In Quest of a Butterfly

Not any particular butterfly, just a pretty one so that I can take a photo like I have been seeing on other blogs.

Yesterday, I had my chance. While I was drying my hair in the bathroom, what flies by, but a beautiful big Monarch butterfly. The first and only one I saw all summer. I have seen those white cabbage butterflies, but they are not very photogenic and they do not pose well.

So, I drop the hairdryer, run to my office to get the Nikon, run out back, wet hair and all. I spot the Monarch fluttering happily over my Phlox. I fumble with the camera to turn it on, extend the zoom, steady a position, and just when I lower my head to look through the viewfinder, I see a big dark blur flash by my camera.

I look up and my Monarch was gone. The predator, making a beeline to the highest branch with Monarch flapping in beak, was what I think, a House Wren. It was grayish in color, but hard to identify because it went whizzing by so fast.

I waited all summer to see, let alone, get one shot of a butterfly and it was snatched right out from under my lens.

So the hunt begins.

On the blog, Gardening Gone Wild, I was reading a great post called Prairie Delights. There was beautiful images of a prairie, by a poster named Saxon. This gave me an idea to find my Monarch.  Looks like I am not in the city, right?

Saxon gave me some advice on shooting, so I am going to try to improve my photos by shooting my city prairie/meadow/wildflower garden at the end of my street. Really it is an open lot left after a fire took the building to the ground. The property rarely gets mowed, so it is a prime location to find my butterfly. So I think. Not one in sight.

I love the textures you find in this type of landscape, the light and darks, the form of the plants, the unexpected pairings.

A meadow or prairie has such diversity of plants, yet we take so many for granted. This is especially true because many of these plants are the parents of our beloved garden perennials.

They are remarkable products of nature and time. Whether they were in the US in the first place or not, there is beauty in their form. The delicate nature of Queens Anne’s Lace in all stages of bloom or the dainty little daisy below with the multitude of tiny petals make for interesting photos. What would help the photos, would be some wildlife. Talking butterfly, here folks.

The word prairie comes from the French meaning for a meadow grazed by cattle. Bucolic landscapes with grazing herbivores, colorful wild flowers, and pretty butterflies. Well I can pretend when I am there, happily beside the grazing livestock.

Our neighborhood was actually a fruit orchard back in the late 1890´s, but maybe a few cows roamed the area. Meadows are dense with plants, and grazers prefer a smorgasbord.

Optimally, a prairie plant will have two-thirds of its structure under ground to conserve for dry periods. This is also a benefit to the soil structure. As roots decompose they add nutrients to the soil. This helps to keep a vital ecosystem churning and a healthy soil structure underground.

Left to its own devices, a landscape will revert to its natural condition with plants native to the area, unless an invasive species was introduced. Undeveloped land over time is really the only place to see true native growth, but since the time of the first settlers, man has been cultivating plants not native to our corner of the world, so species  survived and flourished which may have not been in the best interest to our native habitat.

This lot I am showing blooms with fall wild flowers out of sheer neglect. Yesterday, I took some images with my Nikon D80 of the diversity of plants, and was planning to shoot this morning. But, with little Nikon 5000 in hand, I made my way to the corner lot.

When I get there, it was mowed. It had not been mowed since our garden walk back in early July, but it was mowed probably after I finished taking pictures yesterday. I guess somebody informed the owner that they were going to get a fine and I was there to get the proof. Poor little wildflower bed. I probably sentenced it to death. But as you read above, not really. The roots are often longer than the plant is high. It will be back, soon too.

There were some survivors, those so low to the ground to avoid the blades of the deck mower. And some were in locations too narrow. Lucky for them, the weedwacker was not there.

I like the textural play of soft and hard, rough and delicate in this image. The bluish tone of the gravel in the morning light and yellow of the daisy complement each other in a subtle way. Complementary colors are opposite and are shown by the purple/ blue in shadow opposite the deepest hue in the yellow daisy. These daisies were all yellow, unlike the white ones above.

Seed heads were breaking all over the property, new offspring awaiting the nurturing rains of next spring. The almost prehistoric form of the pods is absorbing to study. The detail in the form is fascinating.

And on the way home, no butterfly to be found, on a large Norway Maple, was this cute little yellow fungus. Notice the grass blades springing through? Nature is so accommodating and neighborly don’t you think? Only if we could all get along so harmoniously. Take a look at the image of the insects. Talk about harmony.

A big bumblebee, a small lady bug and a colorful mystery bug, all doing their thing on the dying phlox head found in my yard.

BTW. I am looking into what the mystery bug is. I have Cornell Cooperative Extension contacting an entomologist today. This little yellow bug was described by a fellow blogger as a ‘Mondrian Bug’.  Here is the blog site for Garden337http://garden337.wordpress.com/

Go see it for yourself. I think it is the same type of bug, in Michigan and here in Niagara Falls. I was lucky to have all these creatures on one phlox head. The lady bug is just disappearing out of view to the right of the lower flower. If I got the correct bumblebee, it has a shiny butt like Garden337 described as a carpenter bee. This guy was big too.

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About Donna Brok

Love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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