Posts in Category: butterflies and insects

Monarchs and Northern Blazing Star

Kennebunk Barrens Nature Conservancy, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I had been disappointed in the crop of Northern Blazing Star on the Kennebunk Plains (now known, after the most recent changes in management, as the “Kennebunk Barrens Nature Conservancy”) after the prescribed burn of last September. Northern Blazing Star is an endangered flower, with a very limited range, and the Kennebunk Plains is one of its last strongholds. It is a fire dependent plant, and needs periodic fires to maintain a healthy population. I will admit, I did not know exactly what to expect after the fire, but I was hoping for a bumper crop this year…and we did not see that…at least until the last few days in August. It might be that the bloom was just later than usual due to the fire, or that it was late due to an abnormally dry July and August, but it was certainly late. We had some tropical storm remnants come through the last days of August, with some significant rain, and suddenly there are a lot of Blazing Star in bloom on the plains. Not the best crop I have seen, but better that it looked like it was going to be this year. We also had a sudden influx of Monarch butterflies. This has happened other years, but I am always surprised. This year I have seen, until last week, maybe a half dozen individual Monarchs…few enough to be somewhat worried. Even when the Milkweed was in bloom, there were very few Monarchs to be seen. However, when the Blazing Star finally bloomed, I saw more individuals in one day than in the rest of the summer. It was hard to get a count as they were actively feeding on the Blazing Star and moving from patch to patch, but first impression was that they were every where…and maybe about 20 individuals in the few acres along the shore of the pond there. It makes me wonder were they have been all summer…or if they are newly emerged to match the timing of the Blazing Star bloom?? They were certainly “fresh” looking butterflies. Sony Rx10iv at 24mm equivalent in HDR mode for the landscape, and at 600mm equivalent in Program with my custom birds and wildlife modifications for the butterfly. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Common Banded Skipper (?)

Common Banded Skipper, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I am not a butterfly expert, or a skipper expert at that…but I think this is the Common Banded Skipper. Not 3/4 of an inch long. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Blazing Star pollinators…

Northern Blazing Star, Kennebunk Barrons Nature Conservancy, Kennebunk, Maine — Though the Blazing Star crop this year is not what I expected after a controlled burn, there are clearly enough blossoms to attract a wide variety of pollinators. Many different insects are attracted to this endangered plant, which is good, as it gives the plant its best chance at survival within its highly restricted range. It’s a good deal for the insects as well. 🙂 Left to right and down, Cabbage White butterfly, Clouded Sulphur butterfly, Cuckoo Leaf-cutter Bee (sp?), Green Metallic Sweat Bee (sp?), Leonard’s (?) Skipper, and Monarch butterfly. I am sure if I had spent more time there I could have found others as well. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary, Emmon’s Preserve, Kennebunkport, Maine — Here is a creature to inspire dreams…in this photo it looks like a fantastically winged horse…actually the Great Spangled Fritillary (great name!) is one of the larger butterflies in New England and always a treat to see. There don’t seem to be as many this year, even at Emmon’s Preserve where they are generally common in August. There also does not seem to be as much Joe Pie Weed…which seems to be a favored feeding plant for the Fritillaries. I found this plant and butterfly in the ditch along the hay field just as you emerge from the woods at Emmon’s. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Bee Fly on Blazing Star

There are two things of interest in this photo. Of course, the Northern Blazing Star…an endangered plant that grows abundantly on the Kennebunk Plains. This is a very early flower…the massed bloom will not happen until mid August…but there are generally a few plants in favored spots on the plains that bloom early. It is one of my favorite flowers and I wait patiently for it each year. The Nature Conservancy did a prescribed burn on the Day Brook side of the plains last September, and, as Blazing Star is “fire dependent”, I expect a really good bloom this year. The signs are shaping up. There are abundant plants and a few early bloomers. Should be good. The other thing of interest is the bug. It is, I was able to determine after some internet searches and a couple of AI powered identification apps, one of the Bee Flys…all of which have that long proboscis for drilling down for nectar. They are Bee Flies not only because they somewhat resemble bees, but because they are bee predators…bee parasites…laying their eggs in active ground bee nests, one egg per nest, where they hatch and the larva eats both the bee’s stored food and the bee larva themselves. The things you can learn on the internet! Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Swallowtail dreaming…

I was headed out on my bike with my camera when I saw this very tattered Swallowtail butterfly working the Day Lilies by our driveway. I managed a few shots before it was off into the trees across the road. It never really posed for me, but I like this shot for its color, composition, and for the dreamy quality. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Time for Tiger Swallowtails

There is a poem:

The Tiger Swallowtail, drunk on
Marigold nectar, staggered from
flower to flower, letting me take
its picture in its many poses,
recording the accidents of posture
as it probed the blossoms, one
after another. Full wings, both
front and back, and the furry tiger
body, as it came and went, just
at eye-level in the long plastic
planters on the rail of the deck.
What could be finer on a sunny
July afternoon…with the cool
breeze attempting, again and
again, to lift it. It few off, oh
several times, and I waited in
front of the open deck door, for
it to circle back and find fresh
flowers…and it did…giving me
all the Tiger Swallowtail I need.

We get two Tiger Swallowtails here in Southern Maine: The Canadian and the Eastern…and since they overlap, hybrids are always possible, and apparently are becoming more frequent…or at least more frequently observed. Though I have tried, I can not say for sure which one this is. This time of year Eastern is more likely, and it is large and yellow enough to be one…but this butterfly shows at least some of the marks of a Canadian. It is certainly “fresh”…unlike most of the swallowtails I photographed last month, which were all well worn and ragged around the edges. I don’t think I saw a single one with both tails intact. Anyway. I always enjoy Tiger Swallowtails, the biggest and brightest of our New England butterflies. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. On the first shot I used Program Shift to increase depth of field slightly. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. These are both pretty much full frame, just cropped a bit for composition.

Another immigrant: Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper (European Skipper), Forever Wild Preserve, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I am apparently more of a chauvinist than I am aware of…whenever I look up a species that I have photographed and find that it is a non-native species, I am slightly disappointed. This is such a case. I photographed this little skipper on the trail at the Forever Wild Preserve, and had to look it up. It is, according to the Leps artificial intelligence engine, and subsequent research, the Essex Skipper. The Essex Skipper, sometimes called the European Skipper here, was accidentally introduced in Ontario, Canada in 1910, and is now the most common skipper in New England. I have to remind myself that I am a child of immigrants myself before I am ready to make room for the Essex Sipper in the American pantheon…but then I guess that is just human nature. All God’s creatures, great and small. 🙂 Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Leps in the Blazing Star

I mentioned how impressed I was with the numbers of insects using the endangered Northern Blazing Star boom on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area here in southern Maine this week. Here are 4 leps (to add to the White-lined Sphinx Moth posted earlier). Painted Lady, Common Wood-nymph, Monarch, and what I think is a Wandering Gem moth. Something very Gem like anyway. The moth was tiny…it just covered the tip of my finger. Sony RX10iv at 600 and 1200mm equivalent (1200 at 2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.

White-lined Sphinx Moth

My friend Stef and I took a loop out through the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area yesterday to take in, among other things, the last of the Northern Blazing Star bloom. Blazing Star is endangered in Maine and the Plains are one of its last strongholds. I was reminded just how important a resource it is. Besides flocks of busy Goldfinches and Pine Warblers, the Blazing Star along Day Brook Pond was full of insects…butterflies and moths and bees and flies. When I first saw this White-lined Sphinx Moth I took it for one of the Clearwings. I have seen both Snowberry and Hummingbird Clearwings working the Blazing Star in the past. A closer look showed that despite similar size and behavior, this was a different moth. No transparent wings. I had to look it up when I got home. The White-lined Sphinx, like many Hawk moths, is mostly nocturnal, and mostly seen early and late, during dawn and dusk, so I can be forgiven for assuming it was a Clearwing. If I remember correctly, my only other sighting was years ago by artificial light on our back deck, feeding on the potted plants we keep there, when I, like many others, called it a Hummingbird Moth because of its size and behavior. (That name actually belongs to the Clearwing.) The White-lined Sphinx Moth occupies a huge range, all of North America and parts of Central America, and there are apparently known populations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. This one was very cooperative, working the same patch of Blazing Star for 15 minutes or more, and coming in close enough for lots of photos, before zooming off in search of a new patch of flowers. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.