Regal Fritillaries and the U.S.A

Regal Butterfly sipping nectar photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

How many of you have ever seen this super rare butterfly? Regal fritillaries exist east of the Mississippi River because they are protected. Yes, protected by the U.S. armed forces, on a military base. Their prairie/meadow habitat has been so heavily developed, that the only safe haven left is smack dab in the middle of Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reserve, Pennsylvania.

When I heard that I could go there, with the invite of the Army post, I went. Thrilled, I was! to see this butterfly, and many other Regals.

If we, Americans, manage to maintain our heads, and keep this U.S. of A. strong and healthy, we will protect the Regals, our sanity and the home that we’ve worked to build for all of us.

I’m speaking for our butterflies, our neighbors, and our children and grandchildren.

Jeff

Regal Surprises JZ

Full dorsal view of Regal Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

I’ve got to rethink this. This is my 3rd post of a butterfly I thought I’d never get a chance to meet. Start at the Maine/Canada border and drive down to the Keys, and you will have passed only a single population of these Regal Fritillaries. Rarer than rare. Over a decade, I would contact those who could get me through to the military post where they live, and I would enjoy not a single response. Frustration led to Oh well! those butterfly mucky mucks . . .  and I let it go, until someone posted on Facebook, that the annual Open House to view Regal Fritillaries was to be for four days in June.

Booked it, Licketysplit! Then June 10, 2015 arrived, and Thank You G-d! there I was at Ft. Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, some 40 minutes east of Harrisburg (known on Jeopardy! as the capitol of Pennsylvania).

I was The Kid in the Candy Shop. Would you look at this male! His ancestors flew within ¼ miles of my childhood street in Brooklyn, New York, and now you need a military escort to see him.

Speyeria idalia, extirpated from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, District of Columbia, North Carolina, and maybe, maybe Virginia (a secret that may or may not have basis).

Why have I entitled this post Regal Surprises JZ? Uh, because the 2 posts of Regals I’ve already shared . . . barely created a ripple on this blog and our social media outlets. Funny how it is when the $challenged kid finally enters the candy shop. Where are the bugles and drums to celebrate the enormity of the moment?

Jeff  a.k.a
The Kid in the Candy Shop

A Very Exciting Meeting with Rare Butterflies

Regal Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

The 19 states that rim the U.S. eastern coastline have a total population of perhaps 150,000,000 people. The sole population of Regal Fritillary butterflies in those 19 US states this year probably included 1,200 butterflies, all living in one isolated location at Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, just a short drive from Pennsylvania’s capitol of Harrisburg. Yes, it’s whispered that there may be 1 or 2 remnant populations in Virginia, but that is a well kept secret, if it is true at all.

Busting with expectation, I arrived there on June 10, 2015, ripping to get going, with my 129 fellow visitors. Roughly 20 naturalists awaiting us, and guided us to the prairie grassland in the military reserve. Orientation came first. Jeff: impatient. Then the mass of us drove in caravan to the prairie grassland. Jeff: Can’t wait. We left our vehicles and all headed to the wide-open meadow-like grassland. Jeff: Come on, come on. Soon the group began to separate into smaller groups. Jeff: How in the world will I be able to score images of . . .  with all of these folks around? Finally, it was just me and her, a naturalist. Jeff: Thank Y-o.

Regals were there in good numbers. Most were males, and some were young and fresh. They were sipping nectar hard: on Butterfly weed, an Asclepias milkweed. They were not please with my approach, though some remained in place, anxious to sip their sugary cocktail. The photographer? Transfixed might be a good choice of characterization for my hours there. My 12 years of wanting to do this, absent support from butterfly aficionados, was beginning to pay off.

This male, on lush Butterflyweed, shares his ventral wing surfaces, sooo much shiny white, awash in a bath of oranges and black blacks.

A very rare butterfly, that once flew on my childhood street in Brooklyn, New York, finally rendezvousing with Kid Zablow, in a verdant meadow in central Pennsylvania! So cool!

Jeff . . . Happy Holidays!

Gulf Feasting on Tithonia at the Briar Patch

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Lantana Flowers photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

With snow, freezing rain and zero degree temps just weeks ahead, this reminisce at the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch bucks up my excitement for the coming year. The potential for an exciting 2016 is very real. The desire to capture ever more satisfying images of southern butterflies, challenges. That’s among the many motivations that will send me back down those southern highways, G-d willing, to this butterfly oasis, in Eatonton, Georgia.

The first Gulf Fritillary butterfly I ever saw was . . . here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was in the Outdoor Gardens of our Phipps Conservatory, and I could not believe my eyes. That one was hundreds of miles north of its usual range. Later, I would see them intermittently, in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, both in Maryland. Finally they were much more numerous in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, at the South Carolina – Georgia border.

This one here is working a Mexican Sunflower bloom (Tithonia). Most flowers pump nectar for a short time, and then butterflies pass it up. Tithonia is the exception. Butterflies visit and work these flowerheads for hours, I think because the blooms continue to produce the sugary food staple.

The Briar Patch is a butterfly dreamland, shared in several recent posts here. 29 different species in a single morning, is well, Wow!

Jeff