Category Archives: thoughts

Fall at Clifty Falls State Park

Here is an example of the color we are starting to experience here in Southern Indiana at Clifty falls State Park located near Madison Indiana.

It started out warm and dry here but the last few days have cooled dramatically and we have received much needed rain to help spur on the color that we had been lacking.

So starting now thru the next ten days the color will really be beautiful here and it should be a great destination for viewing the wonderful fall colors that blanket the hillsides and gorges that grace this part of Indiana.

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Common Buckeye

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Thought I would share another great butterfly from southern Indiana, the Common Buckeye, photographed at Big Oaks NWR near Madison Indiana. Maybe the most beautiful butterfly that inhabits our area and certainly one of my favorite.

According to Wikipedia….

Junonia coenia, the common buckeye or buckeye, is a butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. It is found in southern Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia and all parts of the United States except the northwest, and is especially common in the south, the California coast, and throughout Central America ,Colombia & India .The subspecies Junonia coenia bergi is endemic to the island of Bermuda.

Its habitat is open areas with low vegetation and some bare ground. This species and its relatives were placed formerly in the genus Precis.

The bold pattern of eyespots and white bars on the upper wing surface is distinctive in much of its range, though compare related species in the same genus. These are mangrove buckeye (Junonia evarete) and tropical buckeye (Junonia genoveva), formerly considered one species, and the smoky buckeye (Junonia evarete). The eyespots likely serve to startle or distract predators, especially young birds. The species has many flights throughout the year, with mostly northward migrations for the summer. Much of the northern United States is only colonized in the fall from southern populations. Some of the later broods move southwards in the fall. Common buckeyes exhibit seasonal polyphenism, the summer version of the butterfly has light yellowish ventral wings and is called “linea”. The fall morph has pink ventral wings, and is called the “rosa” morph.

Adults feed on nectar and also take fluids from mud and damp sand. Males perch on bare ground or low plants, occasionally patrolling in search of females, but they are not territorial. The female lays eggs singly on buds or the upper side of leaves. The caterpillars are solitary and feed on the foliage, flowers, and fruits of the host plant. A variety of (typically) herbaceous plants are used, including especially plants in the snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae). These include snapdragon (Antirrhinum), toadflax (Linaria), and Gerardia. Caterpillars also feed on plants of the plantain family, such as Plantago; and the Acanthus family including ruellia (Ruellia nodiflora). Larvae feed singly. Adults and some larvae overwinter in southern areas. The pupa may not have a resting phase (diapause), as in many other butterflies.

Well that’s the description of this great butterfly hope you enjoyed the info and image, thanks for stopping by and taking a look.

Painted Lady

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Another example of one of the many diverse species of butterflies that live here in Southern Indiana. This one was photographed at Big Oaks NWR near Madison Indiana a couple weeks back. This year has seen an incredible number of painted ladies in the area which has been an unexpected surprise.

Hope you enjoy the image and I will share more in from Wikipedia…

The painted lady (V. cardui) is a large butterfly (wing span 5–9 cm (2.0–3.5 in)) identified by the black and white corners of its mainly deep orange, black-spotted wings. It has five white spots in the black forewing tips and while the orange areas may be pale here and there, there are no clean white dots in them. The hindwings carry four small submarginal eyespots on the dorsal and ventral sides. Those on the dorsal side are black, but in the summer morph sometimes small blue pupils are present.

The American painted lady (V. virginiensis) is most easily distinguishable by its two large hindwing eyespots on the ventral side. V. virginiensis also features a white dot within the subapical field of the forewings set in pink on the ventral side, and often as a smaller clean white dot in the orange of the dorsal side too. A less reliable indicator is the row of eyespots on the dorsal submarginal hindwing; V. virginiensis often has two larger outer spots with blue pupils. The black forewing tips have four to five white spots; usually the largest is whitish orange.

The West Coast lady (V. annabella) does not have obvious ventral eyespots. On the dorsal side, V. anabella lacks a white dot in the subapical orange found in V. virginiensis, and is a purer orange color. V. annabella has a fully orange subapical band and leading edge on the forewing. The submarginal row of hindwing spots in V. annabella features three or four blue pupils. The two larger pupils in V. annabella are the inner spots, rather than the outer spots as in corresponding V. virginiensis.

The Australian painted lady (V. kershawi) is quite similar to V. cardui. Its four ventral eyespots are less clearly defined, and it always sports at least three (often four) blue pupil spots on its dorsal hindwing. Caterpillars are found mainly on Ammobium alatum.

Gliding Giants

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This is one of those images that doesn’t present itself to you very much.

I captured these two Giant Swallowtails at Splinter Ridge Fish & Wildlife Area earlier this summer as they were gliding thru an open meadow in some type of courtship ritual.

I was lucky enough to be following them when they made a sudden loop and sailed right over me and my camera for a once in a lifetime shot. I fired off about 30 shots and I came up with this one image that I believe best represents this wonderful experience.

The cool thing is that these were the first Giant Swallowtails that I have ever observed or let alone photographed making it an amazing experience.

I hope you enjoy the image and I will share some info about this butterfly that I pulled from Wikipedia….

Papilio cresphontes, the giant swallowtail or in its larval phase the orange dog or orange puppy, is a swallowtail butterfly common in parts of North America and marginally into South America. In the United States and Canada it is mainly found in the south and east. With a wingspan of about 10–16 cm (3.9–6.3 in) it is the largest butterfly in Canada and the United States.

An adult’s wingspan is about 100–160 mm (3.9–6.3 in) The body and wings are dark brown to black with yellow bands. There is a yellow eyespot in each wing’s tail. The abdomen has bands of yellow along with the previously mentioned brown. Adults are quite similar to the adults of another Papilio species, P. thoas.

The mature caterpillar resembles bird droppings to deter predators, and if that doesn’t work they use their orange osmeteria. These are “horns” which they can display and then retract. The coloration is dingy brown and or olive with white patches and small patches of purple. Citrus fruit farmers often call the caterpillars orange dogs or orange puppies because of the devastation they can cause to their crops.

In the United States, P. cresphontes is mostly seen in deciduous forest and citrus orchards where they are considered a major pest. They fly between May and August where there are two broods in the north and three in the south. They can range from southern California (where they have been seen from March to December, reaching peak abundance in late summer/early fall), Arizona as deep south as Mexico north into southeastern Canada. Outside the United States and Canada they are found in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Jamaica and Cuba.

Giant swallowtails fly from Late May–August, but in some areas of the southern United States such as Texas and Louisiana, they may be seen as late as October. All giant swallowtails have a distinctive flight pattern which generally looks as if they are “hopping” through the air. Females tend to beat their wings slowly but move quickly. Because females have such large wings, each wing beat will carry it a long way. Males however, tend to have more of a darty flight. Males beat their wings rapidly, but they move slower than females because their wings are smaller and each beat carries them less far. Giant swallowtails in general fly fast and high and can be difficult to capture.

Monarch Sunset

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Warm evening light bathes this beautiful Monarch Butterfly as it stops to rest and feed on its long journey to Mexico. Monarch butterflies perform annual migrations across North America which have been called “one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world”.

Starting in September and October, eastern and northeastern populations migrate from southern Canada and the United States to overwintering sites in central Mexico where they arrive around November. They start the return trip in March, arriving around July. No individual butterfly completes the entire round trip; female monarchs lay eggs for the next generation during the northward migration[2] and at least four generations are involved in the annual cycle.

Similarly, the western populations migrate annually between regions west of the Rocky Mountains including northern Canada and overwintering sites on the coast of California.

I captured this amazing specimen just south of the Big Oaks NWR near Madison Indiana the fields that surround that area have been planted in an wonderful assortment of native wildflowers and this year I have been blessed to capture some awesome images of the great variety that utilized the fields.

Hope you enjoy the image and thanks for visiting my blog !!

Madison Indiana

I am sure I probably shared these before one time or another but I thought it might be nice to put them out their again for people to see. Madison is such a beautiful place it never hurts to show it off a bit.

Madison with all it’s beautiful architecture and many festivals is a great place to visit. And the natural diversity that surrounds Madison is second to none,if you love photography you will love this place.

Butterfly Survey

It’s been my best year yet for butterfly photography and attending the butterfly survey at Big Oaks NWR was a definite highlight..
Joseph R. Robb made the experience not only a educational adventure but also guided us thru one of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems in the midwest. My son and I cant thank him and all the others enough who volunteered their time to make it such a wonderful experience.
We counted 46 different species and a rough total of 1590 butterflies what a great day !!
Can’t wait till next year !!!