Entry Forbidden

Cattle on Mt. Hermon, Israel photographed by Jeff Zablow, 6/16/08

Winter is all but forgotten. Good. My struggle with Winter 2014 was supported by some excellent, heavily recommended books, written by butterfly notables and other naturalists who long ago had earned their position amongst those of us who savor and seek wildlife conservation. I read Wild America, Mariposa Road and Nabokov’s Butterflies, Chasing Monarchs, Four Wings And A Prayer . . . UPS just delivered Blue Highways yesterday, as I was completing Mariposa Road for the 3rd read.

What adventures they had. How rich and beautiful was much of what they found. All this was so daunting for me, reading how they received the support of legions of friends and admirers wherever they went. They were pointed to potentially rich habitat destinations, increasing their chances of scoring rare, threatened, nearly extirpated butterflies. They were often fed, housed and entertained by those who wanted to share tales, and time and memories with them, in their comfortable homes and in local, sometimes unheralded eateries. So they laughed, and imbibed local beers, and set out on many early morning field assaults with experienced, savvy friends. This can make the rain, the cold, and the missed opportunities a little less annoying.

Well, most of us have not earned such a status, and did not begin those kind of careers early in life. Oh, what must it have been like to do what we do now, when we were in our muscular 20’s?

What  I did not come across in those valued reads was this. A place, the peak of Israel’s Mt. Hermon, that was almost teaming with rare, little known and protected butterflies! See, I held back, but just now could wait no longer, and used the frowned upon exclamation point – because that’s how strongly I feel about what I enjoyed on the mountain.

So yes, I always travel alone, never shoulder to shoulder with someone who shares my gusto for all this, or brings deep gravitas to this field work.

Then, too, those  extraordinary writers did not write about this species of situation: Entry Forbidden. Bloody carnage going on in Syria, the background in this photograph taken in 2008. The Israeli Defense Forces turn away naturalists who want to travel the mountain. Stray rockets, mortars and other ordinance have made this very spot way too dangerous, and with many of the world’s terrorists nearby, any trip to find additional rare species on the wing . . . may, only may be possible in the decades to come.

I will  travel to this Golan region very soon, but can only view Mt. Hermon from its base. Pity.

Jeff

18,000,000 Wait . . .

Monarch Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park 

April 20th, 2014, and 18 million Americans wait. Additional tens of millions of naturalists and esthetes around the world wait, too. They wait to see if this beautiful moment will again be seen in fields and flowery margins from the Rocky Mountains east to the Atlantic coast. Will Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) return from Mexico and decorate flowerheads, like these Wild Bergamots (Monarda fistulosa)?

My estimates may be too low. Almost every American child learns about the incredible migration of Monarch generations from the mountains of central Mexico to Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Connecticut and Maine. When their schoolteachers assure that these seemingly delicate butterflies actually do make the trips, children internalize a lesson: Determination and sticking to the task lead to reward and success.

Critical trees continue to be illegally and legally cut on those Mexican mountains, genetically modified crops and other agricultural initiatives that reduce the milkweed plants that Monarch caterpillars require, and untimely frosts and storms during the migration north all jeopardize the Monarchs of 2014.

I will also add Common  Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) to my own garden, adding to the million of gardeners in the USA who are planting them to support Monarchs.

I just have to believe that they will return, and flourish, and return back to Mexico in September…and savor that moment, when at Raccoon Creek State Park I turn my head and Yes! A Monarch!!

Jeff

 

Wildlife and Not so- Wild Life on the Trails….

Cow photographed by Jeff Zablow on Northern Golan Trail, Israel, on 3/20/12

How well do you know your state’s cattle? She’s grazing in Texas? Louisiana? Kansas? New Mexico? Calgary? New Jersey? Montana? Baja California? Holding out for Colorado? Gotta be Utah? If you held out for more choices…you’re a gifted bovine identifier. She’s sampling tasties along  a trail in the northernmost Golan, at the extreme north of Israel.

Rachel and I found ourselves facing a bunch (?) of these behemoths, on our way back on a trail that had descended to a small river. An earlier blog described our nimble response to this challenge. Louise of Pittsburgh Commented that we had nothing to be concerned about…cattle want to do one thing and one thing only, eat. But you know, Louise wasn’t there on that remote hill with us. Nevertheless, city-dad and suburban-daughter did puzzle over this Excuse Me!

With winter gone, we look forward to getting back onto other wilderness trails. What wildlife will we meet up with? Record-breaking drought west of the Mississippi may well have skunked our plans to hike Colorado, or Arizona or California  or Washington mountains and valleys. Grizzlies, cougars, wolves, rattlers and much more may have to await another year for an encounter with Jeffrey.

I have shared trails, fields and forest with an assortment of macro-organisms. All that I can recall communicated about the same message – They were more than uncomfortable near me, and like the huge Israeli boar I startled last year, shot away from me at impressive speed. Others seen include species of wild dogs, alligators, white-tail deer, fox, marten, and a 40-pound long-tailed cat (in southwestern Pennsylvania, of all places). Rattlesnake in Rector, PA.

Which wildlife have made me wary and sent my hand down to the steel I bring along? Dogs. Domesticated dogs traveling in pairs. In Rector, PA two large dogs continued to advance on me with the wrong look on their faces, turning only  when I gave them my patented dog-warning wail and at the same time confronted them with shiny, pointy steel.

Out to see butterflies, delighted to see other wildlife…wary when the wildlife reminds me of guys I used to share those Brooklyn, NY sidewalks with…. But then, that’s me.

Jeff

Fabriciana Niobe Philistra (Protected) (Mt. Hermon) … 1 in 5,000,000,000,000 ?

Melitaea Persea Montium butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow on Mt. Hermon, Israel, 6/16/08

Wonderful! A working image of this rare, protected butterfly on… Mt. Hermon, at Israel’s northernmost border. He was not approachable … until he spotted these groundcover blooms on the mountaintop. So irresistible their aroma must have been, for he sped to these blossoms, and spent precious moments on each, taking in the sugary nectar.

This is another image that I am sharing, taken in June 2008. I had experienced a life-changing personal loss months before, and my daughter had relocated from Washington, D.C. to Tel Aviv. As I planned to visit her, I pushed myself to go for it, do something radical with my camera. Eran Banker was contacted, and off we went from Tel Aviv to … the peak of Mt. Hermon! Quite a few of my photos from Mt. Hermon can be seen here on wingedbeauty. Never, never will I forget that trip. Eagles flying by us as we took the lift to the mountaintop, butterflies like this one, found nowhere else, a landmine (where there were not supposed to be any), OMG! views of Syria and Lebanon, the cattle, grazing 7,000 feet plus on the mountaintop, and the knowledge that we were being watched, surveillance was watching us.

A rare Fritillary this one, flying May through July, on a mountain that you and I cannot visit because of a certain civil WAR, in  Syria.

Jeff