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Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Great Butterfly Chase Of 2007 Has Begun

Viceroy Butterfly

Well, butterflies are starting to emerge from their long winter, at least here in Southern Illinois they are. And once again, it's like track season for me - just to keep up with them is a marathon! I will be posting some of the ones I manage to photograph as the season progresses, but for now, here are a few of the beauties I was able to run down last year.

Red-Spotted Purple Admiral

This very distinctive butterfly has the honor of being, not the first butterfly I ever photographed - that would probably go to an Orange Sulphur or an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - but the one that got me hooked on photographing them in a serious manner. And if you've ever tried to get a picture of a butterfly, you know how hard it can be just getting them to sit still for a couple seconds. They are notorious in their utter disregard for the photographer. This one was captured sitting on a leaf in late afternoon just before the sun went down on September 4th, 2006 and I don't think I've been the same since.

Pearl Crescent

This butterfly is much smaller than it looks - it was only about half as high as my lens cap, and it's a relative small one as lenscaps go. It flew around for awhile and then alighted on this tomato vine. You can see some unripened ones in the top right of the picture.

Eastern Comma

This butterfly looks a whole lot like one named a Question Mark. You may ask, why the punctuation nomenclature? Well, believe it or not, on the underside of an Eastern Comma's wing is a little white spot shaped like a comma. And correspondingly, on the underside of a Question Mark's wing is what looks exactly like a question mark - a squiggly line with a dot below it. Both species really like fruit, which is why this one is sitting on an apple that had fallen off the tree.

Cloudless Sulphur

For a lot of the butterfly season, at least it seems this way in my part of the state, Sulphurs and Whites fly around a lot, but they don't land very often. Which makes it extremely hard to get a decent shot of one. This Cloudless Sulphur, however, came through late in the season and I suppose he was tired or something, because he sat on this leaf for quite some time to allow me to take his picture. He was about 8 or 9 feet off the ground, so I had to just hold the camera up at arm's length and point it in his general direction. It was sunny bright that day, but the tree he chose to roost in was heavily shaded. Hence the obvious use of flash to lighten him enough for the photo. It's harder than it seems holding a camera that high, with the lens zoomed in all the way, to get something positioned in the center of the frame. Not every shot actually had the complete butterfly in it, but this one did, so that's the one I used.

Red Admiral

This was another butterfly that sat still and gave me plenty of opportunities. Several different views were captured, albeit halfway up a ladder. He landed on this tree trunk, but was about 10 feet off the ground. I couldn't even hold my camera up that high by stretching way out. But, he looked content to sit there awhile, so I went and got a step ladder, placed it against the tree and climbed up to his level. Even then he didn't fly away for about 10 minutes or so. His colors were very distinct. Don't you think so?

Common Buckeye

This one looks just like he has large eyes on his wings. I guess it's to frighten off anybody that might be interested in eating him for lunch. Well, those are just a few of many species I catalogued here last year. I'm hoping that this year will be even better, so stay tuned for the results!

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