Protected Parnassian (Enjoying Life)

Allancastria Cerisyri butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

March 2015, and me and my trusty Hertz rental car have found our way up to northernmost Israel, and my objective, these protected members of Family Papilionidae. I arrived in Israel the first week in March, and some days later, here I was. These males, of species Allancastria cerisyi speciosa, were flying at least 2 weeks earlier than predicted by the field guides. I was thankful for that, and encouraged that this early flight was in part in my honor. They typically fly in March, only.

He was nectaring on these pert little purple blooms, and he was a fine specimen, bedecked in his yellows, black, red and blue, complemented by those racy red eyes.

I was in Israel, enjoyed my grandsons, savoring the absolute beauty of this Land, and grateful to meet many of its most beautiful winged beauties.

Have you booked your flight to the Holyland yet? You will never forget the experience. It ain’t Nepal. It’s a whole other level. No?


Rare Parnassian Butterfly? Check!

Allancastria Ceryisri butterfly (Protected), photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

The flight from Pittsburgh to JFK Airport in New York and the 5-hour layover in JFK. A good flight on El Al (12.5 hours), with a friendly, fascinating couple from Florida sitting next to me. Through the Security screening in Ben Gurion Airport, and onto the train, north to Binyamina. Several days in Mishmarot with my daughter Rachel and her terrific family.

We have an expression, Stay with family too long, and you “begin to smell like fish.” The Hertz car rental in Herzliyah enabled me to drive north, all the way to SPNI Rosh Hanikrah. SPNI is the Israeli organization that strives to fight for and protect wildlife in Israel. They maintain ‘field houses’ throughout Israel, and this one was at the northeastern tip of Israel, roughly 2 miles from the border with Lebanon.

My goal was set months before, search that region for the Protected butterfly, Allancastria Cerisyi. No guarantee that  I would see them. They fly 1 month of the year, April. I went there in the 3rd week of March, so all bets were off.

Without anyone to guide me or direct me to my goal, I studied the map (taught map reading at one time) and off I went. Here? There?

I parked my rental, and followed an existing trail near the village of Hanita. Battle stations! Battle stations! I found one, then another of these members of the Swallowtail family. They were intent upon nectaring, and were . . . approachable.

Here we see a fresh male, focused upon the nectar oozing from these tiny blooms. Pop! Pop! Pop! Rare Parnassian, like those found only in the U.S. far western mountain ranges. Here on a hillside in Israel. A sylvan, sooo green hillside, with rare, protected winged beauties, flying a bit earlier than the field guide suggested. A Happy boy from Pittsburgh, I was.


You Will Never See This Parnassian Butterfly

Levantine marbled white butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

She’s oblivious to the vicious fighting going on just at the northern base of her mountain home. She is oblivious to the very real presence of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) on the mountain-top and throughout the base of the mountain. She is oblivious to the United Nations observer troops stationed nearby. She is oblivious to the super-snooping devices peppered throughout the mountain area (U.S. and who knows who else). She’s oblivious to the ISIS as they and their Iranian allies drive through southern Syria, creating mischief, mayhem and slaughtering Christians.

Now for a breath of fresh air. She is a type of Swallowtail, closely related to our Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Pipevine Swallowtail, the other Swallowtails and our western U.S. Parnassians.

She is Parnassius Mnemosyne Syra. She is fresh, and was nectaring with full concentration. She flies in Israel only, is protected, lives only on this moutain-top and has a short-flight time.

When she flew in to this boreal bloom, I snapped to attention. This, I knew at once, was some real special butterfly.

But . . . you will never see this particular Parnassian, because, despite the many times you thought about going to the Holyland, and despite the fact that you are blessed and can afford the trip now, you 100% believe that the Land of Milk and Honey is a battleground. Sorry, but it seems that our United States of America is becoming unstable, and Israel is in fact that . . . Land of Milk and Honey.


Protected Middle Eastern Parnassians, Found and Engaged

Allancastria Cerisyri butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

Rare butterflies, limited to a hilly range in the northwestern corner of Israel, and they fly for a single month, March.

What I have learned about rare, protected butterflies, I can share with you. Most endangered species have experienced habitat loss. Generalists, like the Cabbage White, nectar on a wide variety of flowers, and tolerate a broad range of habitats. They flourish almost everywhere, and individuals often seek new ranges, expanding their footprints into all new counties, states and regions.

Endangered butterflies remain in their original territory, and continue to feed upon the same flowers that they have depended upon for hundreds of years. Their flight time is usually limited, and often very predictable.

These parnassians are closely related to the Swallowtail butterflies (tiger, black, spicebush, giant, pipevine, palamedes – in the USA). I’ve never seen our US parnassians, all of whom fly west of the Mississippi river, most in the western mountains. This 2015 has been so good to me, largely because I’ve met generous folks, who have offered to show me actual site destinations, and who have met me there and enabled some OMG! fieldwork.

This trip to Israel’s Upper Galilee regions (northwestern Israel’s coast in this case) was a plucky one for me. No one guided me to the place you see here. Using field guides, I decided I wanted to see this winged beauties, and that had to be in March and it had to be where they fly. So I rented my Hertz car, drove for hours, and the next morning, followed my instincts, took a side road that promised to go through the prescribed habitat. Found a nature site with a car parking area. Switched to boots, blousing garters on, film loaded ( yes, Fuji slide), lens cover cleaned . . . and began to hike. OMG!! Not 100 feet into the trail, my first Allancastria Cerisyri. I saw 23 of them that morning. Bliss.

Should you want to enjoy seeing rare butterflies, most of the time the formula remains the same: Be able to travel when they are in flight, have the resource$ to do that, travel great distances to destinations where they have been regularly seen. Field guides are the resource you will need. Maps can be bought when you arrive in the area. Guides will often disappoint, and they are expen$ive. Know all along, that if you are young at heart, and fancy beauty, discovering rare butterflies is fun work.

Another option? Contact me, and see if I can join you. I’m always alone on these forays, and it would be fun to share the rush of a new, gorgeous find.