Naturalist’s Notes and Observations – 08JUN2021 – Monarch Butterflies

Today I had a good chance to see what monarch butterfly egg laying looks like.  Apparently it’s pretty inconspicuous.  I saw the first monarch flying around the yard today and since we’ve had a bumper crop of milkweed it made a bee-line for the plants.  What I observed was the butterfly scraping the back of its abdomen over the leaf.  After just a few seconds it moved on to another plant and then another.  Apparently it’s a very casual activity and there’s no long drawn out procedure.  And I expected see many eggs but what I observed was just one or two on the leaves I observed.  I’ll make further observations and I hope to see more of this activity to determine if what I observed is representative of this activity in the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.

 

As an aside today I observed a fairly large swallowtail caterpillar feeding in the garden on Queen Anne’s Lace.  And the fact that we already have moved to the caterpillar stage with swallowtails matches up to the much earlier sighting of the swallowtail butterflies in the yard almost a month ago.

Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens on Sony A7 III

The Rhyme of the Ancient Butterfly Photographer

This summer has been an unmitigated failure as a butterfly photographing season.  Whenever I’ve gone out with my macro lens and monopod the butterflies have been non-existent.  I think I’ve gotten a half dozen shots of a monarch or two.  But other than that it’s been the tiny butterflies or nothing.

So today at about 4pm I went out without my camera just to get a snootful of air and wandering by a garden that was in the afternoon shade I see this tiger swallowtail in perfect condition.  The wings are vividly colored and there are no tatters at all.  And maybe because it’s in the shade it’s completely unconcerned with my presence.  Usually butterflies constantly scan their surroundings and reposition to avoid threats or even leave suddenly if they feel threatened.  This one is unphased by my presence and I’m standing there behind it looking at the perfect shot of the flat open wings, without a camera!

I head back to the house mumbling and swearing about my lousy luck and I grab my rig and head back out.  And it’s still there.  But sure enough, as soon as I get into range it takes off.  More grumbling and swearing.  Now we’re in the more typical situation with the butterfly playing ring around the rosy with me, always keeping a flower between me and it.  Well, I had had enough.  Instead of my usual magnified view trying to get the perfect focus I set the autofocus to continuous and the trigger mode to multiple-hi speed and I machine gunned my way through hundreds of files while I actively chased that stupid insect around the yard.

Was I successful?  We’ll see.  But it was satisfying to use modern technology to defeat the annoying strategies of a creature whose brain is about the size of a poppy seed.

“That’s one small step for a man.  One giant leap for mankind.”

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”

Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens on Sony A7 III