their images almost always stop what we’re doing when a Viceroy flies in, or flies past. Why? It just might be just like our response when we see a superstar walk by, Oh My Goodness, is that . . . ?
Nichol Road, Raccoon Creek State Park, southwestern Pennsylvania, a fine trail.
It’s those moments, when you bend down to savor absolute beauty, that uplift, encourage, sustain and renew. This Spring Azure butterfly, tiny enough to rest on a Spring ephemeral bloom, does all that for this hardened photographer of those same butterflies.
Does it do that for you, on these frozen middle days of February?
Raccoon Creek State Park, my very productive northeastern USA destination in southwestern Pennsylvania.