Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Operation Tiger Beetle

"We know that this interest in tiger beetles is not mystical, but if you talk to tiger beetle aficionados about their hobby, most of them will not be able to explain the source of what the uninitiated may see as a mania."

~ A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the US and Canada

This is Tiger Beetle Country!

I spent the afternoon hours at Spring Green Preserve photographing the tiny terrors of sandy paths and blowouts … Tiger Beetles! As the Tiger Beetle Field Guide (Pearson, Knisley, & Kazilek) states, you've got to have "a willingness to crawl on elbows and knees with a camera" in order to get pictures of these incredibly fast and brilliantly emblazoned insects. All tiger beetle photographs shown here were taken with my Nikon 1 V1 and Tamron 60mm f/2.0 macro lens.

Big Sand Tiger Beetle

Sneaking up on a tiger beetle takes a great deal of patience and persistence. Walking slowly down a trail, I scan ahead a few yards for a dark dot in the sand. If I see that it's a tiger beetle, I remove my hat, binoculars, and anything else that might interfere with my approach. With extremely slow and fluid moves, I try to get to within a few feet of the beetle. If it doesn't fly off, I slowly kneel in the sand (or dirt) and lower my elbows to the ground with my camera in hand. I typically pull back on the zoom and get a couple of shots from a foot or so away. If the beetle continues to be cooperative, I begin to move in as close as I can, sometimes within a couple of inches. You must also be mindful that your shadow doesn't hit or overtake the beetle because it may cause it to take flight. Even with the best effort and approach, most of the time the tiger beetle flies off. But don't despair! Tiger Beetles are notorious for flying only a few yards before landing, usually in plain view and facing you. The second approach often yields a higher success rate.

Big Sand Tiger Beetle having a bit to eat.

Festive Tiger Beetle

Festive Tiger Beetle

Festive Tiger Beetles about to mate.

Festive Tiger Beetles mating.

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle

This Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle was a serious stinker. I probably approached it a dozen times over the course of a half an hour, but it kept flying off just as I was about to press the shutter button. I was determined and eventually it gave it up, but only for a couple of seconds. When you're being so meticulously careful, sometimes the buzzing sound of them taking flight is a bit startling.

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

Though fairly common, the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle is one of my favorites.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

Lark Sparrow

There were a few birds to keep me company as I photographed the tiger beetles. At one point along the trail a Grasshopper Sparrow flushed from just a few feet away from me. The Lark Sparrow pictured above was foraging for insects and didn't seem bothered by my presence in the least.

Large-flowered Beardtongue

Large-flowered Beardtongue

Blue Toadflax

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell

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