Archive for the ‘butterflies and moths’ Category

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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American Lady butterfly

February 20, 2018

An American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) was spotted during a photowalk at Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This butterfly looks similar to several species with which I’m familiar but isn’t a perfect match, so I consulted the experts on the BugGuide Facebook group. Sincere thanks to Matt Pelikan, Jack Blackford, and Ken Childs for help in identifying the butterfly.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Legend of the Woolly Bear caterpillar

January 29, 2018

A “Woolly Bear caterpillar” was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Wooly Bear caterpillar is the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella).

According to legend, …

The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 distinct segments of either rusty brown or black. The wider the rusty brown sections (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter. Source Credit: WOOLLY BEAR CATERPILLARS AND WEATHER PREDICTION – USING WOOLLY WORMS FOR A WINTER FORECAST, The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Is the legend scientifically valid?

…this myth has been around since, you know, the colonial times. But in 1948, this curator of entomology from the American Museum of Natural History, Dr. Howard Curran, he did a little study. He went out to Bear Mountain, New York, and he counted the woolly bears, the bands – the brown bands of the woolly bear there. And he counted about 15 different specimens, and he made a prediction. Source Credit: The Myth of the Woolly Bear, National Public Radio.

Problem is, a sample size of 15 is insufficient for making meaningful conclusions. So looking at one caterpillar, as I did, is completely meaningless. Nonetheless, I always think of the legend whenever I see a Woolly Bear and wonder what it tells me about the upcoming winter.

Related Rescources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Red-spotted Purple butterflies

January 25, 2018

A Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

About a week later, another Red-spotted Purple was spotted during a walk around Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The appearance of Red-spotted Purple seems to be somewhat variable.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Question Mark

January 23, 2018

A Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Two field marks can be used to identify this butterfly. First, notice the row of four dark spots on the dorsal side of its forewings (highlighted in an animated GIF by Deb Platt).

Second, notice the silver-white question mark shape on the ventral side of its hind wings (highlighted in an animated GIF by Deb Platt).

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Lunch time

January 21, 2018

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted at ~12:13 p.m. near a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating an unknown species of winged insect.

25 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male, eating)

The first photo is the scene-setter.

25 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male, eating)

The last two photos are cropped so that the predator and prey are more prominent. The dragonfly barely moved from the first-to-last photos; the position of the butterfly/moth moved slightly as it was eaten.

25 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male, eating)

Did you notice there are three insects shown in each photo? Perhaps the fly is an opportunist, waiting to clean-up the leftovers from the dragonfly’s lunch.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top 10 Photos of 2017

January 1, 2018

The following gallery shows 32 finalists for my “Top 10 Photos of 2017.” The photos are presented in reverse-chronological order beginning in November 2017 and ending in April 2017.

The Top 10 photos will be selected using reader feedback. Please enter a comment at the end of this post listing the number for each of your 10 favorite photos. If listing 10 photos is asking too much, then please list at least five photos, e.g., No. 5, 8, 14, 17, 21, etc. Thanks for sharing your selections, and thanks for following my photoblog!

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

27 OCT 2017 | MRA | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in tandem“)

No. 4

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13

No. 14

No. 15

No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

No. 19

No. 20

No. 21

20 JUN 2017 | OBNWR | Calico Pennant (immature male)

No. 22

No. 23

10 MAY 2017 | HORP | crayfish (underwater)

No. 24

No. 25

No. 26

No. 27

No. 28

No. 29

No. 30

No. 31

No. 32

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

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Buckeye butterflies

November 28, 2017

(Common) Buckeye butterflies (Junonia coenia) are relatively common at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. I notice them when I’m hunting for dragonflies and damselflies. They’re skittish usually, but if they cooperate I always stop for a few shots.

The Common Buckeye color palette is unusual, yet it just works. Who knew brown butterflies could be so beautiful? Definitely one of my favorites.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

September 5, 2017

Several Black Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio polyxenes) were spotted on 30 August 20017 during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The following individual is a male. All of the Black Swallowtails that I observed seemed to be quite skittish, including this guy. He flew away every time I approached him slowly. I noticed that he returned to nearly the same spot after a lot of fluttering around, so I moved to a position from which I could shoot his photo without moving.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/800s | -3 ev

Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation is your friend when shooting high-contrast subjects like this Black Swallowtail. It is usually possible to pull detail from underexposed shadows. On the other hand, detail is lost when the highlights are “blown out.” What’s the solution? Expose for the shadows and use exposure compensation to capture detail in the highlights.

Related Resource: The exposure triangle and exposure compensation

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Warming up

June 3, 2017

Faithful followers of my photoblog know I’m all about the odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies. But hey, I’m an equal opportunity wildlife photographer so when the ode-hunting starts slowly — as it did on this day — I like to “warm up” by shooting a few photos of anything that catches my eye.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (male)

Like this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that was spotted along Pope’s Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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