And Who are You?

Rare Grasshopper, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Yehudiya National  Park, Golan Heights, Israel

Working the trails at the Yehudiya National Park in the Golan. This northeastern part of Israel is lightly settled, and features lush green valleys, bordered by low mountains, all pointing north to majestic Mt. Hermon. The drive from here to Mt. Hermon is about an hour and a half. On the bottom of Mt. Hermon’s northern face, right there . . . Syrian regulars, ISIS, “Rebels,” US ‘advisors’ and aircraft, Russian ‘advisors’ and aircraft, Hezbollah from you-don’t-want-to-go-there Lebanon, Turkish forces, Kurdish militia and Iranian regular and irregulars . . . are all in a deadly minuet of kill, kill.

Here there’s peace, tranquility and G-d’s creatures. Butterflies were OK that morning, but I cannot say they were abundant. The wolves that roam this park and this region, well, I did not see them these 5 days here, even though I roamed freely, and was “alone again” me, myself and I.

Smack dab in the Middle East, knowing that so many of you, yes you, yearn to visit there??? And, who did I ‘bump’ into? This nicely camoflouged . . . grasshopper? It allowed a lengthy, close approach, just moving around that boulder a bit (boulders strewn everywhere, as if G-d was sprinkling giant salt).

I presume a grasshopper? If my Israeli friends come by, perhaps we will learn more. For the meanwhile, I have to say I was fascinated. It was about 92 degrees hot, 92F in the Middle East is way hotter than it is in Brooklyn, or Pittsburgh. 92F and our little cutie here is sunning itself on a boulder, for a good many minutes. Wow!

April 2017! Sound enticing, anyone?

Jeff

Bet You’ve Never Met a Leonard’s

Leonard's Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Leonard’s Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Please form a single line, and get your betting cash ready, for me thinks that almost None of you have ever seen a Leonard’s Skipper. Hesperia leonardus and I have met only once. It was the most unlikely, improbable meeting!

The odds of seeing her on this trail were about as good as the odds of being there, and . . . along comes Cindy Crawford!

I’d visited this same southwestern Pennsylvania park, Raccoon Creek State Park, dozens of mornings that summer. It was a summer with lots of butterflies, quite the contrast to this summer of 2016. I scored many, many excellent images. I was pleased with that. There was no reason to return to Raccoon Creek, now that September had arrived.

The day before this day, the forecast was for a sunny, beautiful day. Tempting, very. But it was mid-September, y’all were back at work, kids back to school, and . . . I didn’t need more images!

That night I decided, OK, expect nothing much, butterflies in decline or gone, spring ephemerals a faint recollection, just expect a sea of goldenrod, and not much more. Even the Monarchs should be expected to have left.

I went, LaDeDah, it was so nice there, not a sole about, and so comfortable . . . and Then, then, something  flew out from the cut meadow edge, onto the trail in front of me, and my eyes, my eyes sent what they saw to my brain, and my brain, it responded, Huh? What is this???

I had never seen this before. It was a butterfly. It was super fresh. It was a skipper. It was a Big skipper. It remained on the just cut grassy trail, with its dorsal surface in perfect form.

I made my robotic approach, I sllllooooowwwwwllllllllyyyyyyyyy got down on my belly, and I shot away (Fuji film, Velvia 50). I moved some, changed film rolls, and took almost 50 exposures.

I learned something very important that day. There are butterflies that are “our only butterfly with a single brood in late summer (Butterflies of the East Coast by Cech & Tudor, Princeton University Press)” I also learned that I have nothing to complain of, for Cech and Tudor continue, “A strong, rapid-flying skipper, Leonard’s is notoriously difficult to approach.” This babe stayed and posed for me for what seemed like a lifetime, or almost 4 minutes. Leonard’s are said to be steadily disappearing from their known eastern range, making this even more incredible!

I learned: Don’t discount the possibilities when you go out there, never underestimate what you may or may not see.

Oh, I hope you read along here to this end, for I Love retelling this,Truth be Told.

Jeff

Back to the Golan Heights in 2017?

Golan Heights Seen from Belvoir Mountain National Park, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Golan Heights, Israel

A view you have never seen before. I was up on Mt. Belvoir, in the lower end of the Golan region of Israel. My search for butterflies on the mountain was so-so successful. The botany up there filled those hours, especially the other-worlds Bear’s Breeches (recently posted here).

There I was up on this mid-sized mountain, March 2016. Never been there before, and never ever saw this view. It takes some time to integrate what is shown here, and then consider that just beyond the background area shown, is Mt. Hermon.

On the north face of Mt. Hermon, is the world’s current, and bloodiest battlefield. There, now, as you read this. Scan the valley that fills the mid-ground of this image. Quiet, largely unoccupied, and green, with several very large agricultural fields here and there. Move your eyes to the line of windmills. Israel is very hip, current and windmills are that, hip and current, and if seen here in Israel, where little is wasted, I am sure, efficient.

Now just over the crest of the hill, beyond the last windmill, is the beginning of Mt. Hermon’s footprint. Down on the other side of Mt. Hermon, Syrian government forces, “Rebel” forces, ISIS forces, Hezbollah forces, Iranian forces, Russian forces, Kurdish forces, U.S. regular and irregular (CIA, Special Opps, NSA, and only Huma knows  . . . ?), Turkish forces, elements of Hamas, Al Queda are all either fighting, or circling one another like wrestlers at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

So you see, this modest exercise in Golan geography also has us almost peeking into the reason that hundreds of thousands of Syrians are pouring out from Syria and walking to Europe and North America. Their life has been like some recent Hollywood movies, with legions of bloodthirsty people and aliens coming into bucolic Syrian towns and farmland, destroying, mortaring, murdering and raping the people who live there.

Israel remains So Strong, that this nexus of armies and mercenaries and crazies stops at the border. No one wants to be met by F-15’s piloted by well-trained young men and women, themselves very adept at using the very latest tech equipment that they have at their finger tips, Thank G-d.

Footnote: I hope to return to this green, verdant Golan region in Spring ’17 to again hunt for butterflies & visit my grandsons, too.

Jeff

Regal Fritillaries Mating

Mating Regal Fritillary Butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

What has disappeared from 99.6% of their original range? They have. Regal Fritillary Butterflies no longer are found in the 16 east coast U.S. states, with the exception of one colony in Pennsylvania and a semi-secret colony in Virginia. Gone from their grasslands, gone from their wet swales and gone from their boggy wetlands. Gone.

Last year I jumped at the opportunity to visit the Pennsylvania colony, not too far from the state capitol, Harrisburg. I have posted images from that day on wingedbeauty. They have generated solid traffic, for many know how rare Speyeria idalia is. Unable to skip work or responsibilities, so many of us can’t visit endangered butterflies, time does not allow.

I went in June 2015. Wanted to see them for more than 14 years. I went to this military reservation, Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, joined the huge group (130 guests!), and, and, it was wonderful. Just wonderful. Regals flew here, and there, and there, and here. The grassland (meadow!) was huge, and the large group began to break up, until I was alone with another guest, and a naturalist on the Post’s wildlife management staff.

Here is an image I was thrilled to capture. A male and female mating, coupled together in silent, motionless bond. Their ventral white spots shone. I shot away, Happy boy! was I, almost alone with Regals, beautiful butterflies whose ancestors flew from Maine to North Carolina, and are now counted as the rarest of the rare.

Blessed was I to go, to see, and as here, to share poignant evidence that we are not doing the best we can, with what we have been given. Native Americans? Their lands? Heck, the entire land mass that is the United States. Regal fritillary butterflies? Down to 0.4% of their native habitat.

I share a coupled pair of Regal fritillary butterflies with you. Will your grandchildren be able to go see them, and share their images of Regals?

Jeff