Friday, July 29, 2011

Butterflies - Blues

Another family of butterflies is called Gossamer-winged because of the sheer appearance of the wings. In this group, there are sub-families of hairstreaks, blues, coppers, and more.

Have you ever noticed while walking or hiking, a very tiny bright blue flash out of the corner of your eye. You stop to look for it and can't find it. Well, it is probably a little blue butterfly, that flashes its blue when the wings are open. When it is sitting at rest, there is no blue color to be seen because they usually sit with their wings closed. Also, these little blue butterflies are so fast and soooo... small. Most are no bigger than 1/2" - 1" when sitting.

Now, try taking a picture of them! I creep as close as I can and then it darts away before I can focus the camera. I have to look again for this little blue, that really is only displaying its pale gray wings. But when I have a photo, it is so much fun to magnify this image and see the beautiful details of orange and black spots and little threadlike tails or hairstreaks. And it is the spots (color, shape, position and number) and tails that you need to see to identify them.

All of these images are larger than life size so imagine trying to find them or focus your camera on them.

Photo taken at Laguna Atascosa NWR, TX on 1/20/2004

Gray Hairstreak (with tails) - Strymon melinus

Photo taken at Seminole Canyon SP, TX on 4/1/2011

Reakirt's Blue - Hemiargus isola

Photo taken at South Llano River SP, TX on 4/11/2011

Reakirt's Blue (female) - Hemiargus isola

Photo taken at Sherburne NWR, MN on 5/30/2006

Eastern Tailed-Blue (with tails) - Everes comyntas

Photo taken at Table Rock SP, MO on 4/18/2011

Eastern Tailed-Blue - Everes comyntas

Photo taken at Lameraux Park, MI on 5/5/2007

Spring Azure - Celastrina ladon

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dragonflies - Wonder of Wonders

I watched the most marvelous thing yesterday. I was weeding in my garden and deadheading my day lilies when ...

Photo taken at Murray Lake, MI on 7/21/2011

I had just gotten my camera to photograph some of the day lilies when this large dragonfly landed on the stem of one of my flowers about 10 feet away. I didn't even have to move!

There have been many, many times when I have moaned, "Oh, that I had the camera in my hands!" and so the 1st wonder is that the camera WAS in my hands. I started taking pictures.

Photo taken at Murray Lake, MI on 7/20/2011

Prince Baskettail - Epitheca princeps

The adult of this species flies almost continuously from sunrise to sunset and rarely stops to perch. The 2nd wonder: here I have a perched dragonfly that doesn't fly away when I move to take its picture from another angle. The male and female of this species are very similar. The Prince Baskettail is in the Emerald family, Corduliidae, and is one of the largest dragonflies in this family, up to 3" long.

Photo taken at Murray Lake, MI on 7/20/2011What is happening? The dragonfly is not disturbed by my movements and it is curving its tail.

Photo taken at Murray Lake, MI on 7/20/2011She, yes it is a female, is producing an egg glob ...

Photo taken at Murray Lake, MI on 7/20/2011which just keeps on growing bigger as she bends her tail more and more.

Photo taken at Murray Lake, MI on 7/20/2011Close-up of the egg ball

Photo taken at Murray Lake, MI on 7/20/2011Final picture - 3rd wonder

The whole event took 6 minutes and then she flew away low over the water. She lays the egg ball on the stem of a water plant where the egg ball unrolls to form an egg rope 1-2 feet long. I hoped to see her lay her eggs but she flew further away over the water.

This dragonfly is call Prince because of its size and Baskettail because the female uses her tail like a basket to carry her eggs.

What a wonder of wonders to have watched this event unfold.

The references and gear I used for this blog are:
Camera: Canon EOS 40D
Lens: Canon EF100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS USM
Camera: Canon EOS 10D
Lens: Canon EF28-105mm F/3.5-4.5 II USM
Steiner 10x42 Predator Binoculars
Damselflies of Texas, A Field Guide
Damselflies of the North Woods
Dragonflies of the North Woods
Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas and the South-Central United States
Dragonflies through Binoculars North America
Dragonflies of Indiana
North American Odonata Website
Odonata Central Website

All images © MSCI

Friday, July 15, 2011

Butterflies - Crescents

On our Texas trip, every time I saw an orange and black butterfly, I tried to photograph it. I was sure that they were mostly duplicates. To my surprise, I had 5 new species. They sure looked alike in the field but when I studied them carefully, the patterns of orange and black and white were different.

These butterflies are all in the Brush-footed family, Nymphalidae. I just learned that all butterflies in this family have one distinctive characteristic. The forelegs of the adult butterfly are greatly reduced in size, covered with short hairs, and useless for walking. They appear to have only 4 legs. In the male butterfly, the forelegs are so small that they are like hairy stumps which suggest a tiny bottle brush. Hence, the family name.

The Monarch belongs to this family, so next time you see a Monarch butterfly, see if you can only count 4 legs because it is very difficult to see the stumps in the field.

Photo taken at Falcon SP, TX on 3/13/2007

Theona Checkerspot - Chlosyne theona

Photo taken at Bandera, TX on 3/27/2011

Bordered Patch - Chlosyne lacinia

Photo taken at Lake Mineral Wells SP, TX on 4/14/2011

Texan Crescent - Phyciodes texana

Photo taken at Lake Mineral Wells SP, TX on 4/14/2011

Phaon Crescent - Phyciodes phaon

Photo taken at Big Bend NP, TX on 4/3/2011

Painted Crescent - Phyciodes picta

Photo taken at Table Rock SP, MO on 4/18/2011

Pearl Crescent - Phyciodes tharos

All images © MSCI