Those ten or more years, wanting, but unable to see and photograph Regal Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria idalia) ended here, in June 2015. I never knew that Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation opened this expansive meadow to visitors, 2 Fridays and 2 Saturdays a year, in the first weeks of June. Surprise. There is not much sharing amongst those of us who seek butterflies. ?.
So I drove the 2.5 hours to Harrisburg, Pa.. on Thursday, stayed in a Hampton Inn, and Friday morning there I was . . . not one of 15 excited lovers of butterflies . . . I was amongst 130 guests. Each of those 4 days had something like that number of people, a whopping 520 or more had gone there to see the Regals. Kinda like those seeking audience with English royalty.
What was the Friday morning and early afternoon like, for me? I thought that it would be a disappointment, for how can I do what I do with 129 folks on my heels. No. It was much better than that. The Army post employs naturalists to husband their unique wildlife, and these folks were there to help, watch, caution, and inevitably work us into much smaller groups, working the huge reserve meadows. Soon it was Jeff, 2 fellow guests and a naturalist. That’s when it became Whoopee!
I, me, was overall impressed with the seriousness of the hours before me. It was sunny, mild, minimal wind, the Regals were flying and their butterfly milkweed was mid-bloom and lush. Fine field conditions, and therefore fully the chance of a lifetime. Seen as singletons and at most in 3’s, some Regals were worn, others were ‘fresh.’ Decades of my life have been enjoyed, yet I’d never seen these before, and may never see them again. I in the eastern U.S., and you cannot meet Regals in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia (well there are . . . ), Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. Only in this military reserve in central Pennsylvania.
Each and every camera click counted, had to be sure that I was shooting fresh fliers, lots of moving around as a beauty of a male or female (more males than females on the wing) fled one milkweed and flew 70 feet to another. Often someone else was bearing down on a bloom/butterfly before I got there. Kept aware of the time, knowing that fritillary butterflies often nectar and fly intermittently, and the morning experience would end when our hosts announced that it was time to take your last shots.
I was pleased that I found a mating pair, and my best images of them together rate as good, that a coup of sorts. Came to meet other butterflies too, including Coral hairstreaks and Monarchs.
Unlike y’all, I shoot film, and don’t know how my images fare until weeks later, when my slides return from Dwayne’s Photo Lab in Parsons, Kansas. Please resist advice on that, thank you.