Archive for the 'Insects' Category

Grasshopper and Gold

Grasshopper and Goldenrod – Guzy Prairie – Shelby County, Illinois


Just north of the Findlay blacktop on the West side of Rt. 128 is a tract of land that is a pot of gold for photographers.  The site is called Guzy Prairie and in the summer will flourish in wildflowers.  A prairie so rich, but know by locals as the Shelby Weed Patch.  For those who drive by daily, in a hurry to arrive somewhere, this must look like a bunch of weeds.  But stopping, and looking around, a feast is in store for those who slow down.  Taking a camera can be rewarding even after the peak of wildflower display.  Goldenrod fills the area and as the picture shows, grasshoppers inhabit the land.  Every step you take sends dozens of hoppers to a new site to continue their quest of survival.  If you are patient and don’t move too fast, you may even have one sit and join you for  a photo session, rich in color and life.  If I would have taken more time, I would have found more to enjoy, I am sure.  Even 20-30 minutes is rewarding for those who see beyond the unmanicured site.  A pot of gold is hidden in plain site in a small weed patch in Shelby County, Illinois.

A Trip To The Pond

Praying Mantis in Prairie at Rock Springs Conservation Area – Macon County Illinois

This morning I broke away to do more photography.  The temperature was great after all the hot days we have experienced lately.  The sun was out and very little breeze was blowing.  After driving around in my truck looking for some butterflies and not having any great luck, I pulled into Rock Springs Conservation Area.  As you enter the site there is prairie along your right side.  Stopping along the drive, I saw many dragonflies, but none would let me get close enough to photograph.  Then I saw a shadow on one of the grasses.  When I investigated, it turned out to be a praying mantis.  So the dragonflies were out and the mantis was in.  For about twenty minutes I photographed it.  I needed the time too, as the wind was blowing softly and to get a focused image, I had to be patient.  No problem there, I was here to relax.

Driving on, to another part of the site I parked my truck and took a short walk to one of the ponds.  Again, I was looking for dragonflies.  Again, they were everywhere.  I would sit in one spot waiting for one to come back to its perch.  Nothin doin, but that was ok.  I sat and listened to the birds and frogs sing their soft songs.  Listening to them, watching fish swim in the clear waters, and sitting in the sunlight was relaxation at it’s best.

Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly Sitting Next To A Pond On The Mud At Rock Springs Conservation Area

Suddenly a little movement a couple of feet in front of me caught my attention.  There was this little bitty butterfly flying around landing close by.  Then there were two of them.  This is the first time I have seen this one.  They are common, but I have not done much macro in the past so I have not looked for them.  The Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly is only a half to three-quarter inches tall.  So camera comes off tripod and I am laying in the mud on my side a belly to photograph this one.  It looks like things are getting better after a slow start today.

After moving around some trying still to photograph some dragonflies, I was ready to go home.  I was sitting on the ground and less that two feet from my feet I noticed a Pickerel Frog sitting a foot from the waterline.  I have no idea how long it had been there as it blended in well.  Slowly I scooted closer and closer moving my tripod with me to make the frog look bigger in the picture.  This frog was great.  It sat there as I slowly moved closer and closer.  I spent maybe thirty minutes working this thing.

Pickerel Frog At Rock Springs Conservation Area

The frog at first seemed to be laughing at me.  It would open it mouth and nothing would come out.  Several times this happened before it calmed down.  Inching closer I captured more images.

Pickerel Frog At Rock Springs Conservation Area

As I started moving to get up and go home, I moved my tripod away from Pickerel.  He turned sideways, and was making it easy for me to get another angle.  Slowly I moved the tripod back into place, stretching the legs to make it sit lower.  I did not plan on spending this much time photographing and did not bring an extra memory card with me.  I had two pictures left on the card.  Time to start deleting some of the play around shots I took to adjust exposure earlier.  Now I have fifteen images available on the card.  That is all I needed.  Another view of the frog at the pond.

Pickerel Frog At Rock Springs Conservation Area – Macon County, Illinois

Not a bad day considering how it started out.  I was driving around looking for things to photograph.  Then changing things around, I went and sat next to a pond.  Soaking up the sights, sounds and sun, my photo subjects came to me.  Yes it was a good day.  After all this, enjoying nature, and relaxing, I then spent the evening at church praising the God who made the sights, sounds and critters that brought me joy today.

Another From Tallgrass Butterfly House in Pana


Going through some more images from last weekend and I came across this one.

Tallgrass Butterfly House in Pana, Illinois

Sometimes we need a little time away.  Not very long, but just a little drive to see some of the countryside and a destination with something fun.  Tallgrass Butterfly House is one of those places.  Site Manager David Nance will greet you when you arrive.  Talking with David is a download of butterfly and natural history information.David will share what he knows with those willing to ask and listen.  He will point out butterflies, plants, caterpillars and the like for you to enjoy, or will let you  enjoy at your own pace.

The butterfly house is an enclosure of a mesh like or screen material.  This blocks a little of the sun, but allows a feeling of being outdoors.  You feel the breeze and breathe fresh air will wandering the paths inside.There is a small pond with lotus and goldfish.  There is even a bench to sit on when you need to rest next to the pond.  A very nice place, this spot to just sit and watch activity that might be missed if you were walking around.

Kids and adults all will enjoy this site.  There are even trails you can walk.  The site is an old Railroad right of way.  Walking the trails you can see butterflies and hummingbirds along with many other thinks including native prairie plants.  I have made the trip several times and plan to go back more. Everyone that has made the trip with me has enjoyed it, also.

This is one of the many jewels tucked away in the Prairie State of Illinois.  Hopefully you can stop by and enjoy the site and even ask David a few questions.Entrance is free, but donations are accepted.Take time to enjoy a few hours this summer at the Tallgrass Butterfly House in Pana…  A visit will be an interesting afternoon.

Colorful Fly


 I never thought I would like the looks of a fly.  The presence of one in the house playing with the lampshade is always a nuisance.  Having one join a picnic is a bit of a distraction.

Watching one on a flower can be entertaining.  Looking at the colors this one reflects can give a new appreciation for them.  Some can be drab and others full of rich and bright colors.

I now can say, I enjoy watching them in my backyard.  They are invited to the feast of flowers planted there.  But, I still wish they would wait till they are invited to join me at a picnic.  Hamburgers are for me,  and flowers are for flies.

All of nature has a beauty of its own.  All can be enjoyed at the right time.

Critter in Backyard

My small prairie patch in the backyard is showing all kinds of life.  I am not sure what this is, but it is interesting.

This summer should be full of some interesting subjects.  Some flowers have been planted already, but I purchased more last night.  We are putting in host plants for butterflies along with the nectar plants and also some Salvia for the hummingbirds.  More to come.

Central Illinois Wildflower Display

Prairie Coneflower in Morning Light

If Summer wildflowers in Illinois is something you want to see, then Ballard Nature Center is one place to visit.  Ballard is located just outside Altamont, IL.  I came accross this place two years ago while participating in a photography workshop led by Richard Day with Daybreak Imagery.  Since then I have returned twice to photograph the flowers and insects that make this place a must place to visit for local photographers.

It is very unusual for me to get up before sunrise on a weekend.  This morning I woke up at 4am to get ready for the trip to Ballard.  Plans were to be there at sunrise, but it was about an hour or so later that I arrived.  Wanting to have softer lighting and cooler tempertures was the reason for the early start.

I spent from 6:45 am till 9:00 am photographing the fields that day.  Durning That time I did not cover more than .25 -.5 miles of trail.

There were conflowers all over the place.  Along with that were birds sitting on top of some of the plants and others making their way around in the mesh of stems and leaves that made up this habitat.  You could here the song of Redwing Blackbirds and others all around.

After photographing flowers I started looking for dragonflies to photograph.  I came upon this one early.  At first it was not very cooporative.  As I moved closer it would fly away.  As I slowly moved into position it accepted my presence.  I spent around five minutes working with this creature.

It amazes me what can be seen if we just stop in one place and just look to see what is there.  The park has many users.  Those users have different needs.  Early in the morning there were runners and walkers doing their daily excersise.  Later in the morning there were some that were walking and observing spending small amounts of time stopping and looking.  Then there was the photographer that would find and area and spend 20 minutes working and area to capture an image.

All these people and others are what makes Ballard so great.  It is a beautiful place to run and have sites and sounds encourage your run.  It is a great place to take a stroll and be mesmorized by the flowers and small insects that make up Ballard.  Then there are the people who just sit watch and wait to see what interations happen in a small area over a longer period of time.

Ballard and other places have many purposes.  Each of us can enjoy a place in our own way.  Each place offers many people many opportunities.  Places like this are rich in resources bringing joy to those who use them.

Black Swallowtail Larva

091010_002_n_p_ss_eFall color is upon us.  This weekend I should be out with the camera. 

There are signs of the end of summer still even though the tem-peratures are getting colder.  Saturday in the backyard was this find.  We have a Black Swallowtail Larva.  Maybe next Spring after this one winters over I will post an image of the butterfly this one produces.  There were two out when I saw them earlier in the day.  Later in the day I was able to photograph and only saw this one.  It was the larger one.  Today I saw one, and it seemed to be smaller than this one.  Maybe it was the other one.

I looked for the chrysalis of the other one seen Saturday, but did not find it.  I will gently look for it in the next few days.

Monarch and Lake

 The backyard has not produced many butterflies this year.  I saw two monarchs one day a few weeks back.  They must have been productive.  Yesterday I was able to photograph this caterpiller.  I looked for it today and did not see it.  I will look again tomorrow. 

Monarch Larva in Backyard

I have been wanting to get out and do some landscape photography lately.  I took off for Lake Shelbyville tonight to see what I could find.  The water is still up from what I would like to see.  The trees along the bank that I wanted to photograph were still underwater.  I talked with a Consevervation Officer at one of the places I photographed and he said the place this lake picture was taken had just opened up.  The lake had been high enough that they had the gate closed to keep people out.

Walking the bank was fun.  The sand on the bank was still soft and gave way a few times.  The sounds were great to hear.  Only the sounds of nature and a boat only once or twice.  One of the other dirt boat launches I stopped at had one truck and trailer.  I imagine that is who I heard.


It seems like fall.  The weather is cool and great.  I love this kind of weather.  I will take this anytime of the year.  Keep it coming.