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

Upsetting…Very Upsetting….

Leonard's Skipper Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

March 27th and the USPS letter carrier delivers our latest issue of NABA’s American Butterflies (Vol. 21: Numbers ¾). Titled The Conservation Issue…I looked forward to reading about the successes that butterflies were enjoying across the United States That did not happen. Most of the articles left me upset and saddened.

Ann B. Swengel writes of the challenges that grass skippers were encountering in their tall grass prairie habitats…but soon she was examining the status of Regal Fritillaries in those same grasslands. I’ve wanted to photograph regal Frits for years now, knowing how limited they are in my home state of Pennsylvania. For various reasons, that has not been accomplished, yet. Jeffrey Glassberg reports in that same issue of American Butterflies, “Regal Fritillaries [were last recorded in Westchester County, NY] in 1975.”

Then Jeffrey Glassberg discussed the disappearance of Leonard’s Skippers from Westchester County. “The last individuals were seen in 1988.”  The last 2 colonies known were decimated by 1) a musical festival that apparently pounded them into the ground and 2) the construction of townhouses that destroyed their habitat.

I will never forget my encounter with Leonard’s Skipper (Hesperia leonardus) in 2006. We’ve posted that experience earlier, so you are welcome to have a look. It was September 4th, sooo late in the season to meet something 100% new…and she was stunning! She flew onto the trail cut through the 100 acre meadow at Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania. She posed with her lush wings fully spread. After lots of exposures, she fled.

These reports are very upsetting. Have the small populations at Raccoon Creek State Park…undergone… I don’t want to think about it.

The American Butterflies articles go on to discuss the absence of Silver-bordered Fritillaries, Meadow Fritillaries, Coral Hairstreaks…can we not anchor the butterflies that we have, and guard their habitat?

Jeff

Gray Hairstreak on Goldenrod

Gray Hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 9/21/06

Whatever it is that puts that look in your amiga’s eyes when attractive male leads take center screen…here is another handsome figure, capable of that same star power. September 21st finds him in Nichol field, the 100 acre +/- field in Raccoon Creek  State Park, southwestern Pennsylvania. Set out before him are tens of acres of goldenrod, so there is no need to rush. That calm helped me, too, for he wasn’t apprehensive or reluctant to my approach.

Savor his many fine details. Two pairs of hindwing tails, rich reddish patch, with black dot on each hindwing border, well-defined post median dash-line in 3 distinct colors, that smart orangish leading edge on his forewings, the orange club tips on each antenna, those pookie eyes, the grays of the wings, that last so typical of his fellow hairstreaks….

Favored with a taste for all sorts of nectars, this adaptive feature brings them to a very great variety of wild flowering and garden plants. Strymon melinus flies in the east, from Maine to the Keys, from as early as April to as late as Novemeber…and is aloft all year in southern Florida.

Gray hairstreaks are small butterflies, but bestowed with much beauty. May I ask THE question? Have you seen one? Won’t cost a cent, and will bring much Yes! into your life….

Oh yes, they are not too difficult to find. Once you find a fresh one, truth be told, they often pose quite well, and move methodically from one look to another, so good images can be additional reward. ‘Nough said?

Jeff