Archive for the ‘butterflies and moths’ Category

Hey Mike, don’t move!

August 30, 2019

There’s a butterfly on your hat. A Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax).

This comical butterfly-man union was observed during a photowalk with Michael Powell at Painted Turtle PondOccoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The weather was extremely hot and humid. (Notice the Cumulus congestus clouds building in the background.) Both Mike and I were soaked with sweat as soon as we started our photowalk earlier the same day at another site. The butterfly was feeding upon mineral salts on Mike’s “Duck Dynasty” hat.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Smeared Dagger Moth caterpillar

April 8, 2019

A Smeared Dagger Moth caterpillar (Acronicta oblinita), a type of stinging caterpillar, was spotted on 15 September 2016 during a photowalk along the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP).

Stinging caterpillars use poison-filled bristles to defend themselves from predators. If you touch a stinging caterpillar, you’ll know it by the burning, itching… Source Credit: 13 Stinging Caterpillars. [Smeared Dagger is No. 10.]

Thanks to Mike Powell, fellow wildlife photographer and blogger, for identifying this unusual caterpillar way back when both of us were less experienced amateur naturalists.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Parts 3, 4)

March 18, 2019

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) flowers were photographed on 06 and 10 June 2016 near a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Kevin Munroe, former park manager at Huntley Meadows, designated Purple Milkweed as a “plant of interest” due to the fact that it is officially a rare plant species in the state of Virginia (S2).

Part 3

These plants are covered with ants, lots of ants!

Later, a single Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) was feeding on the same milkweed plant, along with lots of ants.

Part 4

Lots of Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele) were observed feeding on the milkweed. The next two photos show the same individual in two poses.

The proboscis, a specialized structure that enables butterflies to siphon liquids from flowers, is shown clearly in the next two photos.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) was feeding on another cluster of milkweed flowers. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the State Insect of Virginia. Really, who knew there are official state insects?

The last photo is my favorite in both galleries.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top 10 Photos of 2018

January 2, 2019

The following gallery shows 18 finalists for my “Top 10 Photos of 2018.” The photos are presented in reverse-chronological order beginning in September 2018 and ending in February 2018.

No. 1

20 SEP 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Pandora Sphinx moth

No. 2

23 AUG 2018 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Osprey (male, plus prey)

No. 3

No. 4

No. 5

No. 6

05 JUL 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (female)

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

No. 10

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

No. 11

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

No. 12

No. 13

No. 14

No. 15

No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in some photo captions, shown above.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2018 (non-odonates)

December 24, 2018

As 2018 is coming to a close quickly, it’s time to indulge in a little retrospection. This blog post features a few new non-odonates that I spotted for the first time in 2018.

Editor’s Note: Photos are presented in reverse-chronological order, based upon the date of the spotting.

Pandora Sphinx moth

This beauty was my reward after a long, mostly unproductive photowalk at Huntley Meadows ParkPosted on 24 September 2018.

20 SEP 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Pandora Sphinx moth

Wild Turkey

Although I have seen signs of Wild Turkey at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 10 August 2018 is the first time I’ve seen actual birds at OBNWR. Posted on 19 August 2018 and 10 September 2018.

Northern Black Racer (mating pair)

Look closely — both heads are shown in the following photo. Posted on 30 September 2018.

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)


Next post: New odonate exuviae in 2018 (by family).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Bonding with Bender

November 7, 2018

Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) have a well-known preference for perching on gray or tan colored surfaces, including gray or tan colored clothing. Dressed appropriately, I visited a hotspot for Gray Petaltail where I hoped to shoot some “selfie” photographs of T. thoreyi perched on me.

The first photo is a “selfie” that shows a Fiery Skipper butterfly (Hylephila phyleus) perched on my left forearm. Thanks to several members of the BugGuide Facebook group for help in identifying the butterfly!

A Fiery Skipper butterfly perched on my left forearm.

The pained expression on my face says “You should have worn your glasses, you old fool!” I call it “going snake-eyed.”

The last photo is a “selfie” that shows a Gray Petaltail dragonfly perched on my Cabela’s Safari Series vest. This individual is a male that I nicknamed “Bender” because of his malformed abdomen.

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male) perched on my Cabela’s safari vest.

Open the full-size version of the preceding photo and zoom in on the dragonfly. Look at Bender’s face. I wonder what he was thinking.

Tech Tips

I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera to shoot the “selfie” photos featured in this blog post. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.”

The camera was mounted on a Sunpak 8001 UT medium duty aluminum tripod, with the articulating LCD facing forward. A JJC TM-Series Multi-Function Timer Remote Control was connected to the camera. I sat on a Coleman camp stool positioned a few feet in front of the camera, with the remote control in one hand.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pandora Sphinx moth

September 24, 2018

A Pandora Sphinx moth (Eumorpha pandorus) was spotted in the parking garage at The Beacon of Groveton, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

20 SEP 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Pandora Sphinx moth

The BugGuide Info page for Pandora Sphinx remarks that it is “An extra-spectacular sphinx moth.” I agree. One look at the full-size version of the preceding photo and I think you will too.

The Backstory

I noticed the moth when I entered the parking garage for the building where I live. The moth was perched on a cinder block wall, near a large security light. I was completely exhausted after a long day of photowalking at Huntley Meadows Park — my camera and external flash unit were in a backpack for camera gear and I was reluctant to unpack and set up to shoot photos of the moth. I took a second, longer look at the moth and knew it would be worth the effort. As it turns out, I was right — this is the best photo I shot all day, and one of my Top 10 Photos for 2018.

Editor’s Notes

Eumorpha pandorus is a new species for my life list of butterflies and moths. Sincere thanks to Sue and John Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory, for help in identifying this spectacular beauty.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

September 8, 2018

A Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

September 4, 2018

A Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Notice the Zebra Swallowtail lost both tails, possibly the result of close encounters with predators.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Camouflage

June 8, 2018

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

04 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

Look closely at the full-size version of all three images. Notice the dragonfly is eating a large, cream-colored winged insect, probably either a butterfly or moth.

04 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

Many photographers “chimp” after every photo they take, that is, look at the image on the camera LCD. I chimp rarely — you can’t be sure an image is tack-sharp until you look at it on a large-screen display. In this case, it was so difficult to see the dragonfly perched on similarly colored tree bark that I chimped to be sure I’d actually nailed the shot. Don’t be fooled by the images in this post — significantly enhanced by post-processing — it was nearly impossible to see the subject!

04 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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