09 June 2012
A battered Buckeye says "YOLO"
I recently sat down at the computer for a blogging session, and after my first post I encountered an essay about the overuse of the phrase "YOLO" in social media. At that moment I looked away from the computer and saw that it was a gloriously beautiful Midwestern day, so I logged off and went for a walk.
My destination was the Prairie Moraine Park, a 160-acre preserve near Madison subdivided for parallel use by human hikers and free-running dogs. I walked a 1.5-mile loop without encountering another human - not bad for a site so near to a major metropolitan area.
The first butterfly to greet me was the battered Common Buckeye above, an uncommon-but-not-rare visitor to our state. This fellow appears to be in the late stages of a challenging life; the colors are starting to fade and flake off from his wings, and he has several notches where the beaks of birds have managed to take away only part of his wings.
Fresh specimens of this species have much brighter coloration on the dorsum of their wings, as shown by this copulating pair I photographed last year (the underside is more camouflaged, with the prominent eyespots hidden).
As I turned a corner of the trail further on, this magnificent oak came into view:
I'm no judge of the age of trees, but the girth of the trunk at my waist level was such that it would take four adults to reach around it, so it must be several hundred years old.
It seems to me that an appreciation of trees doesn't come until one reaches adulthood - perhaps older adulthood. As a youngster, one's attention re the natural world is drawn toward insects and flowers and agates and shells on the beach, but trees are just part of the background. It's when you get older that your attention gets drawn to the magnificence of trees.
There were more butterflies that afternoon - about ten species all told, most of whom were moving quickly seeking mates and nectar and not willing to sit for a portrait. I finally tracked a brilliant orange fritillary to her resting place on the margin of the woods -
Fritillaries are hard for me to tell apart in the field. This photo showed the "wide, light band" (arrow) on the underside of the hindwing that identifies this one as a Great Spangled Fritillary.
There will be more of these halcyon days this summer, when the lure of hiking (and the demands of more prosaic activities like repainting the deck) will draw me away from the blog. Old-timers here know to scale back the frequency of visits to TYWKIWDBI in midsummer.