Four Seasons

Four Seasons
Blessed by the beauty of Creation ~ sharing what I see from my little place in His world.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Heart's a Flutter!

Sometimes a fairly brief encounter in nature is enough to excite me, make me smile, and keep me smiling for awhile afterward.  Such was the case today.  Mac and I went for a walk... and we saw a MONARCH! It went quickly fluttering away, but it did make my heart flutter with happiness.  (see my post here about watching for monarchs on milkweed).

I didn't have my camera with me because it's been raining off and on today - and if I had taken it I'm sure I wouldn't have had time to get it out of a plastic bag and take a photo because this butterfly took off out of some milkweed plants and flew away pretty quickly.  But in my mind I can still see it and I'm happy!  It's the first Monarch I've seen this year.  
Obviously not from today, because I didn't have my camera but this is Mac on our previous walk.
Now, I do have a bunch of photos of other butterflies I've seen this year and I've been saving them up to share with you.  I am a novice at "butterflying".  I never even had a field guide until last Christmas (unless you count 'A Golden Guide' published in 1987, which actually has my daughter's name in the front).  But it's always fun to learn new things, so I've been taking photos and then trying to identify what I have seen.  

Here's the first one of the season, from April 6th, in our woods -- a Mourning Cloak:
Exciting mainly because it was my first butterfly sighting after a long, cold winter!

Next was this one, which I saw in the nearby Gamelands.  I only got one photo so it's a little hard to be sure but I think it's a Black Swallowtail.
I saw another Black Swallowtail in my flower garden on August 1st:

A relative of it, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, appeared on my chive flowers on June 7th:
and here's one I saw at Grey Towers on August 2nd.
Out in the hayfields early in the summer, there were lots of Common Wood Nymphs flitting around.  
Actually there have been a lot of smaller butterflies flitting around the fields this summer but they are quite hard to photograph, I've discovered!  The small yellow ones, and similar white ones just don't stay still long.  I've enjoyed watching them more closely than I have in the past, but most of my efforts to photograph them have not been very successful.  I won't make you suffer thru blurry butterfly photos.... you're welcome! 

One day I was talking on the phone when I glanced out the window.  I cut the phone call as short as I could, because the butterfly I saw looked quite large!  I grabbed my camera and went out to see.  It might not look so large in the photos, but the zinnia flower is almost 5" wide.  After studying my field guide I decided the butterfly was a Giant Swallowtail. 
August 27th
The range map does not show it in our part of Pennsylvania but in the text it said they often stray north of their range.  Still, as I said -- I'm a novice, so I emailed a family member who has been studying butterflies longer than me, who confirmed it as a Giant Swallowtail (and expressed their jealousy of my sighting!)  It truly was a beautiful creature!

I only saw the Giant Swallowtail that one day.  But the following is a butterfly I've seen numerous times this summer.  It's an Aphrodite Fritillary.  Here's one on a Common Milkweed on July 8th.
Here's another one at Grey Towers on August 2nd.
And here is one in the early morning of August 27th.  
Do you know where butterflies go at night?  Click here for a neat website for kids that will answer that question and many others about butterflies.

One of the questions they answer is what is the difference between moths and butterflies.  Since it's a website for kids, their answer is quite simplistic-- after giving several differences between butterflies and moths they sum it up by saying that butterflies are "fancy moths".    

Well, I saw a couple of rather fancy moths this summer, too!

Here's a Luna Moth I saw at Spruce Lake on June 18th.
It was on the siding next to the door of my room at Joni & Friends Family Camp.  The camp is surrounded by deciduous hardwood forest, the moth's preferred habitat.  There were a bunch of them around camp. I've read that they are rarely seen because the adults only live for a week, but they are considered common.  With a wingspan of 4.5" it seems to me a poor description to call them 'common'!

Another unique moth that is decribed as being common is the Clearwing Moth, also known as Hummingbird Moth.  I do often see them on my white phlox but they always fascinate me.
They are a day-time flying moth with a very long tongue which they use to drink nectar from tubular flowers.  Sometimes people mistake them for tiny hummingbirds since they have similar flight and habit.  
They actually have rather furry green backs (similar in color to hummingbirds), which wears thin over time.  You can see that in this photo and also the name Clearwing definitely applies!

That's it for now... though I'll definitely keep watching for more Monarchs.  Maybe next time, I'll get a photo!