Cabbage White Butterfly

In a recent post, White Butterflies Hiding in a Hay Field, I wasn’t able to actually get a photo of the White Butterflies. They never came to rest long enough, or if they did stop, it was on the low growing flowers that I couldn’t see! This week the butterflies were feeding on some flowers that were easily visible, so I finally got to capture their image. They are very skittish butterflies, however, and I had to stand well back and use a zoom lens.

Alberta Canada

These are Cabbage White Butterflies. They are described as being white butterflies with black dots on their upper wings. Their underwings can be various shades of yellow. The dots on these particular butterflies look more brown than charcoal, for some reason…

Alberta Canada

The Cabbage butterfly was introduced to Quebec, Canada, from Europe in the 1860’s and has since spread throughout the continent.

Alberta Canada

While they are a delight to watch, especially if there are a lot of them fluttering through your yard, their caterpillars are the bane of gardeners – they eat members of the mustard family and this includes cabbages, broccoli, brussels sprout and cauliflower.

Bug Bits
Common Name: Small Cabbage White Butterfly
Scientific Name: Pieris rapae
Native to: It was originally only in Europe. It was accidentally introduced into China (in 1989), North America (in 1860), Australia (in 1937) and New Zealand (in 1930)
Date Seen:  September 2011, August and September, 2017
Location: North East of Calgary, Alberta
Notes: These butterflies have a dark body with white wings. The upper wings have a charcoal to black band at the tip and a dark spot in the center of each upper wing. Males have one spot on each wing and females have two. Adult butterflies feed on flower nectar from a very wide array of plants including mustards, dandelion, red clover, asters, and mints.

Alberta Canada

This cabbage white, from 2011, is more distinctively black and white. Note how ragged the wings are getting!

Cooper’s Hawk near Calgary, Alberta

Alberta bird head

It has been a busy summer in the mixed Aspen/Willow/Spruce forest of our acreage community north of Calgary, Alberta. In our section of the forest alone, the Great Horned Owl, Magpie, and Crow have all nested and produced young. The ‘new bird in town’, though was the Cooper’s Hawk. I encountered this one when I was walking along the edge of a grove of Aspen on July 23rd.

It flew from tree to tree in a large circle, scolding me as it flew. Another bird was chirping at the hawk (which is what had attracted me to that corner of our property in the first place.) You can hear them both in this audio:

The female adult Cooper’s Hawk is about the size of a crow. Males can be much smaller – about the size of the birds that a Cooper’s Hawk preys on…

On July 31, I saw the Cooper’s Hawk fledgling.

What a mixture of disheveled youth and fierce raptor! Bits of fluffy down still poke out from under serious feathers – the beak and talons are the tools of a soon to be deadly predator.

On August 11th, a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk landed on the fence at the back of the property. A few hours later, I found a juvenile in the Aspen woods. I’m assuming this is the same bird as the fledgling in the previous photos.

Note the yellow eyes and the brown ‘drips’ or tear-drops on the white chest and abdomen.

The Feather Files
Name: Accipiter cooperii
Alias: Cooper’s Hawk
Migration: The Cooper’s hawk is a short to medium-distance migrant. They summer and breed in southern Canada, and throughout most of the United States. They winter in the southern US, with some birds migrating as far south as Mexico and Honduras.
Date Seen: July to August, 2017
Location: A half hour (in car riding time) north east of Calgary, Alberta.

Cooper’s Hawks capture prey from cover or while flying quickly through dense vegetation. Adult birds have short, broad wings and long tails for navigating through these woodlands and thickets. They eat mainly medium sized birds, but also hunt chipmunks, hares, mice, squirrels, and bats.

Their hunting style is dangerous – studies found that many of these hawks had healed fractures in the bones of the chest.

White Butterflies Hiding in the Hay Field

There is a hay field across the road from us. I love taking photos when it is full of big round bales, especially when the hawks sit on them. This spring, the farmer planted new things in the field. I haven’t figured out what all the plants are yet, but the field is absolutely beautiful! For the past few days, it has attracted masses of white butterflies. I tried to get some photos of them…

but the butterflies moved too fast! I was very satisfied, though, that I had captured the layers of blue green, bright green, shades of pink/purple, and splashes of yellow.

I decided to try an HDR technique to add more “dynamic range” (the ratio of light to dark) to the photo. I used a program called Topaz Studio and applied one of their filters to add the increased depth I was looking for. (Have you test driven Topaz Studio yet?)

Then I tried another filter – the field rendered as a drawing!

Back in GIMP (my standard editing program) I cropped the photo into a square, and applied the Darla Amazing Circle filter.

If you do the best work you can, the reward is ultimately your self-satisfaction – the sense that you have done the best you can. And then there’s that piece of how others respond.
– Jerry Pinkney –

Does the positive response of others make you feel even more satisfied with your efforts?

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Satisfaction.

Violas and Fritillary Butterflies

Bridging the Knowledge Gap:

I was weeding and deadheading a few days ago, and was surprised to find my viola/pansy crop consisted of mostly bare stalks. Odd. When I looked closer, I could see that the few remaining leaves were well chewed.

I didn’t give the sorry state of the Viola family much more thought.

Yesterday I was patrolling the yard with my camera, looking for birds, blooms and bugs. I ‘caught’ the House Wren feeding it’s young, a blue dragonfly, various flowers and seeds, and a spotted orange butterfly.
Alberta, Canada

The Butterfly was a new find for me, (or so I thought). I looked it up on the Internet, and decided it was a Fritillary Butterfly. Determining which Fritillary (Atlantis, Callippe, Edward’s, Great Spangled, Meadow or Mormon) was too fine a distinction for my ID skills! The important piece of information, though, is that the Fritillary Caterpillar eats members of the Violet family. That probably explains the decimation of my Viola and Pansy plants.

Alberta, Canada I also learned that the top and bottom of butterfly wings will have different patterns. The underside (bottom) of the Fritillary Butterfly wing is what I had photographed and been looking for on the internet.

The top of the wings is a bit different. I went to my photo files of Butterflies, and realized that I had already photographed a Fritillary Butterfly, but had only seen the top of it’s wings.

My two butterfly ‘finds’ were actually members of the same family. Another Knowledge Gap bridged!

The interesting thing is, in normal circumstances, I would not have photographed the chewed up Violas.Their role in the life cycle of the Fritillary Butterfly would have been lost to me. A small, but important piece of information bridged that gap, and that made all the difference.

The Flutter Files
Scientific Name: Argynninae
Alias: Greater Fritillary Butterfly
Date Seen: July 7, 2017 and August 8, 2016
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta

What big connections have you made when you found a small, but important ‘bridge’ piece of information?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Bridge.

Easily Overlooked – Blue-Eyed Grass

With tiny flowers only 1/4 inch (6mm) wide, that only open in the morning, it is easy to see why I’ve only found Blue-Eyed Grass in my Alberta yard on three occasions.

Alberta
Blue-Eyed Grass Flower

This time my transient wild flower popped up in a bed close to the garage. I just happened to pass the bed in the morning, when it was in full bloom. The flower closes tight in the afternoon, and that makes the plant almost invisible among the other grasses.

Alberta
Blue-Eyed Grass – closed flowers and beginning of seed formation
Alberta
Blue-Eyed Grass – seeds forming

Plant Profile
Common Name: Blue-Eyed Grass
Scientific Name: Sisyrinchium montanum
Native to: A perennial that grows in open meadows all across Canada; Midwestern and North Eastern U.S.A.
Growth: Loves full sun and medium to moist soil, but is drought tolerant, can grow in shady areas and is extremely resilient. Grows 10-50 cm tall.
Blooms: Purpley-blue star shaped flowers with yellow eyes; blooms from May to July.The flowers open early in the morning and close by midday
Comment: The grass like leaves are a reminder that this plant is a member of the Iris family.

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Transient.

Post 113

On Going Unnoticed – Striped Coralroot Orchid

I thought I had met most of the residents of my forest (north of Calgary, Alberta) – I’ve been tromping along it’s paths looking at plants and birds and bugs for 26 years! But in early June, I discovered a ‘new to me’ plant – a Striped Coralroot Orchid. I don’t know how long this tiny 13 cm (5 inch) plant has lived here – perhaps for years, or maybe it is a fairly new arrival!

Robert Frosts poem, On Going Unnoticed, exactly captured my thoughts as I looked down on the small clump of beautiful pinky-red flowers – they “… look up small from the forest’s feet“. If I hadn’t been walking in that area at the same moment that a small shaft of sunlight briefly illuminated the tiny plants, I would probably never have found them.

Alberta pink

Alberta pink

Alberta pink

Alberta pink macro

Plant Profile
Common Name: Striped Coralroot Orchid
Scientific Name: Corallorhiza striata
Native to: Found in shaded forests and wooded areas across southern Canada and the western and central United States
Growth: Coralroot is a member of the orchid family, with underground rhizomatous stems that resemble coral. It is a non-photosynthetic plant with leaves that are little more than scales on the stems. The Coralroot Orchid in my yard is almost 5 inches tall.
Blooms: It produces a mass of yellowish pink to red flowers, with several darker purple veins giving the appearance of stripes. In my yard, it bloomed in early June.
Comment: The plants get nourishment from dead leaf matter by being parasites of fungi in the soil.

Post 112

The Polar Coordinate Filter – Lady’s Slipper Orchid

A Digital Marble (Amazing Circle) made from a photo of a Lady’s Slipper Orchid.

For my other stories about this orchid see:

Surprise in the Ditch and  Orchid Mimics the Old Masters