Wednesday, August 28, 2013


White-lined Sphinx moth feeding on  Rough Blazing Stars.  We photographed this one on the prairie at Lake Louise State Park just outside of LeRoy, Mn. There were many reports of this hummingbird- like moth last year. Not many so far this year.  A cold and wet beginning to summer cut into the number of butterflies and moths this year.  The numbers have increased somewhat now and we are out photographing the wonders of prairie flowers and the insects that need their nectar to thrive.

Bumble bee moth or Clearwing hummingbird moth-both names are commonly used.  When I first spotted this moth in our prairie I did think I was looking at an oversized Bumble Bee-for it was only about 25% larger than some of the Bumbles we had seen. We had not seen one for a few years .  They are very challenging to photograph.

Black  Swallowtail female.  Almost anywhere you find a good supply of flower nectar you can find this butterfly in August.

Black Swallowtail female underside. 

The great fall migration of the Monarchs has just begun.  We will try to get a photo of a "butterfly tree" and post it on the blog when we do.

Great Spangled Fritillary on Purple Coneflower.  Our damp meadows produce many of these each year.

Mourning Cloak on common milkweed flower.  So named because of "dark" color.  TO SEE MORE NATURE PHOTOGRAPHS GO UP AND TO THE RIGHT AND CLICK ON AUGUST 2013 OR ANY OTHER ARCHIVE DESIRED.

Red Admiral on Purple Coneflower.  Red Admiral larvae feed on nettles.  We have many nettles and therefore most years we have a large number of these at our place.  Due to a very cold and wet spring our numbers are down significantly.  The spring hatch of Red Admirals are often about 1/2 inch smaller than the later hatches but this year they are all small in size.

Buckeye butterfly on goldenrod.  Buckeyes do not hatch this far north, but many summers they migrate to Minnesota for the summer.  We have had a fairly good number of them show up this year.

Buckeye butterfly that show the underwing.

Crescent butterfly on goldenrod.  We have several species of the Crescents in our area.

Yellow Sulfur butterfly on Purple Coneflower.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly.  We have a few of this species and they seem to prefer the woodland edges to the prairies.

Large Tiger Swallowtail sipping nectar in our domestic flower garden.

This a female Tiger Swallowtail but rather than being yellow like most Tigers it is the less common dark phase female.  Photographed this one feeding on a cup plant in our small 1 acre prairie.

Male 12-spotted Skimmer dragonfly.

Female 12-spotted Skimmer on bud of blazing star.

White faced Meadowhawk dragonfly. Both the White faced and the Red Meadowhawk are common on our meadows at home.

Male Common Whitetail dragonfly

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Insects and Flowers of the Prairie August 11, 2013

Milkweed bugs on a Swamp Milkweed flower. 

Prairie Blazing Stars can grow up to 5 feet tall.  They are great at attracting bees and butterflies.  When we find these in the wild, we know we are looking at prairie remnant.

This clump of Prairie Blazing Stars was in a wet ditch that is full of high quality prairie flowers.  Unfortunately, the ditch is never burned and woody bushes and trees are starting to take it over. 

Blue Vervain.

Late nesting Robin's nest in a prairie ditch.

What a great grasshopper clinging to the stalk of a Vervain flower.  An insect that appears as summer lengthens, it is an interesting creature.

Big Bluestem is synonomous with the tallgrass prairie.   Go up and to the right and Click on August 2013 to see more pictures of prairie flowers and insects.

This is a close-up of the Big Bluestem blooming.  Growing 3-6 feet tall and sometimes taller, imagine the thousands of acres of tall grass prairie that once covered this land.

Purple Coneflowers.  Blooming now.  This plant is often used in cultivated gardens as well as being found in many newly established prairies.  This Purple Coneflower is not native the the prairies of our area, but a close relative the Pale Purple Coneflower is.

This is just a small snippet of a prairie planted by a retired farmer that we know.  Located in the Cherry Grove area, this piece is about 40-60 acres of beautiful flowers and grasses.   It supports all kinds of birds, bees, butterflies, and mammals.  A little treasure.

This sweat bee is getting pollen off of this Gray-headed Coneflower.  These are some of the most common summer "ditch flowers".

White Sage will bloom from summer to fall.  It can be found in road ditches, prairie remnants and old pastures.  It definetly has a sage smell to it.

The Rough Blazing Stars are blooming now.  The Monarch butterflies seem to love this flower. 

The Compass Plants are in full bloom now.  These two were blooming along the bike trail west of Lake Louise State Park.


Eastern Tailed Blue.  A small butterfly of grasslands.  They seldom sit with their wings open, making them hard to photograph.

A butterfly which prefers more of a woodsy environment, this Mourning Cloak was enjoying the flowers on our prairie. 

Black Swallow Tail female on common milkweed plant.  It is August and we always expect to see this beautiful butterfly. 

Black Swallow Tail female viewed from the underside.

Red Admiral butterfly.   Last year we had hundreds of these beautiful butterflies and this year just a few have appeared.   Perhaps last year's drought and the hard winter took their toll.

This Killdeer was one of a brood  which was reared along our driveway.  Baby Killdeer are precocial.  They can run from the time of hatching.  They are really cute when they are so tiny, running along on their little legs.  The bird pictured above is an almost full-grown juvenile.  Killdeer are quite common in our area. 

A friend of ours wanted us to look at a prairie remnant in a ditch next to land he was farming.  While doing this I heard a bird I knew I hadn't heard in a long time.  It turned out to be an Upland Sandpiper.  This is a bird that was once very common on the prairies of SE Minnesota, but is now in significant decline due to the lack of good grassland habitat.  The Upland Sandpiper is slightly larger than a Killdeer.  It was a treat to see and hear this bird again.  The ditch was a high quality prairie remnant with prairie flowers such as the Compass Plant and Prairie Blazing Star.  I suspect this is why the Upland Sandpiper was there. 

The Upland Sandpiper shares similar habitat to the Killdeer, but this is only the second Upland Sandpiper we have seen in our area in the last ten years. 

After a long day of chasing down birds, butterflies, and flowers I got my final picture of the day of this little guy just as he decided to chase me back to my car.