20170717 Hwy 529: Patches of Common Milkweed and photographing a Great Blue Heron

Above Photo:  Big Lake

We went in search of a Snowberry Clearwing Moth in the milkweed patches along Hwy 529.   This is what we saw …

Hundreds of bees of all sorts were buzzing around the fragrant milkweeds.  Here are three species of Ontario Bumble Bees.



More about Bumble Bees.


This looks like a cache of eggs.  Possibly one hatched larvae on the right.   Possible food for ants and other carnivores…

This  Monarch caterpillar is probably in its last instar, and will soon metamorphose into its adult butterfly form.  I will start looking for Monarch chrysalises.  I will also keep and eye on  Joe Pye Weed and on Viburnums.

In the big swamp east of the highway at Big Lake I saw this wary Great Blue Heron eyeing me suspiciously.

When I was satisfied that I had a reasonable photo, with the 100-400 mm lens fully extended and set at f/8, 1/1000 second …

… I backed the lens back to 264 mm to give me a wider field of view (in the event that the bird took off), to get this photo…

… and this one.  In the one above I blurred the beaver lodge  behind the bird.  The one below is out of the camera.

After thinking about it I’ll follow the same practice but with some additional quick changes:

Use optimal settings for the still bird.   When satisfied do this to (possibly) get the bird in flight:

  • Shorten the focal length — to get wider field of view for better tracking.
  • But a shorter focal length gives increased depth of field leading to background clutter.
  • So open up the lens wide to decrease depth of field and to shorten the exposure interval thereby reducing wing motion blur.
  • Has to be done quickly with camera at the eye.  Twist lens and rotate thumbwheel.  Maybe snap to Manual Focus to hold the focal plane?

I’ll need to practice, but I think the results will be worth it.  In the case with these photos it would increase shutter speed by 50% and reduce DOF by around 5 metres. at that distance (~100m)

In addition to bees and butterflies, we saw this moth nectaring on Spreading Dogbane, a relative of Common Milkweed.

See the translucent, curled proboscis?


Here is a Striped Hairstreak at lunch… Note that each wing has two tails — a short one and a long one.  Note also the orange patch inboard of the pattern of dots.

Three insects having lunch together.  “Lets do lunch at Mary’s Common Milkweed Cafeteria.”

Unknown beetle and Striped Hairstreak showing their bellies…

Here are some more visitors to patches of Milkweeds:

Little brown beetle …

Long thin grey beetle …

Colourful tachinid fly

Perhaps another tachinid?….

Little brown dragonfly (female Ruby Meadowhawk?) looking for lunch at Mary’s Common Milkweed Cafeteria …


What is inside of these rolled-up Staghorn Sumac leaves?  (See Faunal Associations.)  I’ll keep an eye on them.

So far, no Snowberry Clearwing Moths have been spotted.