Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One Wonderful Hour in Wildwood

After missing a couple of days in Wildwood, I returned on Monday afternoon, entering at the Main Street entrance. I have learned that I need to get my camera out of its case before I get out of the car so that I don't miss a good photo op. As soon as I got around the gate, I was greeted by a fresh and lovely Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilo glaucus). It fluttered up to the top of a thistle plant that was higher than my head and tip-toed across the flower.


While I was shooting the butterfly, a humming bird almost bumped my nose with its beak - I don't know who was more surprised by that! Eastern Tigers have a wingspan of over four inches, and they are also Virginia's  official state insect.
I moved on around the wetland area and immediately saw a tiny flutter near my boot tops - Virginia's smallest butterfly, a Least Skipper ( Anclyoxypha numitor) was resting on a plant stem.

The tiny wings glow like bright orange sparkles in sunlight and this one even opened its wings to reveal the top side of those wings -  a sight that I had never seen before!

      And another later opened its wings even more. Ah, I saw some orange on the topside, also.

On a nearby leaf of bittersweet nightshade, my camera found an old friend - a Tater Bug (Leptinotarsa juncta) also known as a False Potato Beetle. Its handsome colors make it very photogenic.

Just above the Nighshade on a leaf of the taller Jewelweed , a Variable Dancer (Agria fummipennis) paused long enough for me to get a quick shot. It had a rich purple color in the filtered sunlight.

Moving on across the wetland, I soon spotted my newest favorite butterfly - a Giant Swallowtail (Papilo cresphotes). I really get excited when I see one of those - the wingspan can be as much as 5 1/2 inches. It's easy to see why it is one of the largest butterflies in North America. Until Monday, I hadn't gotten a very good look at those yellow underwings.

Earlier I had seen its rich chocolate brown upper wings and as it fluttered on the swamp milkweed flowers, I could get glimpses of each side all in one lively blur. I could even see the yellow "eye" on the tip of its tail and could hear the soft flap of its huge wings. 

 As I watched, another Giant joined the first, then another, and another - four in all! What an aerial show!
I eventually put my camera aside and just enjoyed the moment. A humming bird - perhaps the one that had almost collided with me - flew through the twirling butterflies, scattering them back to the flowers. I opened my camera again to capture the latest addition to the scene - a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilo troilus).


Butterflies love Swamp Milkweed and so do tiny Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle larvae. While standing very close to a leaf, I saw one of those dear little creatures crawling slowly along a leaf and a stem. Slow crawlers help make good photos. Is that a shy smile that I see?

Just before storm clouds gathered enough to begin a sprinkle of rain and send me home to my husband Lou and the welcome dinner he usually has prepared for me, I reflected on the joyous hour I had spent with the Wildwood visitors and dwellers, and I knew that I could relive it in my mind with the help of my photographs. How privileged I felt...

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