September is the month for butterflies in North Florida, so I am told by my avid butterfly-enthusiast friends. Guess that's because it's a good time for the things they love - wildflowers and warm sunny days. Gulf Fritillaries are thick along the Gulf's edge. And the Monarchs are beginning to move toward our coast for their October Gulf crossing. If you go where the flowers are, dozens of species, from the big flamboyant swallowtails to the small subtle skippers, are dancing in the late morning air.
A recent day spent with the Hairstreak Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association during their annual butterfly count left me dazzled by the sheer numbers and variety of these graceful insects. So I thought I'd dedicate this post to these small creatures that delight us humans - from the smallest child to the eldest elder. By the way, "we" -- and I am being presumptuous to include myself as a butterfly counter... I was mostly taking photos -- counted 62 species and over 6200 butterflies in the course of the day at the Spring Creek and Hickory Mound Units of the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area along Florida's Gulf coast. Here's a sample.
Nearer September 1st -- a month ago -- my friend Bob Thompson called to say he'd come across a small cluster of Pine Lilies. Having never photographed this delicate and uncommon wildflower, I joined him the next morning to shoot them along Surf Road in Wakulla County. While butterflies flitted about (mostly drawn to the Blazing Star), I tried to stay focused on the lilies... and the katydid that lived in one of them.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is currently closed due to the shameful shenanigans of some members of Congress and consequential government shutdown. This means, at the very least, that close to a million real people all over the country are suddenly laid off and not getting paychecks that they count on to pay their bills.... my friends who care for St. Marks are among them. Luckily for the monarchs, locked gates and closed doors will not interfere with their gathering on the saltbush and cedars along the shore by the lighthouse to feed and wait for favorable conditions to fly across the Gulf to Mexico. Here are a few of my shots from past years of this phenomenon that we may miss seeing this year.
Naturally, I have a bounty of butterfly-on-wildflower photos I've made over the years. At the risk of overdoing, I'm cautiously adding just a few more to round out this toast to the flowers and butterflies of fall...
Cheers to all of them (and my lovely wife too)! And may we homo sapiens take example and metamorphize into a lighter and more compassionate species.