I haven’t been getting out into the field much lately due to smoky skies from all of the wildfires in the West or because of clouds from seasonal monsoons. The monsoons would be welcome if they brought rain along with them but so far the monsoons have delivered very little actual rain and we desperately need the moisture, Utah and most of the West is as dry as tinder. The smoky skies are awful here in the Salt Lake Valley but it is not anywhere as devastating for us as it is for those who have lost their homes or loved ones so far this horrendous wildfire season.
However; the air quality is horrible here and it can be an issue when I am out photographing birds, scenery or other wildlife because it causes headaches and sinus issues for me along with giving my images funky color casts. Anyway, I dug through my archives and found some photos I took last August on Antelope Island State Park to share today.
Monarch Butterfly nectaring from a Rocky Mountain Bee Plant – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 640, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
I was out on Antelope Island last week and while I was there I did some scouting to see if I could locate Rocky Mountain Bee Plants because at this time of the year while they are in bloom they attract hummingbirds, bees, moths and butterflies, unfortunately I found very few of the Rocky Mountain Bee Plants so it doesn’t look like it will be a great year to find the hummingbirds or other critters nectaring on these lovely pink wildflowers on the island.
Last year I found plenty of Monarch Butterflies on the Rocky Mountain Bee Plants on Antelope Island and they were a delight to photograph as they fluttered around going from flower to flower sipping nectar from the delicate blossoms.
Monarch Butterfly resting on a Rocky Mountain Bee Plant – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 640, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
Monarch Butterfly populations are declining and part of the reason is due to loss of their only caterpillar host plant, milkweeds and the nectar plants used by adults. Last year there was a 14.8 percent decline in overwintering Monarch Butterflies in Mexico, some of that yearly decline may have been caused by hurricanes during their migration season but the decline is still horrible. In the last twenty years Monarch Butterfly populations have decreased by an alarming 90 percent.
Monarch Butterfly 2018 Population Down by 14.8 Percent (National Wildlife Federation)
Monarch Butterfly and Rocky Mountain Bee Plant in early morning light – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 640, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
If I had a 1, 10 or 100 acres I’d be planting all the milkweed and wildflowers I could to help save these beautiful butterflies. They are the first butterfly I remember seeing as a young child while I wandered in the fields near my home and the first butterflies I ever saw emerging from a chrysalis which in turn filled me with awe and wonder about all of nature. If I had a spark butterfly, it would be these Monarchs.
I am so delighted to see that many of my friends on Facebook and beyond are ripping up useless, sterile lawns and replacing them with wildlife habitat and wildflower gardens, planting milkweed and other native wildflowers, protecting the caterpillars, chrysalises and emerging butterflies, it gives me hope that my great grandchildren will still see these butterflies in the wild even after I am gone.
Life is good. I hope it is as good or better for future generations.