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

Georgia: What Each of Us See

Georgia Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

August 2015. My first trip to photograph butterflies in . . . Florida. My destination? Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, in Florida’s Panhandle. My hotel accommodations in nearby Perry, Florda were OK. 20 minutes from there to Big Bend’s Spring Creek Unit was good, just right.

I had objectives. Butterflies I had never thought I’d get to meet. When I got there that first morning, a greeting party of Palamedes swallowtails (see yesterday’s post) met me at the parking lot (4 vehicles big). Fresh, Big! and hysterically nectaring on lush thistle, they launched my enthusiasm meter instantaneously!

Georgia was the Big Golden Ring (as in Coney Island, Brooklyn’s celebrated carousel). With no one to guide me, and a vast Big Bend WMA, would I find this elusive, rare beauty? Love browns, love satyrs, and love the challenge of finding rare, brown, satyrs.

Those 4 mornings I spotted 4 Georgias. Four! The Georgia satyr ( Neonympha areolata ) and I met on hot, sunny, mornings. The air? Super saturated. This image here will not earn your Oohs! & Ahhs! Why should it? What you see belies the Elixir that this experience was for me. The Brooklyn boy, from concrete/asphalt gets down on his belly, in the Florida Panhandle, sans guide, and with the sweat running down over his Dicks headband, shoots away at Georgia. All the challenges, all the triumphs, those setbacks, the paucity of support . . . face to face with Georgia.

Know that in a few weeks I will return to Georgia. Heading my ‘Bucket list?’ Capture images of Georgia that please . . . me, that do justice to this beauty.

Always on my mind= What do you see when I post? What do I see when I post, and  . . . how will you know the backstory??

Jeff