Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On the Rocks

Painted Lady

I am learning to walk quietly along gravel and sand trails as I try to keep my eye on the path ahead looking for butterflies and birds that rest on the ground. Butterflies congregate in wet sand, gravel and shallow puddles as they get moisture and salts from the soil. They also like to rest on warm rocks and are more likely to stay still for a picture in these places than on a wildflower.

A few days ago I sensed some movement ahead and used my binoculars to single out the well camouflaged wing of a Painted Lady. The open wings contrasted with the ground and were much easier to see as I approached.

Great Spangled Fritillary, Red spotted Purple (tattered!)
Milbert's Tortoiseshell, Common Wood Nymph

Perhaps I am noticing more butterflies because I am looking for them, but it may be a very good year for them this wet summer with an abundance of flowers in the fields and ditches. The Queen Anne's Lace in a natural area near our home is almost five feet high.

Twelve spotted Skimmer, Ruby Meadowhawk

Dragonflies are around by the thousands and land on flowers, grass, gravel, cameras and heads. The wet summer has brought successive hatches of mosquitoes so they have lots of food. But all the dragonflies, Swallows and Kingbirds in this field barely make a dent on the swarms of biting insects. This is the first year in a long time that I have had to use mosquito repellent generously when going for a walk, even in a sunny meadow with a breeze blowing.

Huron Natural Area

We now have a stone border around our backyard perennial garden and I have noticed more butterflies and dragonflies outside the house. Last evening I watched an Eastern Comma near the deck but did not have my camera close by. I will endeavour to make my yard even more butterfly friendly with the plantings I choose for the new bare spaces. And I will leave a little wet sand and gravel for them as well.


  1. Great camera shooting. It's tough to photograph these beautiful creatures.
    This has been a good year for all life; plant, animals and yes even those nasty bugs. But, along with the good things we have to take the bad.
    What a great way to end my day with visions of butterflies in my head. So calm, cool and relaxed.

  2. Your butterfly finds are lovely Ruth. There does seem to be an abundance of all things flying this year. Wish they'd create a Japanese beetle eating Ladybug!

  3. Anonymous8:15 am GMT-4

    Very nice shots. Glad they didn't move. It's always tough when things you try to photo are alive and kicking.

  4. I think you have more butterfly species in your area than there are in mine right now. You have posted a lovely variety. The most common in my garden are Great Spangled Fritillaries and in fields and meadows I have seen a lot of Common Sulphur lately. I have never seen a Purple nor have I yet seen a Tortise Shell this summer. I have noticed that there are no longer many blossoms in the meadow that I walk in frequently but the change has occured in my back yard. We purposely have many beds of coneflowers; white, yellow and pink(purple) and the butterflies and bees are attracted to them in numbers.

  5. Beautiful pictures, Ruth! Do you use a book to help identify the butterflies? I took a walk last night. It was cloudy and only in the lower 80's when we started, but MUGGY and it cleared up and got down right HOT! I we saw a TON of butterflies or moths (I don't know how to tell what they are) from the size of a dime to nearly a dollar bill! We saw lots of grasshoppers (some that flew), big bumblebees, horse flies (yikes) and dragon flies - some of them were huge! Picture taking was hard as they didn't stay still for long and the wind was just enough to cause the plants to sway. I did get a few shots that I'll try sharing at some point. My blog posting time is cut short right now.

  6. I liked your butterfly review!

    We've had a cooler summer, wet yet dry. We too have had more mosquitoes than last year but not bad enough that I've had to use repellent. I use my own concoctions and a mosquito jacket if necessary. T mosquitoes are on the wane now. Already cooler nights ... 7C early this morning.

  7. Lovely butterflies. And a great place to walk.

  8. Ruth,

    Now I know why the butterflies land in a specific area in my yard after a rain. It is a gravel area. I had put down the fine gravel as a base for stepping stones and just have never got the stones in place. Mmm! I would rather have the butterflies than the stepping stones.

    I am going to get hubby's fountain out today and get it set up. We're way behind time with all the renovations but can still enjoy it for August and September. I love the sound of water and it does draw dragonflies and butterflies.

    I always learn something from your posts. I enjoy coming here. It's balm for the soul.


  9. Evelyn- Thanks!

    Cheryl- The warm rocks slow them down the most. I will have to look up the new butterfly we saw tonight on the weekend.

    Jayne- We have had a lot of creepy things in the house this summer, earwigs and beetles and more spiders than usual. I don't take pictures of them!

    SG- Birds are even more difficult right now with leaves and very high grass. You should see all the blurry shots I throw out. Thanks goodness for digital cameras!

    Ann- The butterflies seem to be appearing in groups. Each week I see several of a new species. I haven't seen a White Admiral in a month.

    Julie- I got a wonderful book called The Butterflies of Canada. As well as having picture sets by butterfly family, there are sets called "roadsides and ditches", "woodland", etc, grouping them geographically and by habitat. I have had trouble using other butterfly guides. Perhaps there is a similar website or book for the US.

    CS- You are getting cooler! We are still in warm, muggy weather. I rarely use mosquito repellent but there are cases of West Nile virus popping up this month and many trails have West Nile warnings. It has been too hot to wear a mosquito jacket, but I think they are very neat.

    NCMW- It is a lovely place to walk and only 5 minutes from home by car.

    Mary- Keep your gravel in the yard or just put in small stepping stones with gravel around them. The fountain will be great too. I have not started mine yet this year.


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