Peck’s Skipper Butterfly ID’d

Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania
This one was so pert, so distinctly marked and so willing to pose for me. The image I captured here, good enough to share, does though reveal my limited knowledge of the numerous species of Skippers that make Raccoon Creek State Park their home. September 5, 2014, and we’ve not been formally introduced.

We now know that she is a Peck’s  Skipper (Polites Peckius). Skippers keep me company on the trails that we share. Their mixes of browns, tans, creams and white just tantalize my eyes. That, somehow lessens the isolation felt by those of us who search for common and very uncommon butterflies. I also devote good thinking time to trying to understand how these tiny fliers survive weeks in the wild, especially during the nights, when they remain hidden in foliage, at the mercy of the legions of creepy crawlies that spend the dark hours, hunting for prey. Scary business that, when there is no front door to lock out the beasts of prey.


Indian Skipper butterfly

Skipper butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA
She was not easy to overlook. Most of the grass skippers are very difficult to approach and don’t bedazzle your eyes. As soon as I spotted her, my ‘got to get a picture of this one’ mechanism was sprung. A looker, she.

We were in Raccoon  Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, and we met in May. My field guides confirm that though very difficult to approach, this species of skipper is less anxious when they are nectaring. Hesperia sassacus is reported as often uncommon, generally overlooked and surprise, surprise . . . though it is now 2014, little is known of them and their behavior.

Satisfying whole careers await the young readers of who choose to pursue their interest in butterflies through university and beyond. There is so much that remains unknown, butterflies are so well regarded by the majority of folks, and I say that observing, tracking, witnessing them can supply a lifetime of contentment. Pyle, Remington, Comstock, Muir, Nabokov, to just name a few.


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?


Lesser Fiery Copper (Base of Mt. Hermon)

Lesser fiery Skipper butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

Closed. Local guides all explained to me that Mt. Hermon’s peak was closed. June 2013, with lots of Fuji slide film fresh and waiting, and I had to change my plans. No chair lift to the peak of Hermon. I have not been on the pinnacles of many mountains in my lifetime, so this one will remain a once explored …. The thing is that in 2008 I went up there, and there are species of butterflies found up there that are not found anywhere else. I was so excited while I was up there, that I didn’t keep count of the many butterflies we saw, but that I could not approach. How many rare ones fled and could not be photographed? I do not know. But that was 2008, and in 2013, when I again wanted to search Mt. Hermon, and try once again to get Amazing images…War! raged below in Syria, War! that did not spare women and children. Savagery.

When will Mt. Hermon’s summit invite us to visit it? Who knows.

My plan was to travel up the base of Mt. Hermon, and find butterflies along the lower ⅓ of the mountain. That worked well. I drove up a road that curved around the south face of Mt. Hermon, up and up it went, and I easily found my goal, the tiny village of Neve Ativ. I parked my rental and hiked around this tiny enclave, to a small meadow, where wildflowers where everywhere.

Lycaena thersamon omphale was a beautiful little treat to greet me when I began my exploration of that field of blooms. This male’s orange wing bands more than rival those in the field guides. He held his perch, enabling me to photograph him. The Israeli rule applied here too, come to close, Whissst! Gone! Found throughout most of Israel, this one mirrored the stark beauty of the Golan Highlands and Mt. Hermon. They fly most of the year in the south of Israel, and probably cannot be found when Neve Ativ suffers its winter season.