Red Admiral Butterfly Nectaring in ….

Red admiral butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Ramat Hanadiv,  Israel

Where are we? Spain, Denver, Estonia, Sao Paulo, Toronto, Moscow, Great Barrington, Baghdad, Paris, Shanghai, Wichita, New Jersey, the San Fernando Valley? Where in the world is this? …. Ramat Hanadiv, in west central Israel, not very far from the shores of the Mediterranean. Let’s go, count the colors of this very fresh Vanessa atalanta. Black, white, red, blue. An eye pleaser, no?

You can’t imagine how many approaches I had to make to finally be able to snap away and capture suitable images of this shmeksy butterfly. This is among those that are so unique in appearance, that as soon as you see one, you remember the last one you saw, and your brain instantaneously recognizes those reddish blazes on the forewings. Male or female? It is difficult to distinguish the sex of Red admirals.

They perch for a bit, then they fly to nectar. Then they perch some more, and again fly to a spot where they can sip nectar. Once the morning ends, they disappear for some time, then reappear, and perch/nectar, perch/nectar. Males do reveal themselves eventually, because they are especially territorial. They establish a perch, and return to it repeatedly. They challenge other butterflies or insects that enter their imagined territory. Each and every time I see Vanessa a. males speed to make these challenges, I compare them to my rather rough childhood. Many a time I had steel on my person…. These gentlemen fly off to challenge with nothing more than sylvan wings…. Impressive.

Racheli and the staff at Ramat Hanadiv offer a beautiful, welcoming menu of perennials, annuals, and shrubs for their butterfly neighbors. And the excellent restaurant, where I have already noted that after a morning’s effort, I enjoy a comfortable, tasty, fresh gluten-free lunch. Not without gratitude for it all.


Common Blue (Mt. Hermon)

Polyonattus icarus butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

There are 3 Polyomattus blue butterflies found in Israel. I was hoping that this fellow was P. icarus juno, very uncommon and found only on Mt. Hermon, at the northern extreme of Israel (Golan region). That would have been good, very good. Working with my 4 field guides to Israeli butterflies, I have concluded that he is instead P. icarus zelleri, found from central israel (south of Jerusalem) all the way up to the peak of Hermon. The 3rd of the 3 is P. loewii, seen from the Dead Sea south and in the Sinai (Egypt).

Our Common blue is found then in Jerusalem, Gaza, Tel-Aviv, Petach Tikva, Haifa, Tzfat and on Mt. Hermon. Explanation? Butterflies that frequent a wide range of locales and habitats should be considered generalists. Adaptable species that can enjoy a variety of habitat and depend on a wide range of nectaring flowers for their food.

Even though we took the cable car up to the peak of Mt. Hermon, and 7000 feet above sea level searched for the rare Leps of this breathtaking mountain, here we record a butterfly identical to those that fly from shrub to shrub in the gardens fronting the beautiful Ben Gurion Street (Rehov) in Tel-Aviv.

P. icarus in the big city? No way. They stay up on their Mt. Hermon. No impetus to go down to the Mediterranea Sea, or tour Lake Tiberias or visit exquisite Ramat Hanadiv…or even to see what humbles most of us, the ancient city of Jerusalem.

Jeff singing the blues on Mt. Hermon in June 2008 (Reminder: Military only at this time).


Show Stopping Vanessa (Israel)

Painted lady butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Ramat Hanadiv,  Israel

Dubbed the “world’s most widespread butterfly (Cech and Tudor, 2005),” this hunk is shown as he was seriously patrolling his territory at the remarkable arboretum, Ramat Hanadiv, in Israel. Imagine, the images of Painted lady butterflies shared in Butterflies of the East Coast (Princeton University Press) are nearly identical to this photo, despite the nearly 7,000 miles that separate these populations.

Sporting a wardrobe pleasing list of Vanessa cardui‘s best looks, including good-sized white spots amidst a wash of full black, eye-pleasing orangey-brown, white wing fringes, and hindwing eyespots dabbed with centers of baby-blue. All carefully patterned together to insure that we savor this show-stopper. Surely, receptive females will take note.

These gardens at Ramat Hanadiv are among my favorite destinations in Israel. The perennial gardens are lushly planted with gazillions of nectaring blooms, and, after a morning of photographing butterflies, the excellent cafe/restaurant is … right there, at the entrance to the planted beds. I have been going there for years now. Shoot until the sun gets too high…then walk 50 feet into the air- conditioned eatery for tasty gluten-free (for me, regular for y’all) selections + (of course) … dessert. Then walk another 100 feet to the generous parking lot, and off you go, satiated, smiling and mission accomplished. Good.


Red Admiral (Israel)

Red Admiral butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Ramat Hanadiv, Israel

The world cooks this and that scenario to bring ‘Peace’ to the ‘Middle East.’ The media paints a dark picture of that region, and its viewers imagine a place of tension, strife and conflict, everywhere. Meanwhile…our Vanessa atalanta savors the real peace, calm  and tranquility of Ramat Hanadiv, an hour’s drive north and west of Tel Aviv, and within minutes of the Mediterranean sea. A much better barometer of realities on the ground, imbibing sugary nectars in a land planted decades ago, and now awash in Milk and Honey.

This was March 12th, and I was working the perennial beds of their vast botanical park. Papilio machaon were seen that morning, but only for a moment, mimicking as they do Israeli Phantom jets, Whoooosh!…gone. Archon apollinus (known as False Apollos) rushed down the trails of Ramat Hanadiv, they too maintaining top speed. So, no Wow! photos of Swallowtail or False Apollos those 3 mornings there in March. Too bad, too, because March brings the end of Israel’s winter. Not a winter like we enjoy in Pittsburgh, USA (lots of snow, ice and low temperatures of 0 to 10 degrees Farenheit). Israel’s winter is cold and slightly bone dulling, with nigh time temperatures down to perhaps 40-45 degrees Farenheit.

We look again, this time more closely, at our Red admiral as its proboscis captures those sweet carbohydrates, mixed with pollen and imperceptible other nutrients. We eye the smashing reds of fore wings and hind wings, and we are pleased with the stark arctic white splashes set hard amongst sheer black and with a little bit of eye strain…there is one of those sweet blue patches along the margin of that right hind wing.

Let the haters and plotters and criminals and fanatics run their bloody  games…this is the vision of this Land that is real.