Byssus Skippers get an A+ for Posing

Skipper on Liatris Blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

I captured another good image of our Byssus Skipper nectaring on Blazing Star, 850 miles south of my Pittsburgh home. If this Byssus appears to be happy, content and focused, you should have been there on ‘Old Grade Trail’ to witness another happy, content and focused being: Me.

That article in NABA’s Magazine, under the Destination title, was a rip for me. As soon as I opened it, earlier this 2015, my mind was riveted = Go Jeff go! I went, during my extended trip to the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch in Eatonton, Georgia. I tell you, I was one happy guy down there, AKA the kid in the candy shop.

I grew blazing star in my home garden in Pittsburgh in 2013-2014. In 2014 a female Monarch spent more than one September week installed there, feasting on that Blazing star (10 plants, 8 of which exceeded 6′ in height). After she migrated away, the deer and/or woodchucks decimated the Blazing star plants, and that ended that. Didn’t replant them, and no deer or woodchucks were harmed.

If and when I return to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, in the Florida Panhandle (seen in this image) next September, must I navigate those trails alone again?

Jeff . . . reminiscing with Irishman Gilbert O’Sullivan

 

Expect To Be Plenty Busy At Blazing Stars

Skipper on Liatris Blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

That was what stuck in my head, as I drove down US 75 to the Florida Panhandle. The busiest times for seeing butterflies at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, just south of Perry Florida, are when Liatris, or Blazing Star is in bloom. At the Spring Unit area in Big Bend, they bloom in early September. Arrgh! I could not be there then and could only go there in late August.

I’ve learned enough through the years to know that wildflowers often open a bit earlier or a bit later than prescribed. That’s what convinced me that I should head down there, even though it was a bit early for Gay Feather blossoming.

I went, and . . . Liatris had just started to open. Yay! And, my guides were right. Just stand a bit away from these eye-popping flowers, and watch the comings and goings of a whole menu of butterflies.

Now it was not that easy. The humidity was very real, and each day my sweatband would eventually get overrun by perspiration, sending moisture coursing down over my glasses. This didn’t stop my pleasure as I watched a waiting line (or so it seemed) of butterflies fly into and then away from these Blazing Stars.

This Byssus skipper butterfly didn’t care whether you knew the flowers as Liatris, or Gay Feather or Blazing Star. Either way, that nectary sweet secretion must rival the Cherry Cokes back at Sol’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, back when!

Jeff

Skippers & That Laugh

Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

Skippers are butterflies, and there are folks who authoritatively tell one skipper species from the other. This skipper landed on this grass, just yards from Traci’s Kelso Swamp. They’re pert, meaningful and they’re brown. I value pert, meaningful and brown. Comes the question then. Which of the many small, pert, meaningful, brown skippers is this?

That’s why I laughed when I made the decision to post this image. Here I go again, sort of struggling to ID this perfectly wonderful skipper.

At this time, I think that he or she is a Long Dash skipper (Polites mystic). I base this upon markings, wet habitat and that this slightly worn butterfly could have appeared in August, and continue flying to the day I photographed it; in very early September.

Can you imagine if I had majored in the study of butterflies in a fine university, and met all of those budding butterfly experts early on, and then . . .

Jeff

A Monarda Few Have Ever Seen

Rare Monarda Wildflower Plants photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hard Labor Creek State Park, GA

2015, fast slipping away from us, could be remembered as the year of the Milkweeds. Hundreds of thousands of us sought to learn more about milkweeds, asked advice about milkweeds, searched for them online, at nurseries and quizzed their friends: Do you have milkweeds that you are willing to share? This army of Monarch lovers planted milkweeds in their gardens and in promising other locations, by the millions. Did all this bring dividends? Sure looks like it played a role in the good numbers of Monarchs that took off and headed down from the East and Midwest, down to Mexico.

Milkweeds, in many US households, are now synonymous with Mom, Apple Pie and Santa Claus. They bring joy, fulfillment and a sense that America is working to fix itself.

Here’s another member of a worthy family of wildflowers. I know Monarda and I know Bergamot. Phil brought me to this exotic member of the same family that Bee Balm belongs to, here in Hard Labor Creek State Park, in central Georgia. Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata) I can say that I spent many minutes captivated by this Monarda, it looking almost otherworldly. A new one for me, and for almost all of you.

Monarda’s blooms nourish ruby throateds, fritillaries, swallowtailsskippers and a host of other butterflies. These Georgia blooms stuck out as different, and refreshingly so.

Thanks Phil and Thanks to the beautiful Georgia State Parks.

Jeff