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.
We saw hundreds, maybe even a thousand, of these spectacular migrating moths while in Panama. They were everywhere, from the Continental Divide at 4000 feet, to flying out over the bays of Bocas del Toro at sea level. It is the Urania Swallowtail Moth…a moth, despite looking very like a green and black swallowtail butterfly, and despite flying during the day. Of the huge number I saw, this is one of only two I saw perched. The other was at night on the ceiling of my cabin porch, next to the porch light. Interestingly, by the light of my flashlight or the flash on my camera (and I suspect any light striking the back of the moth near the perpendicular) the “green” is bright metallic gold.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. ISO 800 @ 1/250 @ f4. Processed and cropped slightly in Lightroom.
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.
Though there was not much water coming over Cascade Falls when I visited on Friday last, there were many Ebony Jewelwings over the stream below the falls. They seemed to like to perch in patches of sun on the rocks and broken branches in the stream. There is nothing so shinny as Ebony Jewelwing in the sun. It looks like it is forged in aluminum and anodized green. Even the wings have their metallic sheen.
Sony RX10iii at about 1100mm equivalent field of view. (Optical plus 2x Smart Digital Tel-converter). 1/250th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Lightroom.
Sometimes a Dragonfly is just too freshly emerged to id…which, at least at my level of experience, is the case here. I think it is one of the Meadowhawks, but it was on its maiden flight and I just can’t be sure which one, or even that it is a meadowhawk. It was very patient with me as I worked my way closer and fiddled with the Program Shift for this macro. I hope it woke up and moved on before the hunting Cedar Waxwings found it. 🙂
Sony RX10iii at 1200mm equivalent field of view (2x Clear Image Zoom). Program shift for greater depth of field. f9 @ 1/60th @ ISO 100. I could not really stop down any more, as there was some wind, and the position was awkward to hold the camera steady. Processed in Lightroom.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
I am rapidly approaching 69 years old (next month) so I am always surprised and delighted to discover something in the world right at my doorstep that I have never seen before. Seen is a tricky word. I suspect that I have seen Bee Flies before now…but I certainly never looked at them. I did not know they existed. If fact, when I bent down to take a photo of this very early Northern Blazing Star, in flower on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area yesterday, I though I was looking at a bee. It is furry like a bee. It has superficially bee-like wings. It was behaving like a bee…but I knew it was no bee I had ever seen before. I had certainly never seen a bee that color or with that long a proboscis. A little googling (small hairy bee with long proboscis) brought up the Bee Fly family. Ah…not a bee at all. A bee mimic. And a bee parasite. (The female lays her eggs at the mouth of the hive of ground nesting bees, and the fly larva attack the larva of the bees.) There are many species of Bee Flys in North America (over 4500 world-wide)…all I can say for certain is that this is NOT the most common of them: the Greater or Large Bee Fly, which is sometimes called the Dark Edged Bee Fly because the wings are dark edged and patterned like those of a hummingbird moth.
I was also surprised, by the way, at the number of Northern Blazing Star plants in bloom already on the Plains. While it is far from the show I expect in two weeks (the normal timing of the bloom), our unusually hot July must have forced many plants into bloom early. The Blazing Star on the Kennebunk Plains is, as far as I am concerned, one of the highlights of the natural seasons here in southern Maine. It is endangered in most of North America, and the Kennebunk Plains is one of the few places it still grows in abundance. The Plains can be purple with it in mid-August.
So that was two surprises for yesterday…and one “the surprise of a lifetime” in that it was my first real look at Bee Fly.
And of course that is the thing about the generous eye…always open and ready to be surprised. Another translation of what Jesus said about eyes, from The Message Bible, is “‘If you live wide–eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.” 69 years on the planet, and I can still be surprised by the living nature around me…by God’s loving invention…I am still discovering new wonders. And each new wonder only confirms and strengthens my belief. This is good. And it is my hope for you, whatever your age, this Sunday!
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.
Here at the height of a unusually hot summer in Southern Maine, we have fewer dragonflies than I remember from last year. I went to Emmon’s Preserve in Kennebunkport yesterday in hopes of finding Mosaic Darners patrolling the meadows, but there were none at all. Lots of mosquitoes…probably, in part at least, because there were no dragons. The Mosaic Darners are among my favorite dragons. They big and generally boldly marked, and there is a certain elegance to their wasp wasted look and elaborate male appendages.
When I found little to photograph (and the sun very hot) in the open meadows at Emmon’s, I decided to drive the mile or so to Smith’s Preserve, where the trails are shaded by the forest. Parking is limited at Smith’s, and sometimes completely taken up by SUVs with bike racks, as the trails are very popular with mountain bikers. (SUVs with bike racks…that is a sad comment on our times.) I did find a place to park (the last one). It was quiet at Smith’s as well, though there was more bird song, and it was considerably cooler, and I did spot this Mosaic Darner patrolling a section of the trail. It hung up on a small pine along the side, and I was able to work my way close enough for a photo. I am thinking this is a Shadow Darner, but I could be wrong.
The light was not ideal in the deep shade, so this image is taken at ISO 1250. (1/250th @ f4 @ 541mm equivalent, zoomed back a bit to fit the full bug in). During processing in Lightroom, I ran it through the NIK Define 2 filter to eliminate some of the noise.
Until last year at this time, I had never seen a Halloween Pennant…and then I found one on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area near my home in southern Maine. After that first sighting I saw several in different spots around home. This year I have been on the look-out for them on each trip to Day Brook Pond. When I got to the pond on Saturday there were several dozen Pennants paired up and flying in tandem over the pond, ovapositing by dabbing the water sharply. I assumed they were Calico Pennants as they have been abundant around the pond so far this season, but then I found first a single male and then this mating pair of Halloween Pennants along the shore. That brought my assumption into question, so I had to try for a flight shot of the ovaposing pairs over the water. Not easy, but I eventually managed a shot that shows clearly that the mated pairs over the pond are indeed Calicos.
Both shots with the Sony RX10iii. Halloween Pennants at 1200mm (2x Clear Image zoom). Program shifted for greater depth of field. f8 @ 1/125 @ ISO 100. Processed and cropped slightly in Lightroom. Flight shot of the Calico Pennants using my custom Sports Mode. 300mm @ 1/1000th @ f4.5 @ ISO 100. Cropped heavily for scale.