Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Day fritillary

On New Year's Day in the morning, I went out in my yard to find the sun shining and a butterfly on a dandelion. A Gulf fritillary. (The name fritillary traces ultimately to the Latin word for a cup used for throwing dice. I have no idea how the name got applied to butterflies.) Photos below.

This butterfly thing needs some explaining. I have been a birdwatcher for years, as some readers of this blog are probably aware. But until I got a digital camera with a powerful zoom lens, I had never taken much interest in butterflies, except for a vague consciousness of their unidentified multicolored presence occasionally. But when I got the camera, I discovered I could take pictures and later identify them, and find out something about them.

So now I find myself noticing them more. I am soon to be 65 years old and have lived much of my life in Texas, and had never previously paid attention to the fact that we have winter butterflies. At least we do around here, right now. We've had warm and pretty days lately, in the 70s in the daytime, but the butterflies have previously survived a week or so of temperatures cold enough that I had to drip outdoor faucets to protect the pipes. I don't know if they will last through the next cold spell. I suspect that at some point they either hibernate or freeze or migrate further south. We'll see.

Anyway, I owe a certain enhancement of my awareness of nature to technological innovation. I wonder if this is considered a paradox?

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Another photo of the same butterfly, with a better view of the lower hindwing markings

And a third view, showing the totally different patterns on the underside of the wings

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