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.

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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!

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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).

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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

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As are the Silver Spotted Skippers.

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

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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!

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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.

Brookside Gardens – July 2019

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Even though the weather has been very hot this month, there are still plenty of flowers at Brookside Gardens that are weathering the heat.

The buttonbushes have all stages of flowers and seed formation now.

The green cones are forming on the bald cypress.

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The butterfly weed seed pods are bursting open even as the Monarch caterpillars are munching on their leaves. The common milkweed pods are still green.

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There are quite a few butterflies out in the gardens enjoying the flowers. The tiger swallowtails particularly enjoy the Joe Pye Weed. Last weekend I noticed more Monarch butterflies in the gardens. Maybe these are arriving from Mexico although it certainly is later than usual.

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I walk around the gardens before my shifts at the Wings of Fancy exhibit. There were only two this month because of the travel I did during the first half of the month. There are plenty of things to see like chipmunks and milkweed bugs.

I even found a feather on a leaf that I could get close enough for a macro shot.

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In the exhibit, the caterpillars are eating and growing. There was a Palamedes swallowtail caterpillar that had a ‘sun worshipper’ pose on a ‘excessive heat’ day.

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There are plenty of Monarch caterpillars of all sizes on butterfly weed in the caterpillar house as well.

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Inside the conservatory, I don’t have much time to take pictures of butterflies (lots of visitors) but I did manage a few. One day it was so hot that even the butterflies were desperate for water (on the floor) and not flying as much.

Zooming – July 2019

I probably use the zoom on my camera for most of my pictures. It allows me to frame the picture the way I want and to ‘see’ the environment better than I can with just my eyes. Sometimes I am at the limit of what my camera can do. For example – the tiger swallowtails are particularly numerous in my back yard this summer and I kept seeing then flying under the maple tree where my compost pile is located. I used my camera like binoculars to see that the swallowtails were ‘puddling’ in the compost pile after a rain. They must have been enjoying the nutrient rich water!

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There was a smallish robin that fluttered down from the maple and sat in the grass – just looking around for a few minutes before returned to the tree. It didn’t look or find a worm! Probably a fledging.

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On the hottest day of the summer (so far), a wasp got a drink from our bird bath. Sometimes I find wasps that have drowned in the bird bath but so far it hasn’t happened this year. Maybe they are getting better as just getting the drink that they need.

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Now enjoy the slide show of other zoomed pictures from this month:

  • Plane tree

  • Fireworks

  • Pocket prairie plants

  • Yellow crowned night heron

  • Great egret

  • Female cardinal

  • Fawn

  • Goldfinch

Butterflies in the Garden

Last weekend at Brookside Gardens there were a lot of flowers blooming (Joe Pye Weed and Coneflowers) in the high heat and attracting butterflies. Most of the butterflies were Tiger Swallowtails. I took pictures and then categorized them when I got home. The males are slightly smaller and less colorful.

The females are larger and have more blue scales.

And then there are the dark morphs of the tiger swallowtail that are all female.

While I was doing the categorization, I found one that was not a tiger swallowtail. It was a Spicebush Swallowtail! It looks very similar and I never try to distinguish these dark swallowtails in the field. I just take pictures and make the identification when I get home.

There was some butterfly drama just before I went into my Wings of Fancy shift. In the garden near the conservatory give shop – there was a butterfly moving oddly. I quickly determined that it wasn’t the butterfly moving itself; it was a praying mantis eating the butterfly under a flower! One less dark morph of the tiger swallowtail in the garden….

Brookside Gardens – Butterflies and more

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Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit was one of the places I volunteered in June – one of my happy places. One of my shifts was so cloud-covered and rainy that butterflies were still roosting in the fiscus at mid-morning.

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There were more clearwing butterflies in the conservatory that earlier in the season – enough that I saw one or two during most of my shifts.

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There aren’t as many paper kite butterflies this year…but they are still one of my favorites.

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The overall favorite for most people is the blue morpho; it’s one of mine too although for more than the blue color…I like the orange markings on the underside and body too. I manage to get some quick pictures during times when there are very few or no visitors in the exhibit.

And there were many other kinds of butterflies that posed for a picture at handy times.

And then there is the caterpillar house. Most of the caterpillars that were in the house during June were Julia Longwing or Zebra Longwing; both use passion flower as the host plant for their caterpillars.

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Toward the end of the month the eggs of the Palamedes swallowtail hatched….and the very small caterpillars begin to make their visible mark on the leaves. When they get bigger, they’ll have ‘eye spots’ to keep the predators away.

There were butterflies outside in the gardens too – mostly tiger swallowtails and skippers.

The bees enjoy the flowers too.

Sometimes a dragonfly would sit for long enough to be photographed.

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Birds like the gardens. A goldfinch and cardinal were near the conservatory one morning before my shift. I also saw a catbird that same morning but it flew away before I could get a photograph.

But the high point of the animals at Brookside was a box turtle! I had just exited my car and saw it emerge from a bed at the side of the conservatory and walk across the concrete in front of the service door to the north conservatory.

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It continued until it was close to the seal between the two doors then looked up like it expected the door to open. I wondered if it had – sometime in its life – spent some time inside the conservatory.

Outdoors at Brookside Gardens

I try to take a few minutes before each shift volunteering at Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy to walk around outside in the gardens. There is a lot going on in August. I am featuring some of my favorite things I noticed and photographed in this post.

Button bush and cone flowers and sunflowers – with and without bees.

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Joe Pye Weed in bloom…very popular with the tiger swallowtails. One morning I photographed a dark morph female with several of the yellow and black versions.

Monarchs are more prevalent in the garden than they were earlier.

I can never resist checking the gingko tree near the conservatory. I like the way the leaves look outlined in gold of the morning sunshine.

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The sumac is a plant I am tracking this year. I recognize the seed heads but want to capture how the seeds develop. This will take me further into the fall since they don’t look like they’ve changed too much during this month.

There are always a lot of funnel spider webs in the low pines around the conservatory….and sometimes the spider is visible.

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There are several kinds of datura in the garden.

I had never nptoced what the seed pod looked like before.

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Some of the trumpets hang downward and I appreciated that the screen on my new camera can pivot so I can see what the camera is seeing when it is point straight up! I’ve always wanted to photography the unfurling flower.

The bald cypress has the scale insects like it did last summer but seems healthy enough to survive. The cones are beginning to form.

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The cannas are beautiful this time of year. Some are producing seed pods.

This is the view from the ticket taker table for Wings of Fancy. I ended up doing the job when no one had signed up for it….a  last minute change of plans.

There are milkweed plants close to the entrance to the caterpillar house and there are often insects on the plants other than caterpillars. When there are no visitors in the area…I roam around and take pictures; more on the caterpillars tomorrow.

Morning Walk at Mt. Pleasant (part 1)

Earlier this week, I took a morning walk at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant. I stopped by the nature center first to leave some comments on a new BioBlitz guidebook; my plan was to hike down to the Davis Branch. I forgot my camera at home so was ‘roughing it’ with my Samsung Galaxy S7 and clip-on macro lens.

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I stopped near the Honors Garden to look at the sweet bay magnolia…and noticed some eggs under one of the leaves. The only way I know to figure out what they might be would be to isolate the leaf and wait for them to hatch! I didn’t do that…so it will be a mystery. Maybe a ‘leaf footed bug’?

I walked down toward Montjoy barn and noticed that the pear tree in the old orchard looks terrible – many bare branches. It’s an old tree and I hope it sees another season.

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Near the demonstration garden at the top of the path, an Augochlora sweat bee was slow enough that I got a picture!

Some id references: http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Documents/CommonBees.pdf and https://www.insectidentification.org/insects-by-state.asp?thisState=Maryland

I saw a flock of goldfinches as I walked down through the meadow. They kept moving just ahead of me all the way down the hill. I regretted leaving my camera at home. There were also lots of dragonflies and butterflies and gnats in the meadow. I should have sprayed my clothes and hat with insect repellent for the gnats.

When I got down to the stream, it was cooler because I could easily stay in the shade. I walked down stream a little and saw what looked like one of the trees purposefully upended as part of the upstream restoration that must have been sweep away by one of the recent rains. It is now caught on some rocks and other tree debris and will ‘slow the flow’ in its new location too.

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When the water is high – there are two paths for the stream in the old ‘beach’ area. The one in the upper left is the main channel; the one in the middle of the picture is no longer flowing and will dry up if we don’t get another big rain this week.

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I took the narrow path along the stream. There is high vegetation on both sides. Sometimes it opens enough for sun loving plants like milkweed to grow…and this skipper landed just in time for me to take a quick portrait.

There was a vista of a restored area of the stream. The pools look a little larger than I remembered – possibly because it has been so rainy recently. One part of the path was very muddy and I wondered if there was an intermittent spring there.

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There were two butterflies on a Joe Pye Weed nearby. Rather than use the digital zoom on the phone, I clipped the area I wanted when I got home. It’s easy to identify the two butterflies: tiger swallowtail and monarch!

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I hiked back to Montjoy barn on the sunny side of the stone wall. I didn’t stop along the way since it was hot and sticky. When I got to the shade near the barn I looked more carefully at the vegetation and found a new-to-me orange, white, and black insect. I had no idea what it was but I took several pictures and then identified it when I got home: an ailanthus webworm moth. It’s an insect that followed the invasive Tree of Heaven to our area. Aargh!

Tomorrow I’ll post about the plants I saw along my hike.

Kenilworth Gardens – Buttonbushes and Dragonflies

There are other things to see beside lotuses and waterlilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. One of my favorite plants to photograph is the buttonbush in bloom. They were in all stages of bloom development last weekend.

The plants are very attractive to insects. Bees are frequently visitors

As are the small skipper butterflies.

There was one large tiger swallowtail that seems to be methodically getting nectar and staying on once of the balls for a long time…great for picture taking.

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We always look for dragonflies when we visit Kenilworth and last weekend was no exception. There did not seem to be as many of them. The first one I managed to photograph sat on some lotus petals in the deep shade…and was a very small dragonfly.

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The next one was on top of a canna stalk and was the larger variety. It did not stay very long but I did manage to zoom in for close up.

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On my way back toward the visitor center I was photographing water lilies and noticed that one had a dragonfly on it! The zoom helped again since it was another small one.

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Mt. Pleasant in July 2017 – Part II

Continuing from my Monday post about last week’s walks before and after photography session with summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm….The areas around the nature center were easy enough to walk around and through several times. There were cone flowers in the Honors Garden that were very attractive to the tiger swallowtails and other butterflies.

There were flowers growing up through the rungs of a bench that survived the campers (they managed to sit on the bench and not the flowers!).

We saw a cicada killer resting on one of the benches too.

I liked the view of Queen Anne’s Lace from below. The campers decided it looked like a tree.

All cone flowers are not pink!

In the quiet one morning – before the campers were anywhere near – I saw a cat bird in the garden (only heard it when the campers were around)

And a butterfly was interested in the pickerel weed at the small pond

Where there was a water strider moving around on the surface of the water.

Somehow some plants look otherworldly to me – as if they are two unrelated things glommed together. This is an example!

There were also early instars of an insect (maybe milkweed bugs) on one of the plants.

In the Garden Club garden with the ‘Flower Pot People’ there were mating milkweed beetles

And bugs

And several different instars of the milkweed bugs all on one plant!