It was a very slow day for birds in the Rio Grande Valley. We went to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Lots of butterflies and dragonflies…more than I have seen there in years, but practically no bird activity. Very strange. After Santa Ana we went to Fronteria Audubon in Weslaco, Texas where the buzz of the day was a intermittently visible Golden-winged Warbler. We missed the warbler by minutes on several occasions, but again the butterflies did not disappoint. This Clouded Sulphur on Turk’s Cap was one of the last photos I took there before heading back to the hotel to cool off before evening activities. Sometimes nature provides light you would be hard pressed to duplicate in the studio. I should add a disclaimer here. I am not a butterfly expert and if someone were to tell me this is an Orange Sulphur and not a Clouded, I would not be totally surprised and in no way offended. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Polarr.
I saw these giant thistles in bloom along the first mile of Blackpoint Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville Florida every time I drove the loop, but it was not until my last visit of the trip that I forced myself to take a moment for a photo. I think they are just Bull Thistle, a common weed, but the specimens on Blackpoint were certainly spectacular. This was my 3rd and final thistle stop. I pulled over because of the particularly intense color but was rewarded with the perfect contrast in the Florida White feeding deep in the bloom.
Sony Rx10iii at 24mm equivalent field of view. Program mode. f4 @ 1/250th @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr on my iPad Pro.
My last full, non-travel, morning in South Africa I was at Marc’s Treehouse Lodge, operated by Viva Safaris. It is on a private Game Reserve west of the Orpen Gate at Kruger National Park. I decided to forego the scheduled activity and just spend the morning wandering around the grounds of the Lodge with my camera to see what I could see. I was very thankful to the staff at Marc’s for letting me do that. I stayed fairly close to the cabins and tents at the Lodge, as Marc’s is an unfenced camp and there is always the chance of the wandering Cape Buffalo or even Leopard on the grounds. I was looking mostly for smaller birds, as that is what I was missing from my African experience and all the game drives in high vehicles. As I mentioned in previous posts, South Africa and Kruger in particular, are well into a major drought, and it is the end of a long dry winter there, so birds were scarce, even in the trees along the river below the camp. I did see Pied Kingfisher and Little Bee-eater, both amazing birds, and that would have made my morning, but it was really the Sunbirds I wanted closer looks at. I was able to photograph the White-bellied Sunbird in the collage above several times that morning, and glimpsed at least two others during my walk…Scarlet-breasted and one of the yellow ones. (I got a record shot of the Scarlet-breasted the next morning before boarding the van for Johannesburg.) I love the Sunbirds…colored like a hummingbird and filling much the same niche…but with size, flight, and song of a finch. The Southern Black Tit was working the trees just at the edge of the sandy bed of the river, and the Yellow-breasted Apalis was in the vegetation around the pool just below the lodge where the giraffes come to drink. The Citrus Swallowtail was basking by the same pool. I was happy to ID this as the Citrus Swallowtail of Southern Africa and not the much more common, and closely related, Lemon Swallowtail, which is a problem butterfly in North Africa…invasive as far east as China and some of the South Pacific Islands, and as far west as Central America. I also photograhed a Red-capped Robin-chat, but was not able to get a really sharp image in the dense thicket it preferred. All in all, a very worthwhile morning.
All shots with the Sony RX10iii, at 600mm equivalent field of view. Program Mode. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.
These might just be my favorite butterflies in the whole world…and they are even more special in that I only see them when visiting the highlands of Central America…in this case the mountains just below the continental divide overlooking Bocas del Toro, Panama. This is both of the species possible in these mountains. We are at Tranquilo Bay Lodge for a week of birding and photography in this amazing corner of the tropics.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. Program Mode. Processed and cropped for scale in PhotoShop Express on my Android tablet.
The American Copper is fairly abundant in Southern Maine, but it is small enough so it is often overlooked. This one was hard to miss. It was at eye-level in a tall stand of Meadowsweet and other brush right next to the parking area at Day Brook Pond on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area. It was working the flowers in the company of a few Coral Hairstreaks, which provided a nice contrast, and also drew the eye. In could not get the Copper to pose with its wings fully open, so this 3/4s view will have to do.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. 1/1000th @ ISO 100 @ f5.6. Processed and cropped slightly in Lightroom.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
This might be one of those Instagram or Facebook celebrity photo bomb shots 🙂 The Choral Hairstreak was busy with the Meadowsweet blossoms and I was busy taking it’s pic, when this Yellowjacket buzzed in from the left. The Yellowjacket was after smaller prey lower in the flower cluster, but it looked for an instant like it might go for the Hairstreak. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
And I had already had a great morning at the pond. This shot was right next to the car in the parking area. I had already put my camera bag in the car and was looking forward to cranking up the AC…but the Hairstreak right there beside me was irresistible, so I dug the camera out again. And you just never know what God is going to provide when you open your eyes and turn them on nature. I am, based frequent experiences of this kind, always ready to be blessed when I turn my attention outward, with or without my camera lens.
In a week of news from the Republican Convention and the presidential campaign, I need this kind of experience to remind me that the world is not nearly as dark as the politicians portray it. In fact, for the generous eye, the world is as bright as it has ever been…and that is bright indeed. Yes there are pockets of darkness…always have been and always will be while human beings exploit each other…where greed and self-interest rule the human heart…but that is not, no matter what you hear from the podium or the pulpit, the norm. The norm is generosity and light. The norm is grace. The norm is love. That is because light, grace, and love…generosity…is the nature of the God who creates all we know and all we are…who lives in all we know and is the true being of all we are. For people my age, i can say that the world is a brighter place today than it was when we were children. Safer, saner, with more people who walk in love…less want, more openness, more fairness, more inclusiveness. And yes the actions and effects of those who are motivated by greed…the stingy eyed…is often on display in today’s “bad news is good news” media world…but that does not mean we have to give the darkness, or those who peddle it in whatever from, power over our lives. God is good…in God there is no shadow or turning…and we get to live in the world we choose. Open your eyes wide in generosity…and be the light in this world we are intended to be. Happy Sunday!
Are you tired of Swallowtails yet? I have never seen as many Eastern Tiger Swallowtails as there were flying on the Blue Hill peninsula on the Maine coast this past weekend. In fact, in four days I saw way more Swallowtails than I have seen in the total of my life up to that point. They were crossing the roads, hovering over fields, among the trees of the forest, on the rocky beaches…everywhere. If you sat still anywhere outside for more than 5 minutes you were almost guaranteed to see one float by. They were particularly fond of a patch of Lupine and Wallflower growing in corner of the yard where my daughter’s wedding was held. I saw as many as a dozen at once working the patch, and there were at least a couple every time I chanced by. Since they were actively feeding among the Wallflower, they were relatively easy to photograph…and I brought back a lot of Swallowtail pics. 🙂
Sony RX10iii at 840mm equivalent (600mm with an in-camera crop to 10mp for the extra reach). 1/800th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.
I shared a front view of Tiger Swallowtails in the Wallflower at the house where Emily got married for the Generous Eye yesterday. This is the back view. 🙂 It is a beautiful butterfly either way you look at it.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. 1/250th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.
For some reason, many of the butterflies at the National Butterfly Garden this year when I visited a week ago were relatively worn specimens. I don’t remember that from previous visits, but I only get there once a year, always in November. The National Butterfly Center gardens are open gardens, not enclosed in any way, so the butterflies you see there are not captive breed…they are wild butterflies and have to make a living in the wild. It shows, by November. The Green Malachite is one of my favorite butterflies. I have only seen it 4 or 5 times, always at the National Butterfly Center, so you can believe that when someone called out from the trail along the top of the berm that one was showing, I hustled right up there. The light was terrible…an overcast day and the butterfly was deep under cover among the plants on the far side of the ditch on the other side of the berm.
These shots were at 2000mm equivalent field of view with the Nikon P900. Hand-held at 1/30th @ ISO 1100 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.
Another panel (three shots this time) of another Rio Grande Valley specialty…The Two-barred Flasher butterfly, from the National Butterfly Center gardens in Mission Texas. The blue on this butterfly is often so intense that it “burns out” in a normally exposed photograph…losing all detail. I always feel that this one got shortchanged in the name department. Something more exotic is certainly called for!
All shots with the Nikon P610 at 1440mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.