Thanksgiving Day Approaches and It’s On My Mind

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly and Edwards Hairstreak on Butterflyweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

Less than a handful of days away, Thanksgiving is in the USA. It’s a day for us Americans to think of all that we are Blessed with, and for us here in the States to gather family (COVID-19 precautions considered) and revel in all that we have, in the good health that most enjoy, and to sit there and smile, as we watch the youngsters, year after year, preparing to take their turn in life.

Our table will be not quite that, but Thankful? I am very, very Thankful. I am happy, so very happy. We enjoy this home we’ve moved to in North Macon, those .68 acres, steadily filling with Georgia native plants and do you believe it? Today, November 23rd we enjoyed Zebra Longwing and Cloudless Sulphur butterflies. Back in Pittsburgh, that first week of September was almost always the Bye Bye week for seeing butterflies.

On my mind, adding to my euphoria, the hope of seeing total, abject beauty, as you see here in Lynx Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio. The Butterflyweed (a Milkweed species) lush and richly colored. The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly? Mama Mia! The Edwards Hairstreak butterfly, tiny, yet elegant. The background in this image? Oh how I long to return again to this botany wonderland! 2021!

Jeff, sharing of Thanksgiving thoughts.

Jeff

Pittsburgh to Macon, Georgia: The Big Switcheroo

Jeff Zablow's Perennial Beds Pittsburgh, PA, 7/10/07

Today? Today we planted native trees into our new Macon, Georgia back garden. We’re doing the whole Doug Tallamy thing, full bent! The accompanying image is of my 2003 back garden in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We set out there to attract butterflies and to feast our eyes on beautiful blooms.

What’s there in that sweet garden? Irises (Dutch), several varieties of Salvia, Shasta Daisy, Buddleia (Chinese Butterflybush), Oakleaf Hydrangea, Crape myrtle (Frieda A”H (OBM”)) saw it in Georgetown, D.C. and loved it), Monarda in fantastic bloom, Hydrangea, Yellow irises, the circular rose bed that Frieda had always wanted and more, so much more.

Now we did the Big Switcheroo. We’re in Middle Georgia, a 13-hour drive south of Pittsburgh. Most everything is different, and  . . . as I did shortly before I left Pittsburgh, I went native. Catherine of Sylvania Natives Nursery recommended that I read this book by Doug Tallamy. I did, and I changed. It for one, explained why my butterfly garden in Long Island, New York almost never attracted any butterflies (the upscale community around us had manicured gardens, all landscaped by guys named Tony, Salvatore and Guiseppe, and 99% of their elegant plantings were . . . Asian, European & South American).

So this afternoon we relocated some huge azaleas in our new Macon garden, and we planted natives, for our native butterflies, bees, flies, moths, hummingbirds and more. What’s we add today, in those not so easy to create large holes? Today’s juvie plantings: Blackgum trees, a White Oak tree, A Sourwood tree and a Yellowwood tree.

Pots awaiting going in? Chokecherry, Viburnums, Asters, Rusty Blackhaw & Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium).

The Big Switcheroo. Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn’s concrete, asphalt and brick?

The butterflies flying in, in 2021? Oh my Goodness . . . .

Jeff

We’re Trying To Tie This With The Right Tune

Little Wood Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida

There we were at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area in Florida’s Panhandle. It was a search for southeastern butterflies, and we found them: Georgia satyrs, Palamedes swallowtails, Tiger swallowtails and more, much more.

It sure surprised me when we spotted this one, a Little Wood Satyr butterfly (Megisto cymela). I’ve lived in Georgia for less than 3 years, and this one? I always associate Little Wood Satyrs as northern butterflies. They’re found in all of the northeastern states of the United States, and further west all the way to the Dakotas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Careful exam of its range map shows that Little Wood Satyrs are found in northern Florida, and that’s where we were.

Watching this sweetie fly onto this leaf, to take in the early morning sun, brought a smile. A small butterfly, it brings to mind that childhood fav, Tinker Belle, that Peter Pan companion.

It brought a smile, and a thought. I thought that this little butterfly deserves a tune, to celebrate its discovery that morning, at Big Bend.

The tune? I so hope y’all come up with just the right one . . . .

Jeff

I’ll Never Know (At White Tank Mountains Regional Park, AZ)

Darner-type fly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in White Tank Mts. Regional Park, AZ

You and I don’t like unsolved mysteries. For me, field work in distant habitat often ends with questions that go long unanswered. Some, perhaps you, often make friends with far-flung butterfly, moth, bird, snake, orchid, wildflower, big cat or others whose knowledge and breadth of field work ranks them as regional or national or international experts.

I’ve been blessed to have met some, but maybe I’ve not met as many as I’d like to have met. Phil, Rose & Jerry, Mike, Barbara Ann A”H (OBM”), Nancy & John, Angela, Dave, Jerry and Virginia shared and impressed. 2021 beckons, and several new possibilities beckon. For that, I am, even at this point in my life’s journey, very excited.

I met this insect in that forbidden (signs said do not enter at your own risk (risk of flash flooding)) arroyo west of Phoenix, Arizona. I was in my search for butterflies, there just a very limited number of plants in flower, that summer, with the temperature reaching the upper ’90’s, around 10 A.M.. It flew in, was not a butterfly but, was beautiful and of course, I shot away. It fed on nectar, allowed me to shoot it, and soon left.

I expect that I will never know the species name and common name of this animal. I’m uncomfortable ‘researching it online’ for I’m never sure that I’ve correctly determined the species. I do want to have those who are deep in knowledge of such species to help, but I don’t know who they are, it is Arizona, thousands of miles away from the desk in Macon, and . . . .

Jeff

Erato Heliconian Butterfly (National Butterfly Center)

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

This one sure has difficulty trying to hide in the near dark National Butterfly Center grass. Those bold, bright red stripes blare out at you. Makes you wonder why this rare butterfly, that occasionally visits there, wonder why it has those red stripes.

When it did finally fly, it flew down the trail, some nearly 150 feet, always in sight and it followed a straight-line path, some 4 feet above the ground. I watched, transfixed, for I saw something that intrigued me. During that straight-line flight, those red stripes were always visible, they actually were always easily seen.

My hypothesis? This butterfly must be toxic to predators that would prey on it. Those red stripes may signal habitat predators that this butterfly is toxic (poisonous), and should not be captured.

Do you concur with this opinion?

Jeff