Butterflies Galore

I’m not really an expert on butterflies. But while hiking recently in the Front Range foothills , I saw so many of such varied species that I had to check into them a bit more. All these different butterflies are from just one hike.

Aphrodite fritillaries mating

Aphrodite fritillaries. Yellow-green eyes clinch that these are aphrodites. (Colorado Front Range Butterflies).

Females lay single eggs near violets. Caterpillars do not feed, but overwinter until spring, when they eat young leaves of violets.

Northwestern fritillary

Northwestern fritillary. The eyes of this butterfly are blue-grey and the wings are darker towards the body. Colorado Front Range Butterflies.

These two photos show two species of fritillary butterflies. They tend to be orange with black squiggles.

female Common Wood Nymph-1

Female Common Wood Nymph. The double eye spots are the key to identifying this butterfly. Females are larger and paler than males.

I haven’t found anything talking about this, but every time I saw this female Common Wood Nymph land, she seemed to lay her wings onto the landing surface. In late summer, females lay eggs singly on host plant leaves. Caterpillars hatch but do not feed, instead hibernating until spring. (Butterflies and Moths of North America)

Native bees on Asclepias-13

Dusted skipper butterfly and native bees on milkweed. Although here all the skipper butterfly wings are compressed, they often hold their upper and lower wings a little apart, creating an “X” effect. I am trying to find out more about these very unusual bees.

Skippers are a type of butterfly I had never noticed before I started taking pictures of everything of interest on my hikes.

Taxiles skipper

Taxiles skipper on thistle. You can see his “X” wing configuration here.

Males may defend their territory. (Butterflies and Moths of North America)

I used two websites to learn about butterflies: Butterflies and Moths of North America and Colorado Front Range Butterflies. Both are very cool, but the first has an interactive map where people can post their sightings and photographs of the moths and butterflies they see.

 

Hummers Are Back

Hummingbirds are back!   I was alerted to a hummer at our feeder by a distinctive ringing zip overhead.  All hummers make a buzzing or humming sound that gives the birds their name, but only one hummer makes that metallic zip sound:  A male broad-tailed hummingbird.
A male broad-tailed hummingbird has an iridescent green back and wings with a throat patch (gorget) that is red in the sun, but blackish otherwise.  The green back and the red throat patch are iridescent, which means they have a rainbow effect.  His chest is white.  His broad, rounded tail is reddish, with the two central feathers green.Image
The female broad-tail, like many female birds, is a drab form of its mate.  Her back is iridescent green, her sides streaked with tan, and she is missing the throat patch.
The ringing sound is only made by the male broad-tailed hummingbird because only he has special feathers at his wingtips that vibrate.  The female, like other hummers, makes a humming sound when they fly.  The only other sounds hummingbirds make are “chips” or “tups”; hummingbirds do not sing.
Hummingbirds are an American exclusive.  There are over three hundred species of hummingbirds in North and South America – and none anyplace else.  Most species live in Central and South America.  We have just four species of hummingbirds common to Colorado: The Broad-tailed, the Rufous, the Black-chinned, and the Calliope.
Colorado hummingbirds make a bee-line (or would that be a hummingbird-line?) to the mountains in July, in a rush to claim the best nesting territory.  If you are lucky enough to see them there, watch them closely – you might get to see their elaborate courtship flights in which they fly straight up, then zoom down in a series of loops, trying to impress the ladies and keep away rivals.  Image
Hummingbirds lay two eggs about the size of a jelly bean.  Considering that the momma hummer is the size of about five jelly beans, this is a big egg. Females raise the young by themselves.  In fact, they may hide the nest from the males.
When their young can survive on their own, the hummingbirds come back down from the mountains to head back to Mexico or Central America, where all the Colorado hummers winter.  When the hummingbirds head south, they often stop at my feeder.  Every day it is a new batch and for every one that I see there may be ten that pass by.
Hummingbirds, are of course, tiny.  The ones we have in Colorado are about 4″ or 10 cm long, and weigh about 2-3 grams.  They can move their wings 180 degrees, and beat them 200 times per second, which lets them to fly forward, backward and hover.  This maneuverability allows them to sip nectar from flowers without actually needing to land.  It also means that they have to eat at least half their weight in sugar every day.  Talk about a sugar buzz!

How to Shoot Your Dog…With a Camera

It is that time of year again.  Lyn is looking for photos of your dog for the Pet Therapy Calendar.  Having had less than total success with professional photographers lately, many of you are considering taking the pictures yourselves.
And yet, you hesitate. How can you take a shot that will make it to the coveted centerfold?
As I got ready to take pictures of my dogs, I went to that fount of all knowledge worth knowing and much that isn’t – the Internet.  There I found lots of sites by professional photographers giving hints on how to shot your dog.  They all said the same things:
1. Look at your pet’s personality.  That’s what you want to capture. If they are couch potatoes, you’ll want to shoot them lounging on the couch.  If they are active, take them to the dog park and snap away.

Where she likes to be.

2. Setting. Photograph them where they are comfortable. This is less of an issue with Pet Therapy dogs, because they tend to be comfortable in a wide variety of settings – that’s why they’re Therapy dogs. If there is a place where that has special meaning to you or your dog, try shooting there. But be aware of the background.  If your dog’s special place is the dumpster, that may not make the best background.  You don’t want the background to detract from your amazing dog. Try for something simple and/or colorful.
3. Get in close. Use the zoom setting, if your camera has one.

Needs to be closer.

4. Get on their level. This may mean getting on your knees, or even on your belly. Or you can put them on a chair or bench. This will give people a glimpse of their perspective.
5. Change it up. So long as you’re set up and they are willing, shoot from different positions and angles, and with them doing different things. With digital cameras, it is easy to take lots pictures, which increases your chances of getting a good one.  But remember, save ONLY the VERY BEST.  Otherwise, you end up with thousands (and I mean thousands) of mediocre pictures that you have to wade through every time you want to find the good ones. Be brutal when deleting.
6. Lighting and Settings.  No, no – don’t turn off your brain!  This is easy!
Animals move, so you need lots of light to catch the action.  Sunlight is better. Use a flash inside.

Animals move so you need plenty of light for photos.

But what setting do you use on your camera?! When in doubt, use Auto. It seems like every camera maker uses different symbols, but that Auto is usually a green something, either a rectangle or the word “Auto”.
As you experiment, try some different camera settings. Outside in a lot of light, use the “Kids and Pets” or “Sports” or other action-sounding setting. Then you can get multiple photos by holding down the button.
Inside, you’ll need a flash.  “Portrait” or “Night snapshot” will do the job. Don’t worry about red-eye –it can be edited out.

Used flash.

That’s all you need to know about camera settings and lighting.
7. One more thing that none of the websites talked about. Some dogs get very nervous with that big camera lens staring at them. Alternatively, when I take pictures of my dogs, they want to come to me instead of posing for the camera. To fix both of these problems, I try to have somebody else actually take the picture and for me to be the one getting the dog to react.  Then I have lots of treats handy, and make it fun for them, me and the person working the camera.
Remember these are guidelines – lots of great pictures have broken these “rules”. But they will help you get started with your canine photographic adventures.