Gray Hairstreak Euphoria

Gray Hairstreak Butterfly at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh
It was just a few days ago that I spotted a Gray Hairstreak nectaring on the coneflowers in my very own ‘peanut garden.’ It was a fine, fresh one, and caught my eye as I watched through the dining room window. That triangular form jutting out from the coneflower! Immediate Euphoria! I got out to the garden in a split second, and you know what? Any and all concerns that had been floating up there in my brain vaporized. Vaporized. The $100 water bill. The parking ticket that costs as much as a fine meal in a fine restaurant, the murderous ISIS mutilating others somewhere ½ way around the world, the why? is the shout of support for tiny, little Israel so difficult to hear, the day after day rain/thunderstorms impeding my photograph field work, all washed away.

That is one BIG reason that good folks strive to block development of good land. These and other butterflies provide us with hope, beauty, piece of mind and a reminder that there is a Higher order.

The first Gray Hairstreak in our newly planted ‘peanut’ garden, abutting the 900+ acre Frick Park. Who knows what else will visit today? Tomorrow?

Jeff

Red-Banded Hairstreak Butterfly

Red-banded hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Rock Hall, MD
A really nice discovery at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Calycopis cecrops ranks high on my List of happy finds. That red band that spans its left wings is unmistakable. This tiny hairstreak is a rare find for me. Field Guides give it a range from southern Massachusets south to the Florida Keys.

Our boy here is resting on a low branch, scopeing for females. He must be patient, for despite his handsome coloration, eyespots and nifty orange antennae tips, there were few females in the Refuge that morning.

His rest ended instantly, when my macro lens made its slow, calculated approach. This species is frustrating, for once they flee, they do not return to the same perch. Sop when they are gone, they are gone.

Get this. Little is known of the life of this species. It’s 2014 and we still know little about it. One of my favorites, that we do know.

Jeff

Apharitis Acamas Acamas (Mt. Hermon)

Apharitis Acama photographed by Jeff Zablow on Mt. Hermon, Israel, 6/16/08

The Tawny Silver-Line butterfly is an Israeli butterfly found in higher elevations. This female enjoys the best views of all, residing at the peak of Mt. Hermon at the northernmost tip of Israel. Adults leave the chrysalis and fly from April to early September. They will suffer little human intrusion in 2014, only rarely sharing the mountaintop with IDF soldiers and even rarer tours of the peak by VIP’s escorted by elite troop chaperones. As we noted recently, we may never again be able to retrace our 2008 field trip up there. Syria is afire below. Those who cry for  peace for all, pathetically remain silent while real chemical weaponry is used down there … with women and children about.

Apharitis a. a. is such a whimsical looking butterfly. It’s head look so other-worldy, its wings appear to be too small, and her abdomen…Oops….

Ant-tended, and with its larval host plant yet unknown, this is one interesting butterfly. One of the little Hairstreaks, with its pairs of tails just visible.

Jeff

If You Were A Hungry Bird….

Gray Hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA, 7/11

Let’s go with the “If” thing, something that we normally steer away from doing (i.e., If I had million of dollars) But let’s do it here.

If you were a bird, happily habituated in Schenley Park in the center of Pittsburgh, and it was a sunny July morning with blue skies, and you did your normal Park crawl-flight and flew into the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory but, come to think of it, you’ve eaten few insects this morning, and even fewer seeds…. So the sun is heating up the Gardens, you’re a hungry bird, say a Cardinal, or a Mockingbird, or a Blue Jay. Hungry, thirsty, hot sun . . . and there you see it! A tiny morsel of yummy food, with a pair of long antennae, a pair of deep red eyes, each fitted with a black eyeball, a pair of gray wings . . . Our bird becomes a deadly predator, pause, prepare, Strike!

Biologists and naturalists for more than 100 years have positioned that the posterior end of Hairstreak butterflies, as with this Gray Hairstreak, have come to resemble the anterior end of the butterfly, especially when these Grays methodically move the “tails” in a alternating motion. Why, they offer? Because of what often happens next.

The bird strikes, the Gray begins to flee, and the butterfly survives, but remains ‘bird-struck.’ That is, a bit of the ends of both hindwings have been bitten off. Can it fly still? Yes, seemingly with little loss of flight agility. Will the end of the hindwings regrow? No. But, can it reproduce young? Yes, as long as it can convince prospective mates that it is still shmeksy!

Better to be bird-struck . . .

Jeff