The Middle Class Butterfly

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14

We saw dozens and dozens of Great Spangled Fritillaries last week in Adams County, Ohio. Just miles north of the Ohio/Kentucky border, they were just super! to watch. Butterflyweed was in full bloom, as were Black eyed susan, common milkweed, clover and just a menu of other native wildflowers. The vast majority of Great spangleds were totally fresh, few bird struck. Why, I asked of my new friends, were so few of these large frits bird struck? Largely because those open prairies were way too risky for birds to enter, what with so much open space, and the ever present danger of raptors, waiting along the treeline for hapless birds.

See, I noticed that my fellow hikers, determined to see orchids, wildflowers, butterflies and mushrooms took little note of this flight of Great spangleds. They went almost unnoticed. Several times over those 3 days I  mulled over this. Especially gorgeous Great spangled fritillaries were mostly invisible to my trail companions. They, like this instant one, treated the eyes, and really encouraged, for they were many, they were Fine! and that’s a good omen for this county, this part of Ohio.

It struck me then, that like red-spotted purple butterflies, and pearl crescents, and eastern-tailed blue butterflies, great spangled fritillaries were the ‘middle class’ of the eastern U.S. butterflies. That is, they largely get little attention and usually go unnoticed. We move right by them, not even breaking stride. We heed them not, and we don’t register that our hike past them will upset them and send them aloft.

Like us, they are beautiful, and at the same time, no light, no action, no cameras, no media, well just about like us, awake, get going, eat, work, and return to roost at the end of the day, with nary a compliment, and surely no  one to tell  us how good we look, how much we are appreciated, or how much our presence makes a whole lot of difference. ID one nearby as an Aphrodite Fritillary, and all come running, running past Great Spangled, as if the didn’t exist.

Great Spangled Fritillaries, the middle class butterfly.

Jeff

Excitement on Beechwood Boulevard

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State ParkA

A sight for sore eyes! Petra and I arrived home last night, completing an 188 miles drive down from Frewsburg, New York. This image was captured in Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County, southwestern Pennsylvania. This very morning I looked out of our window, to the side yard, and its ‘peanut’ garden. And what did I see? A female monarch butterfly, like this one, flying to and fro amongst my 26 common milkweed plants. Yippee! She may then head to the 30 or so milkweeds in the front garden, and . . . set her eggs nicely there, too.

This is the 4th year that our milkweeds ( Asclepias syriaca) are in, purchased from Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. They are beautiful this year, 5-6 footers, with big round flower heads.

We pushed off for this most recent trip on June 12th, and arrived back home on June 21st. Adams County in the south of Ohio was our destination. We met other naturalists there, and spent days visiting fens, wooded trails and prairies. Fantastic , it was, with knowledgeable friends, discovering rare orchids, showy orchids, rare botany. Why, why did America allow its prairies to be developed? They are habitat of boundless life and beauty.

My slide film ships to Kansas tomorrow, and I wait. Images of Northern metalmarks, coral hairstreaks, Baltimore checkerspot caterpillars, Zebra swallowtails on butterflyweed(!), Common ringlet, robust pipevine swallowtails and Edward’s hairstreaks, abound. I simply cannot wait to share.

Pumping that anticipation is my desire to see the fruit of my new Cannon 100mm/2.8 lens, with, with image $tabilizer. Will it, can it, deliver?

Appreciative, I am.

Jeff

Booking A Showstopper

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

Rolling into Big Bend Wildlife Management Area that day, I was psyched even before I rolled to a stop in the small parking pad. The last 100′ I’d been passing . . . big, gorgeous Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies. I hadn’t seen them since many years ago in Mississippi. These Florida Panhandle Palamedes were much bigger than most other swallowtails, were mostly vividly hued, fresh and few were bird-struck (had bits of hindwing plucked by birds during unsuccessful attack).

Virginia discovered Big!! in May in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat (Yes, Eatonton, Georgia). A pair of Queen (!!!!) caterpillars. Never sen there before, Queens? Field guides show them no closer than a 2.5 hour drive south and east. They’re now eclosed and magnificent. No sweat as to what to nourish any future progeny with. The BBBPatch Habitat has about 100 Asclepias (milkweed) plants, poised and available.

Connect the dots? Virginia mentioned in April that she’s planning to set in Redbay trees/shrubs (?) to attract Palamedes swallowtails, like this instant one. Now many know that when this whirling dervish of a woman sets out to do something, Las Vegas’ line is very, very favorable. Palamedes in the Georgia Piedmont? Rare, but they have been historically seen there. Dare you bet against Miss Virginia?

Jeff

Rose’s Silvery

Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, GA

Rose and Jerry agreed to meet me at the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. Pearly-eyes were the objective. I am fond of pearly-eye butterflies, brushfoots that I know from my Pennsylvania trails. Elusive, mysterious and one of very, very few butterflies that you’d see on an overcast morning. Always seen near wetlands, they tease you to come closer, than . . . are gone, into the tree labyrinth nearby.

But this was Georgia, and I was anxious to make my first meet-up with the other pearly eyes: Southern Pearly-eye and the very hard to find Creole Pearly-eye. The park ranger cautioned, did I understand that the swamp that the 3 of us were headed to had been a known vector for several insect-borne diseases. Uh . . . Um, No. Hmmm. Quick conference with me, myself and I. I had grown up on the streets of Brooklyn, I had been in too many fights to count, carried a 5″ folding during those subway rides for 4-years, volunteered for NYARNG artillery ( 155mm towed ), Dean for 5.5 years at a Big NYC high school, ran hundreds of apartments in NYNY, . . . . . survived, Thank G-d. Next thing I knew, Rose, Jerry and I were in that swamp. A wonderland of Pearly-eyes it was. We saw Northern, Southern, Creole and Gemmed Satrys in that cane filled lowland. It was overpoweringly dark for my ASA 50/100 Fuji Velvia film, the sweat was just streaming down over my glasses, and Rose and Jerry ( Phd, Entomology! ) are human dynamos, calling me here, then there, to see fliers. Imagine me spinning around, jumping logs and mucking in mud. I Loved it!

After they mercifully agreed that we had done what we can do, Rose asked if there were any other butterflies that I might like to see and that are local to the Georgia Piedmont. Sure, Silvery Checkerspots. I may have seen one once, a long time ago. Off we shot in their car, and soon arrived at a small retaining pond. Jerry parked, and Rose led the way. Bingo! She pointed out the Mamma mia! of a Silvery. With glee! I got down on my belly and shot away. Here it is, near perfect, with those white spots in the margins of the hindwings.

Friends like Rose and Jerry enable me. They seem pleased to meet me and show me new trails, to rich butterfly lodes. It is only in the last years that I have been so fortunate to meet and benefit from Nancy, John, Mike, Virginia, Phil, Barbara Ann, Erica, Angela (next week), Dave.

Rose’s Silvery. Watcha’ think?

Jeff