Pope Farm Monarchs!

"In my family monarch butterflies are daughters of fire. They come from the sun carrying the souls of warriors who fought and died in battle, and return to feed on the nectar of flowers."

― Holly Ringland
I thought it was supposed to rain most of the day, but there were only a few sprinkles in the early part of the afternoon. It eventually gave way to gorgeous skies and Pope Farm Conservancy seemed like a good spot for an impromptu Nature hike. I wasn't expecting a lot in the way of aves, but there were Palm Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Blue Jays, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Gold Finches, and House Finches. A Cooper's Hawk was making regular flights around the prairie, so that kept the birds a bit on the quiet and out-of-sight side of things. 
As the sun's gentle embrace heralds the arrival of early fall, the fields come alive in a mesmerizing tapestry of asters and goldenrods. Asters, with their delicate petals of lavender and violet, sway gracefully in the breeze, while goldenrods stand tall, their vibrant yellow plumes reaching for the sky. Nature's artistry is incomplete without the Monarch Butterflies, as they flutter and dance amidst the blossoms. Their wings, a harmonious blend of fiery orange and ebony, create a living masterpiece against the canvas of autumnal hues. Each petal and each butterfly is a stroke of magic, a testament to the fleeting beauty of the changing seasons, leaving a trail of wonder in their wake. It's a scene that beckons the heart to pause, to immerse in the tranquility of this early fall symphony.
The Monarch's presence was nothing short of enchanting as they moved about with a sense of purpose, visiting one bloom after another. They seemed to be on a mission, sipping nectar from the vibrant flowers and engaging in a graceful dance amidst the blossoms. It was a bustling yet harmonious scene, with each monarch contributing to the vibrant energy of the field. Their collective busyness added an extra layer of charm to the already picturesque landscape, making it a true spectacle of nature's wonders.
Close-ups of the Asters!
Who dis?
Identifying Hymenoptera isn't one of my strong points, but I know these as Sweat Bees, perhaps in the tribe Augochlorini.
Not a subject I've spent much time with, I found myself captivated by the elusive green sweat bees. These emerald-winged creatures, so small and swift, wove a dance of intricate grace as they flitted from one aster to another. To capture portraits through a lens proved as challenging as it was enchanting. These tiny emblems of life's ceaseless motion were a testament to nature's ever-elusive beauty. 
Hyssop ...
Pope Farm Conservancy isn't without a few invasives here and there ... Butter and Eggs Linaria vulgaris was found in just one spot, but there'll likely be more next year. 
I could easily spend an entire day here searching for little things to admire and photograph ...
But all good outings eventually come to an end. With a reluctant farewell to the enchanting fields of asters and goldenrods, I embarked on my journey homeward. The very essence of departure seemed to echo the ever-turning wheel of nature itself, where every ending bears the promise of a new beginning. As I retraced my steps along the path, the landscape offered one last symphony of sights and sounds, a parting gift from the wilderness.
All images © 2023 Mike McDowell