Standoff at the OK Blossom

We are two weeks away from this year’s annual Haunted Trail of Tears event and looking around the house as of late and you can definitely tell. Pretty sure every room in the house has some form of prop production happening. My brother Ron was nice enough to come down this weekend and help out designing and building some new additions. He brings the big guns when it comes to the difficult circuits and helps get me through the trouble spots that inevitably pop up. We put together some really nice new scares for the trail this year and cannot wait to see how they look in the dead of night – also vastly improved one of last year’s signature props (link here). Should be some great fun, but still a lot of work to make it to the finish line. Had a few minutes to relax a bit before calling it a weekend and decided to see if I could get a quick post out.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

In honor of Halloween, I am going to continue with the orange and black theme started in the last post. Giving you a break from the barrage of birds and bring you something a bit outside of my wheelhouse.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

Hit the jump to see some more shots of our autumn colored friend.

Before I go any further, I need to level set everyone. I have a hierarchy of targets out in the field. Obviously, birds old the top mark, but there are times when those targets are few and far between. In those situations I usually start looking for furry things that fall outside the standard rodent fare – check that, I’ll shoot rodents too ha. No luck there, I start looking for reptiles, then dragons and then several steps down from there the butters come into the picture. If you are curious, my last resort are trees or rocks that look like creatures (link here).

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

It isn’t so much my dislike for those with the colorful wings, rather rig difficulties. The Beast wasn’t built to be tracking the erratic behavior of Pixie Stick guzzling insects that are as unpredictable as today’s politics. Dragons will usually take a rest from time to time and allow me time to focus and get a few shots off. They also tend to return to the same perch so I can leverage the same manual settings. Butters are a different story.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

I swear they change their mind every microsecond of their life. “Hey, look at that flower, no, no, wait, look at THAT juicy blossom, wings up, wings down, did that Grasshopper just throw me some shade, SQUIRREL. By the time I get a bead on one, the damn thing takes off causing a huge sigh as the jelly arms decide it is time to take a break.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

The other problem is The Beast is going to struggle with that small of a specimen. For those situations, you really need a Macro glass. As a shout out, if you want to see what quality shots look like of butters (and dragons for that matter), I recommend you head on over to Mr. B’s site over at Butterflies to Dragsters (link here). Unlike some of us, pretty sure he doesn’t have to beg his wife to borrow her macro glass – Linda requires me to put up my precious possessions (like my 3D printers) as collateral if I want to take her photography equipment out in the field in fear I might get as much as a smudge on the body or glass itself. For a vision, imagine her with arms out embracing all her gear and saying “MINE!”.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

No more excuses, what you are hopefully enjoying is a set of Monarch Butterfly pictures taken on our recent trip up north. Ron and I had spent the morning hanging out at Montrose Point in Chicago. He invited me up there to get a pretty rare (and very famous) set of birds that were hanging out there. Someday I might actually get to those shots ha. On our way back we stopped at a new place named Rollins Savanna (link here). Ron had heard about that place and since it was practically on the way back to our campsite at Chain O’ Lakes, we dropped in to see what it had to offer.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

Overall, a very nice place. Lots of prairie as you would guess along with some hardwoods and water features. The part that surprised me the most was how nice the path was. The primary path is a wide crushed packed gravel that was well maintained and graded. That path takes you along outer part of the savanna. The brochure indicated it was ~7.5 miles loop – the GPS I had running put it closer to 5.5 so not sure what caused the difference.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

By deduction, you probably already figured out the birds were very scarce that day. A few Flycatchers, some very pretty Goldfinches, a small squad of Cedar Waxwings and a single Tern summed up the day. Oh, and an Eastern Kingbird towards the end of the walk. Beyond that, just a weird feeling that we were being watched by someone or something. Brushed it off as being with Ron and assuming an attack was imminent. Ticking down the target list, this Monarch suddenly came into view checking out the local blossoms.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

We both decided to see what we could tin. The lighting was pretty good and the thick vegetation gave a nice backdrop for the brilliant oranges and black highlights. At first I was focused on just the Butter until Ron pointed out the other creatures competing for the same blossom. Now this could be interesting.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

Slowly they chipped away at the distance between them – neither willing to surrender a single flowering pedal to the other. Outsized, the Bee stood firm knowing his hidden weapon was a force to be reckoned with, especially against the fragile structure of this brightly colored foe. Mr. B. continually reminds me these butters can have an aggressive temper despite their fragile exterior.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

Their paths eventually crossed, their meeting fated the second they laid eyes (and legs) on the same prize. “There isn’t room on this here sweet flower for the both of us you yella-bellied varmit”.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

“That will be enough out of you Orangie, time for you to move your dawgies off this here purdy flower before you feel the lethal sting of my trusty venom 1-shooter”. Each stands their ground, boots digging into the flowers, eyes narrow against the dropping sun, their wings cocked and loaded…….ATTACK!!

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

Now that would have been some interesting shots. Truth is these two creatures could not care less about the other’s presence. If the Butter got too close, the Bee would simply move to the other side, if the Bee decided to land inside the Butters safety zone, the Butter nonchalantly moseyed out of the way.

Regardless, it made for some entertainment on the slow birding day. Just to finish out the comments on the Savanna, I would definitely go back there if found myself in the area. The gentle rolls of the path would make for a excellent recovery run. A word of caution, there is not a lot of shade on the path itself. Bring your sunscreen if you decide to take the entire loop. Luckily there was a nice breeze coming across the interior of the prairie that took the edge off. I am going to chalk this up to possibly not knowing the proper paths or the impact of the drought that was happening up there, but access to the water features seemed too far off. As a birder I really want closer views of the banks where all the interesting birds hang out. It would also be nice to have a path or two through the interior of the preserve. I already mentioned the lack of birds, but Ron found a spotting report from there a few days later and it was A LOT more productive than out outing.

Soon after spending time tinning the Monarch, the likely source of my earlier stalker concerns was revealed.

There were fur targets after all! The Coyote kept an eye on Ron and I for several minutes before turning back to the banks looking for its next meal – or a suitable path to make it up to us so it could attack Ron.

Eventually it headed into the woods, equally disappointed with the lack of bird opportunities.

The Rollins Savanna is now on our destination list whenever we head up into the Chain O’ Lakes region. I think Linda would enjoy taking the easy bike ride around the place and I am looking forward to giving the birding another chance. If all else fails, there are plenty of butters to give my arms a good workout.

Time to get back to the haunt prep, take it easy everyone!

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