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Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

We have had colder than normal weather this past week, so I was quite shocked to see a fairly large orange and black butterfly last Friday fluttering about at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Actually, when the butterfly opened its wings I could see its bright colors, but it kept them closed, the butterfly blended in well with the background and look simply like another fallen leaf.

In our area there are two butterflies that are very similar in appearance and I knew that this one was either and Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) or a Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) butterfly. I am often amused by the names given to species in nature and I wonder what kind of a personality some has that decides to name two butterfly species after punctuation marks—almost certainly it was a scientist and not an artist.

You can tell the two species apart by the markings on both the outer and inner wings and I concluded that this one is probably a Question Mark. If you are curious about the differences, check out a posting by TrekOhio called “Butterflies that Punctuate: The Eastern Comma and the Question Mark” that goes into some detail in explaining how to tell the species apart.

In the next few days, the weather is supposed to warm up and hopefully more colorful insects will appear (and maybe even some more birds). It’ll be fun to see what I can find and photograph.

Question Mark butterfly

Question Mark butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I am delighted to see that butterflies are finally appearing as we move deeper into spring, like this tiny Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) that I spotted this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Since I was mostly looking for birds, I had my trusty Tamron 150-600mm lens on my camera. Although this lens is not optimal for such a small subject, it did a pretty good job in capturing the delightful details of this little butterfly, like the little “tails” at the bottom of the wings and the patches of orange on the wings themselves.

The same day I also saw a larger orange butterfly that I think was a Question Mark butterfly. If my photos are clear enough, I’ll probably post them soon. Stay tuned for coming attractions.

Gray Hairstreak

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I finally spotted my first full-sized butterfly of the spring, which was, not surprisingly, a Mourning Cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa). Unlike some other species that migrate, Mourning Cloak butterflies overwinter with us as adults in a hibernation-like state and awake to mate in the early spring. Generally, therefore, they are among the first butterflies to appear in the spring.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was a bit shocked and absolutely thrilled this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to spot my first butterfly of the year, which appears to be the appropriately named Spring Azure butterfly (Celastrina ladon). We have had some slightly warmer and sunny days recently, but the temperatures continue to be below freezing most nights.

When I encountered the tiny butterfly, I had my trusty Tamron 150-600mm lens on my camera, which is not exactly the optimal lens for this kind of subject. Life is often about making do with what you have, so I extended the lens to its full length, steadied myself as well as I could, and focused manually on the butterfly as it perched on some vegetation, a few inches above the ground.

It won’t be long before I see some bigger and more colorful butterflies, but this one is really special to me as the first butterfly of the spring.

Spring Azure

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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We are deep into autumn now, but some butterflies are still hanging in there, like this beautiful Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) that I spotted during a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was actually a little shocked to see quite a few of these butterflies flying along the paths of the wildlife refuge and in some of the open areas. The challenge for me was getting one to pose in a way that would convey a sense of autumn. I was therefore thrilled when this one perched on a fallen leaf and and kept its wings wide open long enough for me to capture this shot.

Common Buckeye

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled this morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to see that there are still quite a few Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in our area, including this beauty that I was able to photograph as it was feeding on a thistle plant.

monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This spectacular Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) spread its wings wide and seemed to be posing for fellow wildlife enthusiast Walter Sanford and for me as we explored Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past weekend. We have a number of different dark-colored swallowtail butterflies in our region, including the black morph of the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, the Pipevine Swallowtail, and the Spicebush Swallowtail, but this is the only place that I have encountered the Black Swallowtail.

Whenever I photograph a swallowtail that is black, I will usually refer to a very helpful blog posting by Louisiana Naturalist that compares some of the identification features of the four different dark swallowtails.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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