Maniola Won’t Come . . . For Sure

Maniola Telmessia butterfly (female) photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

Petra and I just came back from our long walk into Frick Park. She as usual walked beautifully, when no dogs were nearby. When an owner came along with a dog, she did her lunge to play thing. Dogs large and small do not, do not, take this well, and it’s often, drama. Petra is a Black Russian, and though a graduate of several obedience programs, that Black Russian thing is always there. Much of that time my mind was mostly on the FedEx package, expected before 10:30 AM, overnighted from Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, USA. We now have many followers around the world, thus the vital USA mention.

Maniola telmessia, the butterfly here, is not among the images coming home to me. During those 4 weeks in Israel (March 28 to April 25). Didn’t see a single one there, not in the upper Golan, nor in the top of the Galilee, and not in Ramat Hanadiv, or Mishmarot, or in the ‘Alligator’ River Park, near Hadera. Maniola should/could have been seen, but butterflies fly when they fly, and many factors determine that.

Shooting with film (Fuji Velvia 50/100) forces you to be patient. I’ve not seen them, some for 5 weeks. Don’t know which will be OMG! or which will disappoint. There were many ‘I hope this looks like it looks here!’ opportunities. Only when I haul out my lighbox, and use my loupe to examine each and every one, will you know I’ve scored winners! You’ll know when you hear that faint ‘Yay!‘ coming from Pittsburgh, all the way to Eatonton, Frewsburg, Frisco, Macon, Oxford, Shellman Bluff, Gibbstown, Whitbey Island, Lilburn, France, the Netherlands, Vancouver Island, Poland . . .

Oh, and I finished  The Thunder Tree by Robert Michael Pyle (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993) today, my 2nd read. That sent me here, to share.

Jeff

If I’m Correct . . . This Is The Only . . . .

Melitaea Persea Montium butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow on Mt. Hermon, Israel, 6/16/08

Just finished searching the internet for another photo of a live Fabriciana niobe philistra butterfly, on the internet. I could not find another. None. Ummm. We were on the peak of Mt. Hermon on June 16th, 2008. I was with Eran Banker, my guide. The objective: Scour this peak for any and all of the very rare butterflies found on it. Found nowhere else, in the world.

It was Very Very sunny, very hot . . . and very exciting. We saw some of the rarest of the butterflies that inhabit the peak. Most flew without enabling my approach, so no images of many. This one came in to nectar on these tiny little blooms. Ouch! A fritillary. There are endangered fritillaries on this mountain. Was this one of them?

At this time, utilizing the field guides available, and the internet, I come to conclude that this is a male Fabriciana niobe philistra. Not found down the mountain in Syria, or further west in Lebanon, or further south in Jordan. Only found on Mt. Hermon, in the summer!!

Is this the only image of a live Fabriciana niobe philistra? That would please me, much.

Jeff

That Danaus Look

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Danaus plexippus won’t disappoint us. We know they won’t. As I’m writing, they are flying north, now hundreds of miles distant from their winter perches in fir trees in central Mexico. Virginia can expect to see them before I do. Barbara Ann, hours north of me, may well  see them before I do. Miriam may see these Monarchs first, but my turn will patiently come.

What do the statisticians report? That 94.81% of Americans love Monarch butterflies, and will stop what they are doing to marvel at one. The results are not yet available for Europeans, Canadians, Asians, Africans, Central and South Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, and the French (because they are in the News today).

This instant Danaus, nectaring on a Middle Eastern thistle flower, almost instantly identifies as a Monarch relative. Like our other U.S. Danaus butterflies, the Queen and the Soldier, this Plain Tiger butterfly (D. chrysippus) is large, bright orange with broad black borders flecked with prominent white dots, and black veins. Head and abdomen are striking, with sizable white dots set on a stark black background. Hostplant? Israeli milkweeds.

Monarchs will tolerate my approach when they are nectaring, but not when they are resting, or sunning on a flat leaf in the pre-9 A.M. hours. Plain Tigers? No approach is tolerated. I see a beaut!, decide that a shot from ground level would produce a Wow! . . . approach, s-l-o-w-l-y get down on my belly, do that basic training crawl to get closer, s-l-o-w-l-y raise my Macro-lens . . . Gone! Sped away, full throttle! Time and time again.

Know then that this, and several other looks at D. chrysippus, give much much satisfaction. Yes.

Jeff

Found: A Clay Pond ‘Flasher!’

Common Wood Nymph Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Clay Pond, NY

There are things that fascinate us, and drive us to plumb their meaning. Some many years ago, in the meadow surrounding Raystown Lake in Pennsylvania, I saw Common Wood Nymphs with spectacular baby-blue eyespots on the forewings. After some minutes, this small pod of Wood Nymphs disappeared, and I could no longer shake them out of the meadow grasses.

I will never forget that morning. Those wing ‘eyes’ tore at my imagination. Why were they so different at this lakeside habitat? ‘Eyes’ so large, so comely blue?

Seems on an earlier trip to visit Israel, I brought with me my copy of Robert Michale Pyle’s book, The Thunder Tree – Lessons From An Urban Wildland (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993). Nearly three weeks ago, after finishing a couple of mystery novels that Rachel had on her Mishmarot bookshelf, I spotted The Thunder Tree, left there by . . . me. I picked it up, and began a re-read that continued on my April 25th El Al flight, and well today, bells and whistles started to go off. Pyle describes how, as a high schooler, he noted the variety of Wood Nymph eyespots along his beloved High Line Canal in what is now Aurora, Colorado. He shares:  “One day as I picked my way through the Sand Creek glade, watching out for the poison ivy whose leaves were as shiny as the cottonwoods,’ I spotted a pale female wood nymph and gave chase. She took cover in a clump of willow and disappeared on a trunk of her own color. Large and perfect, she was invisible with her wings tucked down. Then, disturbed by a fly, her forewings spread, revealing the big, cowlick eyespots that gave her subspecies the name bo-opis, or the ox-eyed wood nymph.” What does Pyle attribute this broad variety of eyespots to? “I concluded that all of these Peggies [Wood Nymphs] belonged to one big plastic species with a lot of latitude for expression, a theory later confirmed by better scientists than I . . . . I showed, to my satisfaction, that wood nymphs escape predation by flashing their big blue eyes . . . .”

Two years ago, Barbara Ann introduced me to Clay Pond in very western New York state. In the wet meadow that surrounded the protected pond, I flushed out this stunner of a Wood Nymph. Would you look at those forewing ‘eyes!’ Mind you not quite baby-blue, but huge, prominent and encircled by hot! yellowish rings! The very kinds of in-your-face butterfly beauty that Pyle and I both find, well startling, enchanting, extraordinary and a bunch more.

Once every so many years I meet such Wood Nymphs again, and it electrifies, Truth Be Told.

Jeff