A Toast to the Wild Flowers and Butterflies of Fall

October 01, 2013  •  11 Comments


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.

Red-banded Hairstreak

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.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail



Long-tailed Skipper Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - dark morph Skipper_FlowersSkipper_Flowers Big Bend WMA - Spring Creek Unit

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.

Double_Pine_LilyDouble_Pine_Lily Speculared_Pine_LilySpeculared_Pine_Lily Blazing_Star_FritillaryBlazing_Star_Fritillary Pine_Lily_SkyPine_Lily_Sky Pine_Lily_HighlightsPine_Lily_Highlights

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.

Monarchs_on_CedarMonarchs_on_Cedar Monarch MigrationMonarch Migration Monarchs on GoldenrodMonarchs on Goldenrod MonarchMonarch Butterfly_BlurButterfly_Blur Monarach_Cluster_on_Wax_MyrtleMonarach_Cluster_on_Wax_Myrtle

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...


Fritillary and AssassinFritillary and AssassinFritillary butterfly and assassin bug come face to face on a thistle. Wakulla Co, FL Blanket Flowers and Wood StorksBlanket Flowers and Wood StorksMashes Sands, FL Crystal_&_MonarchCrystal_&_Monarch

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. 


tom morris(non-registered)
Who needs to go to Mexico for monarchs. Here they are, clustered on the vegetation at St Marks. Dont ya just love late summer and fall when the Liatris bloom?
Judye McCalman(non-registered)
Every time I receive an email notice that you have posted another photo blog, I absolutely must stop whatever I'm doing and race to the site. Since I've been traveling, often with no internet access, I'm late seeing this one. As always, though, the beauty is breathtaking, artistically composed, and definitely worth the wait. Thank you, thank you for giving us a glimpse of these gorgeous creatures that we would not otherwise see. I love them all and am looking forward to seeing you and Crystal soon.
Flora J. Allen(non-registered)
Beautiful pictures....
Susan Peacock(non-registered)
What wonderful photographs. Thank you for bringing to us places that some may never visit, sights some may never see and the beauty of the butterfly captured by your creative eye.
God bless you and your work!
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