I Got the Blues (Or the Azures)

It’s very, very hard to be dignified while chasing a tiny butterfly around the forest floor with your camera, but it’s worth it when the butterfly finally gives in and poses for photographs.

(The second photo shows the detail better, but I like the light shining through the edges of the wings in the first one.)

I hadn’t seen a blue butterfly with a central dark spot in the hindwing like this before, so I thought it might be something new, but it turns out it’s another variant of the very common Spring Azure – actually the very first butterfly that I actually got a live photograph of. It’s a bit early for these guys to be out, but with last week’s unusual warm weather I guess it doesn’t surprise me that they’re ahead of schedule. Regardless, it’s always a treat to see the woods enlivened with these tiny fluttering patches of blue. I love their zebra-striped antennae.

Special bonus photo… check out the cheeks on this greedyguts who’s been raiding our birdfeeders!

Stalking the Wild Hairstreak!

Okay, Lepidoptera lovers.  You win.  It’s official.  I’m hooked on butterflies.  Great, just what I need, another field guide to buy.

Late this afternoon I (finally) went out for a walk by myself, camera in hand.  There have been a ton of butterflies around lately, very few of which I can identify by sight, but my interest in them has been growing ever since I photographed a few butterfly corpses back in April.  A tiny blue one landed on the gravel road in front of me, and I dropped to my knees and started trying to creep close enough to it to get a decent photo.

Now, I’d been seeing these little blue butterflies everywhere lately without knowing what they were, and I’d also been reading about hairstreaks on other blogs, but I simply had not made a connection between the two until I got close enough to this critter to see the black-and-white zebra stripes on its antennae and legs.  A switch was flipped in my brain.  Oh my goodness!  I know this one!  It’s some kind of hairstreak!

Tell me that isn’t the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen.  My first decent photo of a live butterfly!  I can’t deny it any longer.  I’m hooked.

I haven’t yet been able to figure out what specific hairstreak species this is, but I’ve posted the photo to BugGuide, and if someone else comes up with an ID for it I’ll add it here.  There were also Red Admirals and Question Marks fluttering about, but they wouldn’t pose nicely the way the hairstreak did.  I have to love any animal named after punctuation – a pair of Question Marks swirled around me for quite a while, sometimes so close they brushed against my head, occasionally landing in a patch of light on the shade-dappled path and turning to orient their wings toward the late-afternoon sun.

Butterflies weren’t the only interesting insects I found on my walk, either – here’s a bonus photo of a large unidentified black stink bug, whose orange-tipped antennae caught my eye.

UPDATE: The helpful folks at BugGuide identified my so-called stink bug as a species of leaf-footed bug, Acanthocephala terminalis.  (Hey, at least I had the order right!)  The gentleman who ID’d it also pointed out the white dot on its head as the egg of a tachinid fly, meaning this guy is eventually going to be eaten alive, from the inside out, by a fly larva.  Nature is so cool!

UPDATE THE SECOND: See the comments below for the identification of the butterfly… which is actually not a hairstreak at all.  Well, at least I’m learning!