Oh, Not A Gray Hairstreak

Gray hairstreak Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center in New York

There it was. Quick thinking, was, it’s a Gray Hairstreak, and although its here at the Jamestown Audubon Center’s lush reserve, I have many good images of Grays. Nevertheless, always aware that unique looking individuals can be fun, I shot, shot, shot.

Here now, Oh Wow! a Gray Hairstreak, Not! It’s a . . . Banded Hairstreak. Deep gray color shows here, the blue marginal patch is bright blue, and the banding on the hind wing resonates, Banded.

Hairstreaks sometimes startle, because we spend most of our time chasing butterflies or staking-up to them while they are nectaring, or while they are on trails or mud puddling. This look typifies many of our Hairstreak finds, males, perched on leaves, 3 feet to 5 feet off of the ground.

Cech & Tudor’s Butterflies of the East Coast surprised me, for they tell, “This is the most common and widespread of our Satyrium hairstreaks.” I have ID’d no more than 3 of them in these 20 years, so, “common” for them is rare for me. This is a forest butterfly, found near oaks, hickories, and walnut trees. I rarely find myself in hickory or walnut forests, so that may play some factor in my infrequent encounters with Satyrium calanus.

Passive when I met him, I am now enthusiastic with this unexpected identification. Good. Very good.

Jeff

Hope Rises: A Monarch Reward

Monarch female ovipositing photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

I spend several mornings, attempting to score September shots of Monarchs deep within the milkweed beds at the Butterflies & Blooms in the Habitat, in sweet Eatonton, Georgia. As I stood at the edges of those several Asclepias patches, females Monarchs would fly in their meandering way, and then head straight to the milkweeds.

Why? They were laying eggs, one at a time, ovipositing it is called. Wow! Few were the times that they landed at the tops of the milkweeds. Almost all of the successful ovipositing tries were at the inner milkweeds, those within the inner reaches of these plant groups.

What to do? Who would want to have a look at my images, if the entire butterfly could not be seen? Duh!

We have spent the last years fretting. We, hundreds of thousand of us east of the Mississippi River have worried, will this decline in Monarch numbers continue, to the . . . Heaven Forbid! disappearance of eastern Monarch?

I mulled this over, and decided: Take these exposures. This, this is what we have been hoping and praying for, the continued resilience of Monarch populations, in Eatonton, Lilburn, Frewsburg, Oxford, Griffin, Watkinsville, Gibbstown, and Shellman Bluff, to name a few. These females set their eggs, and those that are successful, will fly to the center of Mexico, and overwinter there, in fir trees.

Our Monarch reward, in part for all of the effort, sweat and tears of Monarchmama, Virginia and Lisa and the rest of our Monarch stewards.

A Monarch female, earnest to set her eggs, the product of a strong bull male, and a determined, beautiful female.

Jeff

Capturing A Lady’s Color

American Lady butterfly (ventral) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Friends have posted their images of American Ladies recently on Facebook. One of those posts ( was it Kelly Sandefur’s?  or Nancy Witthuhn’s? ) struck me, and I still remember that exceptional capture of the details of the Lady’s eye. I too enjoy the challenge of shooting out Ladies. They fly in at breakneck speed, nectar fiercely, and just as quickly as they arrived, are gone to a flowerhead not far away. You follow, they leave, and so on.

We’re here at the Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, this my 2nd of 3 trips there this 2016. Painted Ladies ( Vanessa cardui ) were flying in good numbers, but this cousin of theirs, an American Lady ( Vanessa virginiensis ) was there also. I like the coincidence of this, Virginia pioneered this butterfly destination (irregardless of her modest protestations) and here we have this V. virginiensis reaping sugaries as a result.

Balanced on a Butterfly bush flowerhead, there was the challenge: Capture the busy colors of the ventral (lower) wing surfaces with the baby blue sky framing it all. I am mostly pleased with this, mostly. You?

Jeff

Giant Cats

Giant Swallowtail caterpillar photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

You may travel to Paris, Nepal, New Zealand, and revel. Me, I bonkers! to travel to Putnam County, and well, revel! Maybe its those 12 or so years working in Manhattan, first from my East Village office on E. 6th, near Cooper Square, then on the 23rd floor on E. 43rd and 3rd Avenue, and finally uptown on E.87th, near the Mayor’s Gracie Mansion. Why, because when you’re in those locales, Paris, New Zealand and Nepal, are the guy 2 doors down, or the woman across the street. It’s that cosmopolitan thing, me thinks.

I never thought of caterpillars like this one back in those ’80’s. Those horizons were limited, growing my business then, and thriving my family and underpinnings were center stage for me. Then things changed, and our covered wagon headed to Pittsburgh. No more bricks/mortar, back to high school teaching (Biology) . . . and a probable progression to this pleasing pursuit, butterflies. No more street kid (with interesting friends), no more NYARNG with my cop buddies, no more AP Biology, no more H.S. Dean (Discipline) and those knives/guns, no more rising realtor headed to the stars, and with the kids almost grown, with Frieda A”H’s battle with Non-Hodgkins/Stem Cell transplant/Leukemia, I know I did a whole lot of thinking . . . retired and . . . .

My horizons shot out in all directions, and conversely, to one direction. I wanted to produce good or better images of butterflies, in the wild. Not in France’s outlying places, or in the mountains of Nepal/rain forests or in everyone-loves New Zealand.

I am accused of getting giddy when Stanley Lines or Virginia C Linch lead me over to a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, in inviting Eatonton, Georgia. This one, like the others, looks like bird Poop! Why does it look so much like a blob of digestive waste/uric acid lumps? How do they survive, as they remain in place, sessile, with predators available and nearby? Moult? Eclose? Fly?

This me, is so Thankful that my horizons are so rolled out, way out. In one year, this 2016, Giant cats, Eastern Pygmy Blue butterflies, Little Metalmark butterflies, Bog Coppers, Juniper Hairstreak butterflies, Zebra Heliconian butterflies, and a slew of new acquaintances, who demand that they are “friends.” I Love the ring of that. And the siren call of Texas, western North Carolina, Vancouver Island, and Maine, very northern Maine???

Giant cats? I just stand there and look at them. Stare. Most mornings in the field, I stop and I look up a bit, think of such as Giant cats, and whisper, Thank Y-o.

Jeff