Stalking The Elusive…

Be vewy quiet…

We’re hunting wabbits butterflies. (My apologies to Mel Blanc and friends.*)

Never have so many been seen at one time, they are all on the same bush as well, Buddleia davidii ‘Potter’s Purple’.

Eastern tiger swallowtails and a little hummingbird moth, just above the black phase swallowtail in the above shot and at the lower left corner in the one preceeding, flit and flutter as they sip sweet nectar from the purple blooms.

But it is not with spear and magic helmet we hunt, it is with the camera with the 20x zoom, the Canon SX1 IS. It has been gleaned from experience that to best use the high powered zoom, we must stand about fifteen feet from the subject. The garage deck is situated perfectly to look down upon the populated bush with the added bonus of being able to rest the elbows on the railing for steadiness.

This is not satisfactory. The group shot of at least a half dozen flutterbys cannot be had. They are too far apart from one another.

Maybe a nice flower shot will fool the creatures into thinking I am not interested in them at the least. Yellow is the color of the season as seen in the Rudbeckias, R. fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ forming a nice fuzzy backdrop for R. subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’.

Let us see if the macro magic of the Canon A720 IS suits the situation better. We are not alone in our stalking it appears.

The usual problems surface. Although the sky is overcast, looking upward from a crouched and semi-hidden position at the base of the butterfly bush results in too dark an image against the brightness of the sky. You can’t even see that there is a second butterfly just to the right and below, a dark phase female disappears in the shot. Rats.

It is simply no use. The conditions could not be any better. It is hot, over ninety degrees Fahrenheit, there is not a trace of wind, the air is heavy with humidity, slowing down the flight. I am standing below a bush filled with butterflies and cannot get a decent shot. We are looking for wings, not backsides and private parts. All blooms are well over my head.

We move a few feet over to the ferngully area that is abloom in Joe Pye, Eupatorium purpureum subsp. maculatum ‘Gateway’, backed by Rudbeckia lanciniata. Standing on the concrete block edging gives just enough height to this vertically challenged paparazzi to be able to reach into the floral phantasmagoria and click. A Buckeye joins the Tiger in the feasting.

Ah, a fluttering past my ear is felt, so close that the breeze created by gossamer wings gently poufs the wisps of escaped silver strands from the upswept do held by the large jaw hair clippie. Don’t move a muscle. Stop breathing. Don’t fall off the block. Ever so slowly, raise the camera, finger on the shutter. He is so close, right at eye level, we could bend over to kiss the silken head. Click. Closer, click. Closer still, click. That is all he will allow and off those magical wings take him (or her). The last photo taken is shown above. Never before has this opportunity presented itself, and perhaps it never will again. A better photographer, one who actually knows about settings and such could have done a better job, without a doubt. We are humble point and shoot on auto in macro mode. We wait for gifts like this to occur and rejoice when they do.


*The opening lines of the brilliant cartoon made by Chuck Jones featuring Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny, “What’s Opera, Doc”, voiced by the genius Mel Blanc. It was repackaged with other cartoons as part of a new story featuring a stage, audience and a pesky fly. It is, or was for sale to the public as Bugs Bunny’s Overtures To Disaster. I own this on VHS. Click here to view it. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore.


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31 Responses to Stalking The Elusive…

  1. gittan says:

    Simply Beautiful!

    Hi Gittan, thanks so much,

  2. Carol says:

    I’m trying to stalk gold finches, there are so many of them right now. I’ll take a few tips from you… be vewy quiet!

    Hi Carol, thanks for visiting. For the goldfinches, the only way I can get an image is from inside the house with the zoom. I planted their favorite plants right outside the window for that purpose. They are so skittish, good luck. Maybe if you sit under a table or something and remain motionless, hard to do in this heat! But being vewy quiet is a must. πŸ™‚

  3. Les says:

    Your butterflies are beautiful, but I really appreciate your channeling of Mel Blanc. I attribute part of my world view and attitude to hours spent watching these cartoons growing up, and I still enjoy them.

    Thanks Les. I believe there are a few of us who could claim those cartoons as the source for our world view! They were brilliant. What will the youth of today claim as the source of theirs, I wonder?

  4. gardeningasylum says:

    Congratulations on your patience in capturing those elusive beauties.

    Thanks Cyndy, perserverance paid off. πŸ™‚

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This shows that patience pays off. Beautiful photo Frances.

    Thanks Lisa. It did that day, I was lucky. πŸ™‚

  6. Liz says:


    Oh – if only we had such amazing Butterflies here. The Swallowtails are just too rare here…

    Wonderful photos, hunting Butterflies is a regular job of mine at the moment, most evening are spent doing just that! πŸ™‚

    Hi Liz, thanks. We are lucky to have such beautiful creatures visit the garden. We offer the larval food of carrot family plants like bronze fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, parsley, dill, just for the catts of these butterflies. They can eat all they want! Watching the butterflies this year has been a pleasure. We had hardly any last year and it was sad.

  7. John says:

    Funny, as I read your post this morning I could actually see you moving around trying to get the good shots. You started my day with a smile. thanks

    Hi John, what a sweet thing to say, thank you. Smiles are wonderful things, as wonderful as butterflies. πŸ™‚

  8. Jen says:

    Beautiful shots! So nice to see someone else who spends as much time as I do enjoying, pondering and photographing nature at home. Some moments are simply meant to be ours alone and not Kodak moments. Thanks for sharing.

    Hi Jen, thanks. The garden is for the humans and the wildlife it brings. What better way to spend our time? πŸ™‚

  9. Barbara H. says:

    Ha, Frances, you are too funny. As I was moving down the post, I thought “Hmmm, these look like magnificent failures” as you lamented all the obstacles preventing what you felt would be “the” shot. Then I reached the last one. Absolutely splendid! I give thanks all the time for the gifts of “auto”, who can be very generous when stalking good pictures.

    Hi Barbara, thanks. I was frustrated by not being able to take a long shot of the entire bush with all the butterflies. It was too sunny and they just didn’t show up well. Zooming in would only show three at the most. I had to settle for the portrait of one. πŸ™‚

  10. Leslie says:

    Thanks for having the patience to keep trying…that is a lovely shot at the end. As well as several in the middle…love the Rudbeckias.

    Hi Leslie, thanks for stopping by. I am glad you liked the flowers too, even though the butterflies were the stars of thiss post. πŸ™‚

  11. What a treat to have a flock of butterflies! It’s like the butterflies know that their yellow coloring looks great with the purple.

    HI MMD, thanks. It was a lucky day, and this season so far has been way better than last year for the butterflies of all types. I haven’t seen any catts on the fennel yet though, but they must be around here somewhere, for there are more swallowtails every day. Potter’s Purple is the strongest and prettiest of our budds. I wonder why it isn’t promoted like some of the other cultivars?

  12. Town Mouse says:

    Great shot! I’m always amazed at any photo with a butterfly or dragonfly on it, but a better zoom is probably a step in the right direction…


    Hi Town Mouse, thanks so much. The zoom is good for birds, it seems, but the non zoom old camera on macro is better for butterflies since they don’t sit still for a second! I can’t even get close to the dragonflies this year, even though they are about. Luck is everything with my shots. πŸ™‚

  13. Frances, I have always had the same problem trying to photograph butterflies on my Buddleia davidii. They always seem to visit it during the worst light of the day — either too bright or too dark. And lately I’ve had huge bumblebees on it, always when I’m without the camera. Alas, I guess I’ll have to go in “hunting” mode, too!

    Hi Meredith, thanks for adding to the conversation. I know the butterflies like to be in the warm sunshine, difficult to get a good shot in glaring light. Having the camera at the ready is a whole other problem. lol πŸ™‚

  14. Absolutely beautiful garden! I love your butterfly photographs! πŸ™‚

    Hi Priscilla, thanks for that. I am glad you enjoyed the butterflies today. πŸ™‚

  15. I may be nuts, but my favorite of these photos is the one where the butterfly is silhouetted against the sky and the colors are muted but the patterning is there.
    We have some that look just like that, but without the swallowtail. Any idea what it is called?

    Hi Ricki, thanks, you are not nuts at all! I looked in my butterfly book and did not see any large yellows with those type of tiger markings. You might check online for your area to get a better idea of what you have. They sound lovely! πŸ™‚

  16. Jenny B says:

    Beautiful–just beautiful!

    Hi Jenny, thanks. I am glad you found the butterfly shots to your liking. πŸ™‚

  17. Lona says:

    Hi Frances. (I am whispering)
    Your shots are so beautiful and I am glad you were able to sneak up quietly on those butterflies. They do love your bush and Joe Pye. I do not think my little bush will ever grow up. I think it is a whopping 12 inches now. LOL! I may just give up and buy one already grown next summer LOL!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Hi Lona, thanks for joining into the right attitude! I hope you butterfly bush grows up someday too! Some varieties are dwarf though. You might want to buy a nice large specimen for next year. I would. You too have a great weekend. πŸ™‚

  18. You did good Frances. They are so hard to catch especially the swallowtails. I think they are in constant motion which makes it nearly impossible. I loved this post and your beautiful pictures.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks so much. I loved your post about attracting these fascinating creatures. Lots of good info there! πŸ™‚

  19. Hi Frances, As I told Dee… we are all into butterflies today… with such different takes… it is great fun. I love the shot of the two Tigers one underside and the other upper. Your last photo is absolutely stunning. You have such a great sense of humor too. I think I am about to be hunting those wabbits! They have way overeaten their welcome here! I enjoyed your post! ;>))

    Hi Carol, thanks for joining in. Those wabbits can eat too much in the garden here as well. We have put chicken wire and fencing around some things to protect them. Unsightly, but it works until they are large enough to be above chewing level. πŸ™‚

  20. ellada says:

    I love butterfly, every morning I look for them in my garden.

    Me too, Ellada. Butterflies are an artful addition to the summer gardens. πŸ™‚

  21. commonweeder says:

    Your photos are beautiful as always. They make me realize once again, that I have not even had swallowtail caterpillars eating my dill this year, and I saw my first and only monarch yesterday. What is going on in our area?

    Hi Pat, thanks for that. We haven’t seen the catts yet, but I know they must be around here somewhere. I have seen one monarch, but we rarely see very many of those, and not until later as they migrate down from Canada in September and October. We try and something for them to eat then, mostly asters and goldenrod. Hope you get some soon!

  22. Rose says:

    It’s so difficult to capture these flighty creatures, but you have done an excellent job, Frances–such beautiful photos! This has been a banner year for butterflies, and I’ve tried, too, to get one shot of the whole group fluttering about with no luck. But what is that strange creature with the crab-like claws on the tree?? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these here in Illinois.

    My son has a Bugs Bunny collection of VHS tapes, too; cartoons today just aren’t the same.

    Hi Rose, thanks. We are so happy you are having a good turnout there as well. I don’t know the bug on the trunk of the Potter’s Purple. Maybe an Assassin bug of some kind? Your son is a smart fellow. Hope he has a VHS player too. We don’t! But need to get one, for the many tapes of the kids on that format.

  23. steve says:

    LOL, hearing you having trouble capturing pictures then seeing what you produce makes me wonder……..LOL. Those are wonderful pictures.

    Hi Steve, thanks. What is shown are the best shots out of hundreds. You wouldn’t want to see those less than stellar ones and I don’t want to waste space on wordpress loading them! HA πŸ™‚

  24. Patsi says:

    That was fun ! Nice to see your garden friends.

    Thanks Patsi, glad you enjoyed the visits. πŸ™‚

  25. Grace says:

    Hi Frances~~ At first I thought your title read “staking” the elusive and that you were going to write about elusive forms of staking especially with that first photo and the sticks behind the grass inflorescenses. Interesting what one letter can do isn’t it? I’m noticing more western Swallowtails this year and even though I’m not nearly as intrepid as Mr. Thud, I did catch a few photos of them. I’ve yet to see them on the Eupatorium though. I hope they’ll take advantage of it.

    Nice “shots.” ‘Henry Eilers’ is a beaut.

    Elusive staking, good one, Grace! lol It is good to hear that you have more swallowtails as well and were able to snap them. Ours prefer the Buddleia, but spend some time on Joe Pye. The bees like them both as well. I am loving Henry Eilers, didn’t know it was so tall. Might need more. (Famous last words! ) πŸ™‚

  26. Cindy, MCOK says:

    I rarely see more than one butterfly at a time on any particular plant … I’m envious of your multioples!

    Hi Cindy, thanks. It was wonderful to see a bunch, finally. Last year they were sparse. Wish I knew what was different about this year, to make sure it always happens again if possible. πŸ™‚

  27. meemsnyc says:

    Gorgeous butterfly shots! Really pretty.

    Hi MeemsNYC, thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed seeing the swallowtails.

  28. joey says:

    A fun shoot, Frances. I moved my leggy β€˜Henry Eilers’ this past spring and they are not happy with their last row seat 😦

    Hi Joey, thanks. Leggy is the right word for Henry. Maybe he will perk up after a year in the new spot. It happens here sometimes. Ours is too tall for where it is located, but after hearing about yours, I’m not moving it!

  29. A great year for butterflies! Wonderful shots.

    Hi Cameron, thanks. I am glad to hear you are having lots of these visitors as well. Hooray! πŸ™‚

  30. My height may give me a wee advantage in this endevour, but it is never an easy task to find a flutterby that will sit still long enough.

    Hi Christopher, thanks. Your height gives you an advantage in nearly every endeavor, except walking under the garage deck. Sweet revenge! HA πŸ™‚

  31. One says:

    Hi Frances, This is my first time here. Am really impressed with the wildlife in your garden and your patience to wait for some good shots.

    Hi One, thanks and welcome. I am glad you liked what you saw here. πŸ™‚

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