At the front of this fraction of the 130 people who came from near and far (Maryland, at the least) to see and marvel over Regal Fritillary butterflies, I enjoyed (no, really enjoyed) every moment of this July 10th, 2015 field opp at Ft. Indiantown Gap’s Annual Butterfly Tour. Joseph Hovis and Dave McNaughton combined to make this a spectacular outing. July 9th, stormy, tornado warnings out. The day you see, sunny, warm, no wind, moderate humidity. Their staff and volunteers shepherded all of us effectively. Jake Fronko, an Environmental Science staffer, provided much background information, and once there were 3 of us, often ahead of the others, Jake was a keen spotter. My images are back from Kansas, and include several good ones, including mating Regals. There are not enough of these opportunities available. If there are more than I am aware of, why aren’t they know to me, us? Done effectively, as this one sure was, there is minimal impact on habitat, and maximum field education of a whole lot of earnest supporters of the environment. American Butterflies (Spring/Summer 2015) arrived in the mailbox recently. This NABA magazine features Definitive Destination: Big Bend WMA, Florida by David Harder, Virginia Craig, Dean Jue and Sally Jue. It is now my plan to visit there in August. Three days there could expand my life list of butterflies big time. My only visits to Florida were in 1962, when I and another loco hitched from Binghamton, NY to Miami (and nearly got killed, lynched more than once) and in 1978 when I flew to Miami, drove my rental through the Everglades, and spent time in Naples. Butterfly Opps, opportunities to see, taste, smell and hear the siren’s song of Butterfly wonderment. ‘Hobby?’ Uh, uh. We need more of them, Thank You. Jeff
Mysterious, very protected, studied, and by all accounts, beautiful. A butterfly that once flew in my hometown, Brooklyn, New York (Butterfly People by Willam Leach, Pantheon Books). Today the only known colony of them in the Eastern U.S. is in central Pennsylvania, and flying in the middle of a military reservation. Gone from Maine to Florida, yet whispers heard that the Regal Fritillary (Speyeria Idalia) really was doing fine in that rolling “prairie” grassland, just ½ hour drive from Harrisburg, the state capitol.
2015 was to be a bit of a bust-out year for me, a push me / shove me year that would include more travel and more chutzpah. Israel in March. Went to the far northern Galilee to find a rare protected Parnassian, that flew in March, only March. We’ll share those images shortly. Went to Georgia, at the invitation of Eatonton’s Briar Patch habitat, with southern butterflies galore. Went to the Allegheny National Forest and nearby Jamestown Audubon Center, both eye candy for anyone seeking butterflies. Suffered a personal loss, the death of my father, which brought me back to Georgia, where he was interred in the Georgia Memorial Veterans Cemetery, and a U.S. Army trumpeter to set the sad tone.
Still, more than 10 years ago, I decided I wanted to shoot butterflies that were threatened with extirpation (extinction). I’ve spent so much time amongst fritillaries, and it was time, I should see and photograph the beauty of them all (fair or unfair?) the Regal Fritillary. Where could I find it? Jet to Illinois or farther Midwest, or see them at Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in Pennsylvania.
Let me leave it at this, the people at the forefront of our organizations did not return my calls, or letters. 10 years went by.
On Facebook, a group member, new to me, noted a few weeks ago that Fort Indiantown Gap was conducting Regal Fritillary tours to all comers, no reservations required. Huh?
194 miles from Pittsburgh, Thursday night in a Hampton Inn in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then Friday morning, July 10th, there I was . . . one of 130 people there for the tour. The rain/thunder of the day before was gone, with sun, sun, sun and no wind. The Regal Frits were flying in good numbers. The males speeding along, seeking females. The females were calmly moving from Butterfly weed to Butterfly weed. The crowd thinned, until we were three, me, a pleasant woman, and Jake, a naturalist on staff at Fort Indiantown Gap.
Is it not evident that I am having a really good time? Regals are beautiful. Though they seem as carefree as Great Spangled frits, you know that they are so, so rare. Protected by the Pennsylvania National Guard, US Army, and the OMG! F-16’s flying way above.
2.5 hours of Jeff giddiness. I have seen and photographed one of the most evasive butterflies in the United States.The slides are at this moment in Kansas, then they go the Rewind Memories here in Pittsburgh, then we shall see what we shall see.
The Jeff you see here is a very relaxed Jeff, only thinking of seizing this opportunity to the fullest, and very, very Thankful. 10 years, do you get it?
The sun came out today in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Traffic picked up in my perennial garden, so much so that there was double and triple parking going on on popular flower hot spots.
Who showed? Red Admirals came and went, sometimes in pairs. They make you feel so acutely sharp, their beaming red bands enabling split second identification. They stopped and sip nectar on the anise hyssop blooms, our giant zinnias and on the purple and white coneflowers.
Great Spangled Fritillaries also found parking spaces, especially on the common milkweed, called Liatris (white), coneflowers (purple) and briefly on the magnificent ‘ice’ hydrangeas (Thanks to Joe Ambrogio Sr. for suggesting them).
Cabbage white butterflies flew in throughout the day, seemingly males, barely stopping for a sip of any nectar here or there.
Trimming spent giant zinnia blooms rousted a Striped Hairstreak, either from its perch, or from a nectar interlude.
Silver Spotted Skippers showed off their jet propulsion potential, jetting to the milkweed, coneflowers, hydrangea and surely more. Tinier Skippers, no doubt.
Did not spend the day sitting and observing, so I know that additional others have come by, and hopefully, among them Monarchs. When they come, they’ll not find blazingstar blossoms (a huge favorite of theirs in late summer) because . . . well, groundhogs love blazing star leaves and stems, I now know.
Soon to open and bloom? Mexican sunflower (TY VcL), native cardinal flower (Sylvania Natives, Pittsburgh), false dragonhead (Sylvania Natives), monkeyflower (SNatives), chocolate mint, swamp milkweed (TY BAC) and I hope, I hope, this year clethra.
Am preparing to put in 5 sennas, purchased 2 days ago at sylvania natives, to attract yellow/orange butterflies.
The show has begun here, Folks.
I shoveled snow twice today, and I must have looked forlornly at my front garden at least 8 times. The American plums and ice hydrangeas are only in for one year, but they gamely stood in their beds, buds looking healthy and earnest.
Back in the house, I got to thinking. Which of all of my posted images has stood out amongst the others, for this or that reason? Here is an answer to that. This image is the most shared of them all.
it’s serendipity too, because we met this Melitaea Persea Montium butterfly on the tippy top of Mt. Hermon, in Israel in June 2008. It was very, very hot and dry on that mountain, and I like remembering that now, when the last 2 weeks have featured nights with zero degrees Fahrenheit and below.
Why is it the most shared? I must guess. Because it is very rare, only found on that mountain top, and its flight is short, happily in June, when Mr. Passion for Seeking Butterflies was on the top of the mountain.
I fly to Israel on March 8, G-d willing. No way I can work Mt. Hermon for butterflies. It is covered with a cap of snow. I do plan to explore the slopes of the mountain, and the Upper Galilee. Yes I will be careful. Knowing that I’ll be close to the border with Lebanon, where the terrorist organization Hezbollah has now been joined by Iranian troops, together conspiring to cause murder and mayhem, this once-Brooklyn boy has seen enough action to not want to . . .
You know, the United Nations should have a permanent representative with a vote, there to represent all of G-d’s creatures, who seem forever jeopardized by the senseless actions of crazy humans.