Fields of Joy: Painted Lady Butterflies

Unprecedented numbers of Painted Lady butterflies fluttered about in fields of goldenrods and asters this month. They were everywhere, sometimes two to a flower cluster, presenting ample opportunities for environmental portraits. On more than one occasion they actually photo bombed a monarch shoot!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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Monarchs in Motion

Warm sunny days are fueling carpets of wildflowers in abandoned fields. Nectaring butterflies – monarchs, painted ladys and others – complete the scene as they dart, flutter and glide about in a continuous and purposeful manner. It all seems right. And September is a wonderful time of year to be alive.

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Photos by NB Hunter (September, 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

Deer Watching in Late Summer

Non-consumptive recreation activities associated with white-tailed deer peak in late summer and early fall. Deer feed continuously and are often visible in good light. Fully developed antlers are on full display, more visible than ever while still covered in velvet. Regardless of your recreation choices – binoculars,  conventional cameras, motion-detecting trail cameras, or simply viewing for pleasure – it is the best time of year to observe, appreciate and learn about these magnificent members of the deer family.

PS: These deer are in various stage of molting, a process that insures thermoregulation, and some camouflage as well,  through the seasons. The thin, reddish-brown summer coat is giving way to a thick, dark winter coat that features hollow hair and a thick underfur.

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Photos by NB Hunter (August 30 – September 16, 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

Monarchs Over Fields of Gold

In recent days the life cycle of monarch butterflies has unfolded before my eyes. My post on late summer white-tails will have to wait.

Monarch caterpillars are feasting on the leaves of milkweed, with several sizes or instars visible. This one is actually on a milkweed pod, in search of a fresh leaf to chew on.

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After feeding, growing and molting for about 2 weeks, the mature caterpillars pupate. This chrysalis was discovered in a large patch of milkweed plants at the edge of a field.

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The pupal stage may last another 2 weeks, but it’s worth the wait. The emergence of the last generation of monarchs in late summer is a defining moment. Their field trip to wintering grounds in Mexico is a miracle.

Monarchs fluttering over fields of goldenrods bring fitting closure to the wildflower season and offer a heart-warming prelude to autumn colors on the horizon.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

A Change of Pace: Turtles!

Sometimes I have to walk away from the common challenges of wildlife photography, subjects like deer feeding in fading light, butterflies darting erratically across a meadow, tiny birds searching for berries in dense undergrowth, an eagle soaring in the clouds.

Turtles loafing in the warm afternoon sun on late summer days is a nice alternative, one where speed and light are inconsequential! Turtle searching led me to the Chenango Canal towpath trail and wetland complex.

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My first encounter was a painted turtle basking in the warm gravel at the edge of the road.  I managed to capture a few portraits before it crawled into the swamp.

 

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A hundred meters down the towpath trail, I saw what appeared to be a shiny flat rock in the grassy center strip. Something wasn’t right – too shiny – so I approached cautiously. Oh boy – a young snapping turtle! It was tiny by snapper standards, about the size of a hand with fingers extended. Speaking of fingers …..

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I wanted one more image, that of a big, mature snapper, but much of the shallow water along the near bank was obscured by the tall, dense growth of Touch-me-not (Jewelweed).

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Eventually I found a clear view of the canal in prime turtle habitat, but saw nothing but a large, slimy rock covered in algae and mud. Time to give up and head home……or not!?

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The rock had a neck and head! Snappers can live 30 to 40 years and weigh up to 35 pounds; I think this prehistoric monster is living proof!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Continuous Bloom for Butterflies

When the cool nights and shorter days of late summer arrive, priorities shift dramatically to subjects like white-tailed deer and preparation for winter. Aside from the occasional Monarch flitting about in fields of asters and goldenrods, butterfly photography is an afterthought.

A recent field trip and opportunity to observe butterflies in a cultivated landscape reminded me that there’s still a lot going on in butterfly world! And, most important, a landscape with continuous bloom into late summer can attract and nourish a wide variety of insects at a critical time. The host plants in this post are Sedum (‘Autumn Joy’) and Butterfly Bush.

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Tiger Swallowtail on Sedum (1 of 2)

 

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Red-spotted Purple on Sedum (the red spots are on the underside of the wing)

 

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Sulphur butterfly in a sea of plenty

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Battle-worn Black Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush

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Fritillary on Butterfly Bush

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Monarch on Sedum

Photos by NB Hunter (August 26-27, 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

Fields, Knapweed and Insect Visitors

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Old fields, forest edges and road corridors harbor an impressive variety of summer flowers, many of them alien. Knapweed is one that I have grown to appreciate due to the tremendous insect activity associated with its flowers.  On a hot, muggy summer afternoon it is possible to hear a field of knapweed in full bloom before you see it….bees! I liken the sound to that of the faint hum of traffic on a distant highway.

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I appreciate the importance of this bloom as a food source for bees, and couldn’t walk away from a serving of knapweed honey. However, the main reason I trudge through the matted, thigh-high tangles of knapweed in the mid day heat is butterflies.

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Skipper

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Fritillary

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Painted Lady

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Tiger Swallowtail

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Viceroy

Photos by NB Hunter (late July, 2017). ©All Rights Reserved.