Male and Female Tiger Swallowtails

We’ve had a good year for tiger swallowtails in our area. They seem to be the most numerous butterflies around but maybe it’s just that they are the largest of our native butterflies. Most of the host plants are trees. I like to think that the tulip poplars in the forest behind our house have been full of tiger swallowtail caterpillars this year although I haven’t seen any sign of them. They are big trees and the caterpillars impact the tree very little.

2909 08 IMG_5278.jpg

I took lots of tiger swallowtail pictures earlier in the season. Now I have made a game for myself trying to find a male and female butterfly close enough together to be in the same picture. The females are the ones with the blue dust on their hind wings. The males have no blue.

The best of the side-by-side pictures is the one below!

2019 08 IMG_5288.jpg

Zooming – August 2019

There are 10 images in this month’s ‘zooming’ post – a selection from places I’ve been over the month: Brookside Gardens, Patuxent Research Refuge, and Mt. Pleasant Farm. I used the zoom a lot on my camera, so I always have a lot to choose from…and the collection almost always is dominated by plants. This month is no exception although there are a few insects (butterflies and a cicada) and a frog.

There is one type of plant that is featured twice. Can you find it in the slideshow?  The answer is below the slideshow.

The hibiscus is the plant featured twice: the red flower and the three green buds!

Wings of Fancy – August 2019

Two volunteer shifts at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit stand out this month. The first was a shorter shift before the exhibit was open to the general public. It was two hours for photographers. The shift was low key with not as many people in the exhibit and it was cooler because it was early in the morning. The temperature was low enough that many of the butterflies were still roosting rather than flying around.

a 20190811_075817 clip.jpg

It was possible to get close enough for some quick pictures with my cell phone. There were at least two clear wings that were spotted.

Enjoy the slide show! By the end of the 2 hours, the temperature was warming and the morphos were flying. One paid a lot of attention to one of the camera bags.

After my shift I went back into the exhibit and took some pictures with a better camera. My favorite turned out to be a blue morpho that positioned itself perfectly on the ‘do not touch’ sign!

2018 09 IMG_9871.jpg

The second shift was made special by a moth! At the beginning of the shift there was an Atlas Moth on the netting at the top of the conservatory…not a good place for a picture. As the shift went on it got hotter and hotter and the moth glided down to the foliage.  We had some time without visitors in the conservatory and I got a great picture. The clear ‘windows’ on the wings look green because of the green plants behind the moth.


Outdoor Butterflies at Brookside

I always walk around a bit before my volunteer shift in Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit. It’s been easy to see butterflies out in the garden recently. I’ve been able to identify them via my photographs – comparing to the images in the Maryland Butterflies website.

The most numerous butterflies are the tiger swallowtails. I have already posted about them (here) but I did get a good shot of a dark morph (with strips showing in the bright light).

2019 08 IMG_5119.jpg
2019 08 IMG_5211.jpg

There was a Pipevine Swallowtail that shared a flower for a few seconds with a Monarch butterfly. These swallowtails are smaller than the tiger swallowtails.

Among the smaller butterflies, the Pearl Crescent is plentiful

2019 08 IMG_5151.jpg

As are the Silver Spotted Skippers.

2019 08 IMG_5107.jpg

I took a picture of a dark butterfly…maybe a Wild Indigo Sooty Wing.

2019 08 IMG_5224.jpg

In the walk up to the Caterpillar House of the exhibit there is a Pipevine with Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. There were so large…I couldn’t resist a picture!

2019 08 IMG_5226.jpg

I saw a clearwing moth last time I was cutting flowers at my CSA but I haven’t seen any at Brookside yet this year….and haven’t gotten any pictures.

Zooming – June 2019

So many aspects of nature to photograph in June: flowers and butterflies, frogs and birds…bunnies.

There were photos around home or close to home…and then in Missouri and Ohio. I’ll be learning the route between home and Missouri with two more trips in July…I’ll see how different the places look a month later.

There’s beauty to be found all over if we take the time to look for it!

Brookside – May 2019

I’m just now getting around to posting some pictures I took at Brookside Gardens in May: the butterfly exhibit, the conservatory – and everything blooming outdoors. So many subject to photograph – flowers, immature seed pods, seeds, leaves, garden furniture and fountains….peonies, poppies, magnolias, alliums, maples, dogwood…what’s not to like. Enjoy the big slideshow!

The side of the conservatory not used for the butterfly exhibit always has interesting plants in bloom – or photo worthy in other ways (like giant water droplets on green leaves).

2019 05 a IMG_4372.jpg

The door that volunteers and staff use is surrounded by greenery. Somehow it seems bigger this year.

I arrive 15 minutes before my shift in the butterfly exhibit. Sometimes I have a few minutes between the orientation and the arrival of the first visitors arriving to photograph butterflies.

May is a big month in the gardens. I have a series of Brookside Gardens rose pictures that I’m saving for another post.

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 30, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Spring Outlook: Historic, widespread flooding to continue through May | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Check out the map about 1/3 of the way through the article. It looks like quite a few areas along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers are going to have moderate or major flooding through May. Almost the whole eastern part of the US is going to have some flooding during that period.

How Chromosomes X and Y Got Their Names, 1891 | The Scientist Magazine® - A little history. It all begins in the late 1800s.

C. R. PERCIVAL’S MICROSCOPE SLIDE COLLECTION | Ingenium – Browse through some of the images made of slides created in the early/mid 1900s. Click on the larger image to get a magnifier that can be moved over the image.

Food Trends 2019: Fermented Foods, Blueberries, Coconut Products, and More | Berkeley Wellness – How many of these are you already eating?

What oil leaves behind in 2.5 billion gallons of water every day in US -- ScienceDaily – Wouldn’t it be nice to not have oil polluted water injected underground…and sometimes into aquafers? Water is already in short supply in some areas of the country (mostly in the west). We need technologies to never contaminate water in a way that it cannot be consumed by plants and animals…and ourselves.

In Germany, Consumers Embrace a Shift to Home Batteries - Yale E360 – Half of the orders for rooftop solar panels are sold with a battery storage system too in Germany. I wonder when the US will catch up.

Butterfly numbers down by two thirds: High-intensity agriculture reduces number of butterfly species in adjacent areas -- ScienceDaily – It’s not just butterfly numbers that are down either. Agriculture research needs to hone practices that are productive in the short term…and the long term. In other words – all agriculture needs to become sustainable for humanity and the rest of the organisms that inhabit the Earth.

Nitrogen pollution's path to streams weaves through more forests (and faster) than suspected -- ScienceDaily – Nitrate is one of the abiotic tests we do for water quality assessment with high school students. This is a new finding to think about and incorporate in to the analysis of readings after heavy rains. The nitrogen might be moving so fast that the forest can’t absorb it!

Missouri Making Hyperloop Plans - News | Planetizen – A hyperloop between Kansas City and St. Louis! What a boon to the two cities and probably easier to build since there is not the heavy population between the two cities like the route that was originally talked about in California.

China Isn't Recycling Tons of U.S. Plastic Trash Anymore: Goats and Soda: NPR – We’re going to have to show some innovation in dealing with plastics – mostly single use – that we dutifully put in our recycle bins and assumed they would be recycled. Now a lot of them are going to landfills or polluting our waterways.  With a little thought, my family has reduced some….but the next step is tough. Some products we need are only available packaged in plastic.

Zooming – August 2018

Bugs and flowers and butterflies and spider webs and seed pods and bird feet– oh my! I really do enjoy the extra zoom capability of my new camera. I am using the monopod if I can anticipate going to 65x…since it’s too difficult to compost the picture otherwise. I might eventually give in and use a tripod although not when I am going to be moving about. Lugging a tripod is never going to be something I want to do!

Enjoy the show!

Ten Little Celebrations – August 2018

I thought August might be a slow month with the summer camps ending and nothing new starting….but the month developed….not hard at all to pick 10 little celebrations to highlight.

Solitary hike – Usually I hike with other people – most recently with summer campers. Hike my myself at Mt. Pleasant was a change-of-pace and something to celebrate. Getting a artsy picture of two butterflies on Joe Pye Weed with a clear blue sky background was the image to remember of the morning.

20180806_091319 clip.jpg

Surviving a long hike – Then there was the much longer hike with camper up and down…across a stream and along muddy paths. I celebrated when that hike was done!


Blue Jay feather – A special feather is always a celebration for me…and from several perspectives: finding one on the ground, photographing it, remembering my daughter’s feather collection when she was very young, and realizing that know what kind of bird it came from!

Weekend in State College – Deciding to take a weekend trip – spurt of the moment. And dodging the rain to enjoy every minute! Celebrating family.

Butterflies – August seems to be my peak month for butterflies roosting on me in the butterfly exhibit. It’s special every single time.


Hummingbirds – Last weekend my husband and I attempted to photograph hummingbirds at Brookside gardens for two mornings. We were reasonably successful (a post about our experience is coming) but we’ll both improve with more practice. The birds are fast movers. Both of us are celebrating the photographs we got with the birds in focus!

Blooming bananas – Seeing something familiar but in a little different stage of development….I’m celebrating being in the conservatory at the right time.

2018 08 IMG_3760.jpg

Rulers for 25 cents – I celebrated that several stores in our area had wooden rulers for 26 cents. That’s inexpensive enough I can have my own supply for field trips with children just learning to measure sizes of what we find on our hikes.

Dragonflies – I haven’t found dragonflies in the wheel formation (mating) but I did find two at our neighborhood storm water management pond that were half way there! I celebrated the photographic opportunity and an still looking for the wheel.

2018 08 IMG_2657.jpg

Sweet potato leaves – Yummy sweet potato leaves. Our Community Supported Agriculture must have harvested part of the sweet potato crop in August so we got leaves in one of our shares this month. I hope there are still some left for later since we normally get them in late September. They are probably my favorite salad green….and I get them a couple of weeks a year….so worthy of celebration when they are available.

Butterflies at Brookside Gardens

August was a good month for butterflies at Brookside Gardens – both in the conservatory and outdoors in the gardens. Volunteering allows me to visit the Wings of Fancy exhibit and bring guests when I’m not ‘on shift;’ I get there just as the conservatory opens to indulge in some butterfly photography.

2018 08 IMG_2444.jpg

I challenge myself to capture eyes, proboscis, palpi, and antennae for as many butterflies as possible.

b 2018 08 IMG_2437.jpg

The blue morpho is one I photography a lot so I am always looking for a new and different perspective.

The blue morpho is one I photography a lot so I am always looking for a new and different perspective.

The same is true for true for the malachite. I think I like the underside of the wings more than the upper.

long 20180714_090701.jpg

The Julia longwing is the one I photographyed a few months ago moving its palpi across the parts of its eyes.

The stars for August were the big moths. There were male and female Atlas moths – kept separately so they couldn’t mate and lay eggs everywhere in the conservatory creating a containment problem. The males are much smaller than the females and the shape of the scale-less (clear) portions of the wing are different. In the pictures the male’s antennae are forward from the head…both females have antennae positioned back over their heads.

The other big moth was the Africa Moon Moth which looks very similar to our North American Luna Moth.

m 20180819_101326.jpg

The Wings of Fancy exhibit runs until September 16….so a few more weeks to enjoy the butterflies in the conservatory.

Butterflies Resting – on Me

While I was manning the exit at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy the first hour after it opened yesterday, I had 3 different butterflies decide to take a rest on me. The first was a blue morpho that sat on my left hand. It must have felt very secure since it sat still while I got my cell phone out, entered the security code, started the camera app, and braced the cell phone on my arm to get pictures – moving in closer and closer. The butterfly’s wings were tattered but the orange in the upper legs and the palpi (between the eyes) was very distinct. The proboscis is neatly coiled.

The second butterfly was another blue morpho that started out on my sandal. I crossed my leg, so I could get a get a closer shot. The butterfly was very interested in the strap of my sandal and then my ankle with its proboscis. The wings were in better shape that the first butterfly; notice the yellow and orange color toward the outer edges of the wing.


The third butterfly was a malachite that was on my hat. A visitor told me I had a butterfly on my hat and it stayed there when I took my hat off so I could see it! I had to one-hand the phone again but was pleased with the pictures I got of this butterfly. I like the patterning of the underside of the malachite butterflies…even more than the brighter green of the other side of the wings.

I’ve never been so lucky to have so many butterflies resting on me during a visit to the exhibit. They were on other people as well…something special about yesterday.

Gleanings of the Week Ending June 30, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

The Mysterious Demise of Africa’s Oldest Trees - Yale E360 – Baobab trees that are over 1000 years old are dying quickly…and there is not yet a definitive explanation.

History and Seaports in Charleston : Image of the Day – I visited Charlestown a few years ago on vacation…this picture from the International Space Station brought back memories and provided a different perspective of the place.

Top 25 Birds of Europe – National Geographic Blog – Last week it was Africa…this week it’s Europe.

New study examines impacts of fracking on water supplies worldwide - GeoSpace - AGU Blogosphere – Maps make it easy to look at complex data in a visual way. My take away from these maps of water supply and shale basin areas is that Texas has a lot of shale in areas that are already under water stress….fresh water is already being consumed unsustainably.

BBC - Future - Why non-smokers are getting lung cancer – I’ve wondered about non-smokers and lung cancer. The numbers are not huge…but they are often diagnosed late and are, therefore, more deadly.

Seventeenth-Century Danish Latrines Analyzed - Archaeology Magazine – Diet and parasites from more than 300 years ago.

Move Over, Monarchs: Another Butterfly Makes a Longer One-Way Migration - Yale E360 – Painted Lady Butterflies from southern Europe migrate across the Mediterranean through the Sahara to tropical Africa!

Discover Landscape Architecture Activity Books – THE DIRT – There are activity books for younger students and then teens/adults. I am reading the adult version and then will try to apply some of the activities when I travel…encourage new appreciation of the as-built landscape architecture of the places I visit.

2018 Lotus And Water Lily Festival At Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens – My husband and I don’t go to the festival but we do go the Kenilworth several times in July…expect lotus and water lily (and dragon fly) posts soon!

Lives before and after Stonehenge: An osteobiographical study of four prehistoric burials recently excavated from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site – Lifestyle rather than ethnicity seems to determine burial practices in this instance.

Butterfly Heads

I am in Texas and missing my frequent visits to Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy in Maryland. The pictures I took right before I left are something to savor. The theme of my photography inside the conservatory was ‘butterfly heads! The blue morphos have orange and white papillae --- nothing iridescent blue about their heads.

Some butterflies have papillae that are very large. The proboscis is between the papillae and extend for feeding on bananas or flowers.

Sometimes the papillae are damaged. I notice the owls often have broken papillae. The brown and black stripes of the owl eyes are different than other butterfly eyes.

Some butterflies have antennae that seem to glow at the ends.

In the conservatory, butterflies are sometimes resting upside down under leaves. Its always a thrill to notice one in the foliage.

2018 06 IMG_1231.jpg

Some of the larger butterflies feed on multiple flowers in succession – wings almost always in motion. The last day I was at Brookside was sunny enough that the camera was fast enough to freeze the motion.

I tell children that the butterfly’s proboscis is like a straw…and they do seem to handle it like one…although the way they coil it under their head is different from straws we use!

Butterflies feeding on flowers are my favorites, but some prefer bananas (or other rotting fruit). I inevitability decide that all of them are worth trying to photograph.

Sharing Wings of Fancy

I enjoy Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy so much that it’s my favorite place to take guests. This past weekend, my daughter was visiting, and we headed to the exhibit just at it opened. The caterpillars are big enough to see easily – particularly the spicebush swallowtail caterpillars with their eye spots that make them appear more ferocious than they are.

The high point of the morning was when a blue morpho butterfly decided that my daughter’s nail polish was like its own color. The blue (or pink/purple in different light) in both cases is a mechanical color rather than a pigment. The butterfly ‘tasted’ the color with its proboscis on each toenail then crawled up onto the sandal before flying way!

Brookside Wings and Wine

Earlier this week we attended an evening event at Brookside Gardens that included wine tasting and appetizers in the non-butterfly end of the conservatory building….then watching the butterflies respond to the sun sinking to the horizon.

2018 05 IMG_0563.jpg

When we first entered, the conservatory seemed calmer. The zebra longwings – and other butterflies – were beginning to find a roosting place in the fichus tree.

Others were on the walls or ceiling of the conservatory. I’m sure there were many that found a place in the foliage where I didn’t notice them.

2018 05 IMG_0555.jpg

There were two flowers on the passionflower vine that is the food plant for a couple of the longwing butterflies; there were no butterflies around it.

2018 05 IMG_0542.jpg

Just before sunset, the owl butterflies became more active – many dances through the air. I was waiting for the male cecropia moth that has emerged from its cocoon last Sunday to fly from where it had been hiding in the fichus tree all day. But it stayed where it was. These larger moths do not eat as adults so maybe there was no pheromone in the air of a female cecropia moth…and he didn’t feel the need to move!  I contented myself with a zoomed image of it through the foliage.

Wings of Fancy – 1st shift

2018 04 IMG_0222.jpg

I had my first shift for this season’s Wings of Fancy shift at Brookside Gardens earlier this week. The exhibit is opening an hour earlier this year to take advantage of the morning temperatures. Visitors will appreciate that during the summer. Like last year – I took a short walk around the gardens before heading into the conservatory. The gardens are lush even with the variability of rain and temperatures so far this spring.

2018 04 IMG_0226.jpg

The azaleas are blooming but I decided to walk through the are where the tulips are blooming….lots of color on a spring morning. I walked fast because it was chilly at 8:30 AM (in the 40s and breezy).

I was in the conservatory waiting for the first visitors and decided to take a few pictures. I was surprise what I was able to do in 10-15 minutes! My theme was heads – eyes, antennae, proboscis, and papillae. I’m sure they’ll be many other butterfly pictures this season (the exhibit runs until September 16), but I’m pleased with my first batch. Hopefully a reflection of the happy place the exhibit creates comes through too!

Free eBooks – April 2018

It is so easy to find historical books that are available online – scanned with care and ‘free.’ I can remember a time when I went to libraries (often not finding the book I was looking for) and how expensive it could be to buy books. Now I find myself rarely spending money on books. There are such riches of books these day. The world of books has changed in my lifetime almost as monumentally as the advent of the printing press! Here are three picks from the books I found this month.

Ogata, Kori; Aikawa,Minwa. Korin gashiki. Kikuya Kihē, Kyōto, Bunka 15. 1818. Available from Smithsonian Libraries here. In the image I chose to clip from the book – I like the simplicity of the drawing of the cranes (and chicks). I also like the way water is drawn; it is easily used as a Zentangle pattern.

2018 04 ebook 04b 18 04.jpg
2018 04 ebook 26g 18 03.jpg

Mars, Gerhardt C. (editor). Brickwork of Italy: a brief review from ancient to modern times. Chicago: American Face Brick Association. 1925. Available from Internet Archive here. Somehow the mellow color of brick and the architecture in the illustrations in this book were very appealing.

2018 04 ebook 49g 18 04.jpg

Merian, Maria Sibylla. Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium. Amsterdam: 1705. Available on Internet Archive here. An early book about butterflies…and their caterpillars. Merian was a leading entomologist in the early 1700s…and was one of the first to publish color images of insects…particularly documenting metamorphosis of butterflies.

Rancho Lomitas

After Las Estellas, the field trip group headed to Rancho Lomitas where Benito Trevino shared his knowledge of plants of the Tamaulipan thorn scrub. We learned about how cochineal became a valued commodity to the Spaniards. It is an insect that grows on prickly pear cactus (white mounds) and is used to produce carmine dye. Until the advent of synthetic dyes and pigments it was the best ‘red.’

Also the desert Christmas cholla’s berries can be used to sooth a sore throat….if one knows the process to remove the small thorns. First, use a stick to know off berries. Use the stick to separate the berries from the green part of the plant. Use a bunch of grass to move the berries around in the pebbles and dust. When the thorns appear to be gone…do it some more. I tried some. It tastes a little citrusy and would sooth the throat similarly to honey.

It was a mostly cloudy and cool day but the sun came out for a little while and we saw some butterflies.

There is a road runner that patrols the gardens.

We were walking along the road back to our van when Benito spotted a trap door spider and gently opened it with his knife; I would not have spotted it on my own!

A culinary treat for dessert after our lunch – some cookies made with mesquite floor. Maryland does not have mesquite trees but maybe I can find some if I visit my family in Texas at the right time!

Wings of Fancy Volunteering Retrospective

I enjoyed volunteering at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit. The seasonal exhibit ended on September 17th and I’m missing it this week; I’m already keen on volunteering when the 2018 exhibit starts next April. I started later this year because I only decided to volunteer for in in May…but even so – I managed 26 shifts during the summer months and the first weeks of September. I’ve posted about the earlier shift previously…but am including the last 7 (all in September) in this post.

20170905 IMG_3839.jpg

Shift XX was a sunny day and I enjoyed a walk in the gardens – flowers and butterflies.

20170906 IMG_3869.jpg

Shift XXI was wet and there were times that the only people in the conservatory were volunteers! I took some pictures inside the conservatory with my cell phone.

20170908 IMG_3926.jpg

I parked near the Brookside Gardens Visitor Center rather than near the conservatory for Shift XXII. I hadn’t noticed the horsetail and gingko planting in the bed around the conservatory before…and the brightly colored bench. As I walked down on to the conservatory, I noticed a rotting stump with bright yellow function growing on it.

20170910 IMG_3956.jpg

The moon was still out when I got to Brookside prior to Shift XXIII. Along the butterfly walk (the path to the ticket taker for the exhibit) the gold finches were enjoying seeds and there was still a Monarch caterpillar on one of the milkweed plants.


Shift XXIV was rainy – again. I manage a picture of a spider web that held big drops of water. Attendance was light enough that I took pictures inside the conservatory.

20170915 IMG_4126.jpg

It was a sunny day again for Shift XXV…but attendance was light again. I took a series of Monarch pictures: caterpillars and two mating pairs.

For the final shift, I was fixated on palpi (structures that start on either side of the proboscis and then lay between the eyes) again because I had seen so many blue morphos that appear to not have any. Evidently the blue morpho frequently breaks its palpi while the owl butterfly (second picture) does not!

And so – a fond farewell to Wings of Fancy…until 2018.

3 Free eBooks – September 2017

I picked three series this month – one magazine and two multi-volume books.

2017 09 ebook1.jpg

The Graphic Arts (The monthly magazine of the craftsmanship of advertising). Boston: The Graphic Arts Co. 1911-1915. Eight volumes are available from Hathi Trust here. A lot of technical advances were being made during this time to meet the demand for increasingly colorful print advertising. The clip I’ve picked was annotated “An achievement in two-color plate making.”

2017 09 ebook2.jpg

Duncan, James and Dunbar, William. Introduction to entomology. Edinburgh: W.H. Lizars. 1843. Seven volumes available from Internet Archive: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Some of the butterflies looked very familiar (like ones in Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit). I wondered how many of the insects seen in 1843 are now extinct.

2017 09 ebook3.jpg

Harris, William T, Edward Everett Hale, Nelson A. Miles, O. P. Austin, George Cary Eggleston (editorial staff). The United States of America: A pictorial history of the American nation from the earliest discoveries and settlements to the present time. New York: Imperial Publishing Company. 1909. Five volumes available from Hathi Trust here. There are more drawings than color illustrations…and the telling is somewhat dated. History is subtly re-interpreted. This was the way history was presented prior to World War I…before we became a ‘superpower.’