Common Sootywing Butterfly

Common Sootywing butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Rock Hall, MD
My first encounter with a Common Sootywing (Pholisora catullus). A new butterfly, one I’d never seen before. Exciting. We were in Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in May 2014. She was basking on a leaf, taking in the Delmarva’s warm morning sun. My calculated approach was good, she tolerated 5 film exposures, then she was gone.

Me, I was bubbling with excitement. What was this rare little skipper, how rare, that I hadn’t seen one in the last 14 years?

Back to the Sailor’s Motel in Rock Hall. Flip open my field guide . . . Huh? The Common sootywing. Not rare at all, and found west of the Mississippi, east from Maine to Florida.

She was this glossy black. Her white spots were bright white. Several field guide authors argue that her given name is too colorless for such a starkly beautiful little wonder of a native butterfly.

Their hostplant is that ‘weed’ that all eastern gardeners have pulled hundreds of times, Lamb’s quarters.

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

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.

Jeff

Mallow Skipper

Mallow skipper butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mishmarot,  Israel

Two mountains in Israel provided me with very exciting experiences. Mt. Hermon, even though closed to civilians, offered many butterflies along its base. Mt. Meron was just too much fun, and the #1 goal of that effort, good images of the breathtaking Two-Tailed Pasha butterfly, remains yet to be realized. Once I found Pasha habitat, once I figured out the strategies that were needed to photograph them Macro-… it was time to load the rental and return it to Haifa. Now that’s an experience. Drive to Haifa to return the rental car, through busy, curvy roads, without a Hebrew vocabulary of more than 15 words…stopping here and there to ask directions… of men whose English vocabulary also consists of 15 words. But, I did it. Then, the rental people told me that the train back to Binyamina was … just across the avenue and down the street. Ah, NO. With few people down the avenue and across the street, I had to seek advice from  two young men. It’s been a bit since my hardscrabble days on the streets of New York City, where then, you had to immediately know who was benign and who required your 100% full attention…to remain healthy. These 2 guys were OK, and were walking to their fast-food jobs. They got me to my train, and from then on helpful folks enabled me to get to Binyamina station. Turns out they liked my wingedbeauty.com business cards (Moo) and I enjoyed their questions and interest.

Our Carcharodus alceae met me in the agricultural fields near my daughter’s home in Mishmarot. North of Tel Aviv and not too far from the Mediterranean, these fields are among the millions of acres of farmland that cover Israel. Easy to forget that those millions of acres had turned back to desert over thousands of years. Israel north of Beersheva is mostly green. Food supermarkets are loaded with excellent fresh fruits and vegetables, the produce of those very same fields. Pity that much of the world is unable or unwilling to favor this land of Milk & Honey….

The Mallow skippers were mostly perching on dried flowerheads in this June field edge. Even though it was early June, it was more than 90 degrees Farenheit. As I passed each one of these pookies, they would leave in a huff! and within a minute or so, return to that very same tiny perch. This female tolerated my approach and I shot away! Yes, she is not the OMG! type of butterfly that jolts my senses… but once you take the time to get to know her better … she bedazzles!

Jeff