Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Rector, PA

I find that Lobelia Cardinalis is quite disarming. Working my way along a small pond in Rector, Pennsylvania, there it was. I don’t know about other men, but a certain red lipstick and these spectacular wildflowers evoke the same OOOh!  I also notice that all heads turn when a handsome male Cardinalis Cardinalis bird posts itself on a nearby branch.

A wetland plant, this relative of the Lobelias that we might buy at the local excellent nursery can be found in most states.

The flower’s nectar must offer a cocktail of nutritious sweets; as hummingbirds favor these brilliant red blooms. Do butterflies? I have seen Eastern Black Swallowtails drink the flower’s nectar, and are able to overcome the challenge of the length of the tubular flowers. One day I must return and park myself on a folding chair and photograph an Eastern Black on a cardinalis  bloom.

The above is solely a clinical observation of the flower’s physiological effects.



Sleepy Orange Butterfly

Sleepy Orange Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Tank Mountains Regional Park, AZ

Remember that kid who they called ‘Tiny’ although he was the biggest kid in the grade? Then consider that Sleepy Orange butterflies are just as active and alert as the other Yellows. The field guides attribute its name to an early expert who noted that some of them have markings that looked almost like a “sleepy” or closed eyelid. That became this butterfly’s name in the 19th century. If you were given a chance, what would you name this butterfly?

This Eurema nicippe posed for this photograph at White Mountains Regional Park, west of Phoenix. It was during the first week of March 2008, and this Spring 2008 was dazzling with billions of wildflowers everywhere you turned. January had seen the end of my wife’s 7+ years of battling Cancer. This feast for my eyes was most welcome. I flew away from the winter in the northeast, away from being a caregiver, away from years of feeling helpless when confronted with the scourge of fatal disease.

This butterfly appears to be a male. That morning in early March I arrived quite early. This Sleepy Orange was just rousing, and I watched as he flew to this leaf and began his morning ritual. Lots of other photographers share photographs that bring you much closer to the insect. My photographic practice with my 100mm 2.8 Canon macro- lens requires that I approach within 2 feet or less. With this butterfly, I had to stop where I did, or risk losing him. After all seeing me approaching, which is something he can do, must register as a BIG RISK.

Sleepy Oranges fly from Florida to Southern California. They are rare visitors to the northern states.



Orange Sulphur Butterfly

Cabbage white butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

July 21, 2011. Like a kid in a candy shop, our Colias philodice joyfully sips nectar just minutes after the ‘chow’s on!’ signal rang. I arrived here at the Phipps Conservatory’s Outdoor Gardens at 8:20 A.M. to photograph. There weren’t any butterflies at the nectar-pumping blooms, yet. Hundreds of thousands of nectar bearing flowers were waiting for their butterfly pollinators to arrive. Then some 45 minted later, there they came, butterflies of several species, single-mindedly going for nectar! After 15 minutes of heavy action: Poof! gone, no butterflies. A 15 minutes pause and once again in flew the squadrons of butterflies. Has this been examined?

Orange sulphurs in the U.S. northeast can be seen flying during as many as 10 months of the year, March to November. One brood produces the next, and so on. This butterfly (male? female?) surely enjoyed its flight. After 2 or 3 weeks if they still are active, they are faded and their wings show much physical stress with a heavy loss of scale.

How does the species get through the rough winters of northeastern states? They overwinter in pupae form.

Much to consider about a butterfly that is here and then gone in seconds.


Spring Larkspur Wildflowers

Spring Larkspur Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Heading along a trail at Raccoon Creek State Park, just minutes after entering the Wetland Trail, I begin scanning the growth on both sides of the trail for butterflies. I always pay particular attention to the right side of the trail. It gets good backlight from the early morning sun, and the girth of the trail edge to treed habitat is more substantial. Then there they were: flowers of bluish-purple color that were especially rich. They were so rich that I just had to stop in my tracks. These flowers evoke decorations used by European porcelain artisans in the 19th century. It was a Wow! experience, seeing these flowers quietly nestled there in the morning shadows. Now bathed in gentle morning sunlight, I knelt down and shot photographs. I’m photographing on film with a hand-held camera, so I took many, many exposures.

Delphinium tricorne is a native delphinium, and they are related to those resplendent flowers hung elegantly from tall,  straight stems. Consider whether or not you want to engage the challenge, and then buy the delphinium and just be aware that there is no guarantee that it will grow as you want it to.

In search of butterflies looking for nectar, I have spent a fair amount of time posted at Spring Larkspur like these. Such an image could become book art, and I’ve never had the good fortune to photograph one. I did,  once, see an Eastern Black Swallowtail nectar on Spring Larkspur. It remained there for seconds, I sucked in my breath and then it was gone! Zero, zilch. No image.


Arroyo Spells Caution

White Tank Mountains Regional Park, AZ photographed by Jeff Zablow

Arizona Arroyos fascinate me. As a native New Yorker now living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I struggle to understand how this habitat is so alive with flora and fauna. We are in the White Tank Mountains Regional Park, 25 minutes drive from Sun City West and at a higher spot we can easily see Phoenix. It’s minutes before 9 A.M. and although it is March, it is very hot in this Arroyo.

I’ve visited this area several times in recent years. I found that despite the abundance of wildflowers beyond the Arroyos, the Arroyo habitat itself was the best place to find butterflies. What did I do? I found wildflowers in bloom and waited to see if they drew butterflies. If they did, I parked myself there and awaited the arrival of butterflies hungry for nectar.

The next day I had no trouble working my way along the Arroyo, though the boulder strewn bed was a challenge to walk through. I walked a pretty good distance along the Arroyo shown in this photograph. I eventually turned around and followed the Arroyo back to where I entered it. It was a hot day, but I had plenty of water and made it back to my car without any trouble.

That next day, I returned to this same Arroyo and again walked my way along it. I decided that since the day before went so well, I would go somewhat further along the Arroyo. I walked and it was indeed work to make my way some 15 minutes more. There were occasional butterflies around 10:30 A.M. Then I started to feel good one moment and then the next I felt weak, exhausted, heady and my forehead was strangely dry. I knew that something bad had snuck up on  me. I felt weak, dry and 50% disoriented. I drank some water, but that made little difference.

What I did was foolish, very foolish. My wife had passed away just months before, in  January 2008. She would have been very upset with my response to this dilemma. I slowly headed back to where I had come from, and after 40 feet, I sat down under a bush. I drank and waited. I felt like limp crap (to be bluntly honest). I moved (walked wouldn’t be realistic) ahead again, about 40 feet to a little tree and sat under it. I drank some more water. I continued this survival strategy for what seemed like a very, very long time. At times under those bushes I wasn’t sure that I was going to survive. I mustered all that life had dished out to me, all that I  learned in a particularly brutal basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey; the pride that I  experienced when I completed OCS; all the street confrontations that I had as a kid; and my inner vision of myself as a warrior (True). I survived by moving from bush to tree to bush. Foolish because? I had a cell. I didn’t want to use it because I  didn’t want to look like a priss. I acted just like the TV character Raymond. I didn’t dial 911.

Just this week a man and woman were found along a particularly treacherous trail, having succumbed to 115 degree F heat.

I scored some good images that morning, and as I  sat in my car, limp and Thanking G-d, I considered what Arroyo means. Arroyo also spells Caution.