By Moralea Milne
Every time I visit Puerto Vallarta there are a number of things I must do, sample some homemade ice cream (Oaxacan Kiss is a new favourite), indulge my sweet tooth with a few hot, cinnamon-coated churros and most importantly, explore the butterfly habitats of whichever area I am in.
Soon I am jettisoning my friends and family and spending many happy hours engrossed in a search for butterflies.
With my much abused, chipped and worn camera in hand, I stealthily attempt to capture their form and beauty within a digital image. Stealthily because they can sense my presence from metres away, too distant to enable a clear image. To make photographing them more challenging, some species never seem to alight for more than mere seconds, or they show remarkable cunning in evading my lens, just barely peeking around the side of a tree trunk or under a leaf. Still, that is the beauty of any passion, surmounting challenges, executing a flawless task, learning more than you knew before.
With butterflies the thrill is in accomplishing the perfect, evocative photograph; in the identification of the species (often impossible to do); in learning the secrets of their lives, “which plant do they use as a host on which to lay their eggs?”; and on sharing that information with others.
Recently I photographed what I believe is a Gold-spotted Aguna, not a butterfly gifted with extraordinary beauty, but one that has a more subtle resonance when captured in just the right circumstance. Agunas are members of the Skipper family, a vast array of generally small, nondescript but fast-flying butterflies that have hooked antennae. The Gold-spotted Aguna lays its eggs on legumes, particularly in the Bauhinia family of trees, shrubs and vines, some of which are known as orchid trees. Like many skippers, the young caterpillars are green with a prominent, reddish head, the older caterpillars becoming paler as they mature and move into their astounding transformation to their butterfly form.
With over 1750 species of butterflies, Mexico has a great number of planet Earth’s butterfly species, as well as thousands of moth species, many which rival the bejewelled magnificence of their day flying cousins.
Whether it is birds, butterflies or botanical wonders, Mexico has provided me with a wealth of photographic opportunities, although the talent and skill to capture their beauty and ephemeral nature is another matter entirely!