Monarch butterfly perched on a cluster of pink wildflowers

One Saturday in September, Bhavna and I attended a guided nature walk at the Duke Farms in Hillsborough

Over the summer, I was pretty manic with my photography. From looking at my Adobe Lightroom catalogue, I made almost 2000 photographs between May and September. I shared some of these on this blog and social media.

This behaviour is normal for me. I get these bursts of creative excitement that then fade. As I post this entry, it's the last week of December, but a quick look at the Adobe Lightroom catalogue shows that I have taken only 500 photos since the beginning of October.

Perhaps because I was overwhelmed with the quantity, most of them needed to be processed. I am rediscovering them as I prepare for my Best of The Year post for 2023.

One Saturday in September, Bhavna and I attended a guided nature walk at the Duke Farms in Hillsborough. On this Summer Wildflower Walk, our guide took us around the Duke Farms, teaching us about the basics of flowering plant identification and the ecological connections that tie these plants to the meadows and woodlands they grace.

Early September was near the beginning of the fall migration of the Monarch butterflies back to their native homes in South America. Near the end of the tour, we explored a large meadow, and I was lucky enough to photograph this sole Monarch butterfly. The flowers on which the butterfly rests have fine, spiky petals, suggesting they might be a variety of wild aster, a common nectar source for Monarchs.

Invasive Beauty

Cabbage White butterflies, originally from Europe, accidentally arrived in North America in 1860 and have since thrived without causing direct harm to plants.

Many insects fly around the flowers in the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve meadow. I saw different butterflies, including the Pearl Crescent Butterfly. They were not cooperative with my efforts to make portraits.

I also noticed many Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae) gracefully fluttering in the meadow. This butterfly, known as the small white in Europe, has a rather interesting backstory. The Pieris rapae butterfly, initially from Europe, accidentally found its way to North America, arriving via Quebec in 1860. Since then, this invasive butterfly has become familiar, thriving in regions extending from central Canada and the United States to northwest Mexico.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) · Wednesday 12 July 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

The Cabbage White butterfly is attracted to plants like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Its larvae have a distinct behaviour of creating circular perforations in the leaves, often affecting the outer leaves of these plants. This feeding habit can lead to visible damage, as the excrement produced by the larvae can cause discolouration of the plant heads. However, the adult Cabbage White butterflies do not contribute to any direct harm to plants. They peacefully go about their business without causing any damage.

In the Company of the Pearl Crescent Butterfly

I love watching butterflies flutter through a meadow.

I was lucky to come across Sherry Felix's blog post, which helped me identify the butterfly I photographed as a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) butterfly. Thanks, Sherry!

The Pearl Crescent butterfly, found all across North America except the West Coast, inhabits open spaces like fields and pine woods. It sports orange uppersides with black borders and marks, while the underside of its hindwing showcases a dark marginal patch with a light crescent.

These butterflies sustain themselves on nectar from flowers like dogbane and aster. Female Pearl Crescents meticulously place their eggs on aster leaves, and the caterpillars, which also feed on asters, go through winter in their caterpillar stage. The flight period spans from April to November featuring three broods.

Right after emerging, Pearl Crescents often gather near puddles before dispersing into fields to drink nectar and mate. I photographed this butterfly in the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve meadow.