Saturday, August 18, 2012

Watching Dragonflies...Learning How

Monday mid-afternoon, a hot summer wife and I go to Fort Fizzle to wade in Lolo Creek for the exquisite feeling of cold, rushing water. Brrrr, water is still cool in August! I've got my Canon DSLR camera and Christine has her keen eye on rocks. The action begins, a's a darner zooming by, nice! After several more darner sightings, a smaller, darker dragonfly with emerald eyes blows past. As 'Scooby Do' would say "rut row". Yep, I'm fully engaged with getting a photo of this mystery odonate. The best I could do:
Emerald species
I'm thinking this is a member of the Striped Emerald group, genus Somatochlora. Did not know or think of looking here for this genus of dragonfly. These dragonflies really fly, I mean for extended periods which photographing them challenging. And this could be a species I've never seen before. Choices according to the Dennis Paulson field guide Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West are Ocellated, Ringed, and Hudsonian Emerald (all stream species to a degree). The photo I took does show a diamond shape (if not a photo artifact) on the front of the thorax, indicative of Ringed. However, not getting any sense of white rings on the abdomen. So have gone back two other times this week after work to get a diagnostic photo. No luck. So tomorrow morning will be going to the spot for success. Had a similar challenge with Sedge Darner (Aeshna juncea) at Mud Lake near Skalkaho Pass (east of Hamilton, MT). After the fifth try I captured one in flight:
Sedge Darner
Hey, the fun is in the doing and discovery. 

Other groups of dragonflies are not as difficult at least to photograph. Meadowhawks, genus Sympetrum, are much more cooperative. Check out this video:

I encourage you to investigate your own neighborhood...learn something new and good:-)

Monday, August 13, 2012

'Going Up The Country'...Sort of

Yep, even living in Montana, one needs to leave the city and get away; check out (link above) a 60's band 'Canned Heat' singing the theme via Spotify (timeless message :-). My reason includes wildlife watching. Today, went to State School Trust Land southeast of Stevensville, Montana in hopes of finding loads of skippers nectaring on the flowering sagebrush species in montane sagebrush steppe. Video'd the drive in...try humming Canned Heat as you watch:

Here's a still shot of the habitat:
Montane Sagebrush Steppe

Within minutes of entering sagebrush stand noted Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa) nectaring:
Melissa Blue

Climbing the slope encountered scattered skippers (photo below); all seemed to id out to the 'Branded skipper complex', Hesperia comma/colorado. Can you decide?
Branded Skipper 'complex'

Unexpectedly this beautiful butterfly came into my path, Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus)...only the second time I've seen this insect.
Coral Hairstreak
'Go up the country' in your neck of the woods; there's still good butterflying to be had.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Photographic Miscues of Copper Butterflies

It is a great feeling to go wildlife watching, find the species you are looking for, and then capture a superb photo documenting your sighting experience. After investing in two Canon 'L' lenses of late, 100 mm macro and the 70-300 mm, the results of most of my photographic efforts are pretty great (my take)'s all in the equipment :-) Recently while butterfly watching at Skalkaho Pass (elevation ~7200 feet east of Hamilton, MT), was so intent on photographing a Fritillary (to id, really good photos are necessary), missed getting on quickly one of the most beautiful and distinct lepids that landed just beyond the fritillary...Lustrous Copper (Lycaena cupreus). Here's what I would up with the camera:
Lustrous Copper
The butterfly flew after a brief period; I looked for quite a while never relocating it. A second great  Copper miscue at a different location, I locate a Bronze Copper (Lycaena hyllus) nectaring, which they don't do regularly. I'm clicking away point blank with my Canon T1i; later discover that I had neglected to insert the SD card...NO photos were captured! Being prepared and camera ready is part of success; that serendipity thing plays important role in wildlife watching. Walking the Peterson Lake Trail (Bitterroot National Forest near Florence, MT) came upon several small meadows immediate the trail; several wildflower species were still in bloom among them Sulfur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). 'Euphilotes' Blue butterflies usually key in on this species as a larval foodplant. Yep, no Square spotted Blue butterflies using the buckwheat, just many other Blue butterfly species along with one Blue Copper (Lycaena heteronea)...a lifer! Ready with the camera this time, got many good photos of this particular Copper:
Blue Copper
Much success in finding and photographing something great.