I've just been having too many adventures lately and not enough time spent editing at the computer. I'm getting a huge backlog of images. The rest of the St. Augustine images and some images from my trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park are still forthcoming, but here are some macro images that I just took this weekend at Big Meadow in Shenandoah National Park. Great sunrise (I'll post those later) and then I headed to Big Meadow to try for some fawns. Not much luck with the fawns (although spotted one and lots of deer were out), but I did have some fun doing macros of the insects and flowers.
These first two images posed a bit of an ID mystery. I identified them as native pasture thistle (Cirsium pumilum), but my field guide and several internet sources listed the southern extent of their range as ending in MD and DE. Luckily, the USDA site showed that the range extends farther south and in fact showed that pasture thistle had already been documented in the county in question. Mystery solved. I'm always attracted to thistles for close-up photography, with their showy purple/pink tuft and the spiny leaves I think they make striking subjects.
There were also lots of ox-eye daisies (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) blooming in various places around the meadow. While an invasive alien species, they are still strikingly beautiful.
The common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) was also blooming in patches throughout Big Meadow and the milkweed patches seemed to have the highest level of insect activity on this hot and sunny morning.
The insects I photographed included this cooperative Golden Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria) which posed for a while on a milkweed leaf (wish the constant breeze had been as cooperative).
A different patch (near the side of the road) had a good density of both silver-spotted skippers (Epargyreus clarus) and red milkweed beetles (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus). Eventually I located a mating pair of the beetles.