This is the remnant of a very beautiful butterfly, a Great Spangled Fritillary. Presented just ahead of this photo is what this butterfly normally looks like.
When I first spotted this guy he was laying on the ground, barely moving and making no attempt to escape as I knelt over him. I immediately assumed he was at death's door and wouldn't last the day, certainly not around the many birds that frequent my backyard. It was early October, pretty late in NY to see butterflies, and it was obvious he'd had a rough summer, barely escaping numerous bird attacks and numerous storms, including hurricane Irene.
Two hours later while passing by I noticed movement in my Butterfly Bush and was delighted to discover it was my half dead Fritillary friend who somehow managed to fly over for some life sustaining nourishment. He was moving about on the blooms much more energetically than when he was on the ground, and I now had hope that he could survive a little longer, although he still looked like hell.
I ran and got my camera to capture this image of a true survivor. Here was an example of the dark side of butterfly existence, the side we never see, where these delicate creatures battle the elements and predators in a courageous fight to survive, hopefully just long enough to parent offspring. Here he was, with the cold winds of winter just around the bend, and despite having to fly with these tattered wings, still struggling to survive against all odds. I tipped my hat to him in respect and admiration of his gallant struggle, and captured his image to preserve forever.
For two more days I saw him in my garden, feeding and moving about the remaining blooms during the warm part of the day. And then the survivor was gone.