Northern Pearly- Eye Butterfly

Northern Pearly Eye butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Stealth. That’s what you need to approach a basking Northern Pearly-Eye Butterfly. This one was perched just right, affording views of both upper wing surface and lower (ventral) wing surface. It’s as if we positioned it for the best possible pose. So hold your breathe and follow the approach technique described in our Technique feature. We took this photograph on Nichol Road trail at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania.

This will be our 4th post of Enodia anthedon, and once again we share the richness of its chocolate- browns and cocoa on its wing. Eyespots on the dorsal (upper) surface broadcast their solid brown centers. The eyespots on the ventral wing sport yellowish rings with dramatic white pupils. The photograph evokes the kind of image that would work well in a chocolate shop in Sao Paulo or London or Tribeca or Seattle.

Meeting such a handsome Northern Pearly-Eye that is wistfully enjoying some morning sun, reminds you of the time that you went downtown and taken by surprise. OMG! isn’t that? Fill in the name of a uber! famous person.

Gender?  I think that this butterfly is male.  It has 4 eyespots on the ventral forewing and the forewings pointed at their front ends.

Remember that this is a species whose habitat is a wooded and especially moist locale. The butterfly is infrequently spotted.  When I do see it I must quickly check aperture and shutter speed, because it is almost always found in the shade. Photographing a Northern Pearly-Eye butterfly may even require a polarizing filter, because of morning dew all around. This one made it a bit easier, perched on a leaf with conditions being drier than expected.

A  morning maker, for sure.


PS. This photograph is featured in our poster for an upcoming presentation at Raccoon Creek State Park.

Skipper Butterfly

Skipper butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Mountains Regional Park, AZ

We throw our hands up in absolute surrender to a moment in time.  It was September 2008 at 9:05 A.M. in the White Tank Mountains Regional Park, southwest of Phoenix, Arizona. Every never before seen butterfly brought welcomed excitement to my photographic endeavors. Of course that excitement was tempered by the stark reality of a brown skipper.  It was on the large side of medium, with forewing spots. You know that without an experienced butterflier at your side, the next step, identifying this individual, was going to be between guesswork and fruitless.

The photographic image is good. Its composition is OK. The slide begs the question: “Post it or not?” I’ve taken a chance and  posted it with the hope that generous NABA and Xerces folk will contribute their feedback.

Eufala skipper. Quien sabe?

Place your bets.


Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Habitat

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge photographed by Jeff Zablow

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a rich and robust habitat. The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge was teeming with wildlife in August 2012 when I photographed butterflies every morning during a week-long vacation. Located in the southeastern corner of South Carolina, the Refuge is an 18 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia. Readers might be interested to know that it was once a rice farm. If you drive another 20 minutes you’ll see beautiful Tybee Island where we stayed.

I saw alligators, herons, turtles, frogs, gulls and richly colored butterflies. The Viceroys were especially striking, with breathtaking contrasts of orange next to black. I was not satisfied with the photographs I came home with. You guessed it, those viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) were especially leery of my approach. They are a wetland species, and Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is home, sweet home to them.

I’m planning to return in mid-August with the determination successfully photograph the Viceroys!



Monarch Butterfly at Phipps Conservatory

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory

Hard to believe that we’ve reached midsummer? We are solidly in the month of July ’13. NABA members are just now reporting that they’ve seen their first Danaus plexippus. This male Monarch was photographed in 2011 at Phipps Conservatory’s Outdoor Gardens in Pittsburgh. He is sipping nectar from Tall Verbena. This perennial is an excellent choice for your garden. Few of your flowers can produce nectar from June through November, as tall verbena does.

Sometimes familiarity does breed contempt. Sometimes we just forget how beautiful our Monarchs are. Look at this fellow, with his rich orange, darkest black markings set with stark white spots; those lemony orange submarginal spots; the splattered white spots adorning his head. Is he not a Hunk?

When we present a slide show before groups, the predictable question is “How do you know that he’s a male?” Look at his hindwings. Do you see the veins that are closest to his body?  See the  black scent patches at the center of those veins? The patches clinch the identification. Males have them, and females do not. They enable males during courtship.

This morning I photographed in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park, a 900+ acre city park. Hackberry Emperor Butterflies were flying, and there were dozens of them within 100.’ They were all males. Monarchs are aptly named because females far outnumber males, in my experience.

Note the historic Cathedral of Learning tower in the background. The University of Pittsburgh landmark frames the Monarch portrait.


Question Mark Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

Question Mark butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

I admire the work of those of you who travel great distances, climbing rugged terrain and doing extensive detective work to capture images of butterflies in the outback. Wingedbeauty has a long way to go before we can claim such distinction. Our posts here are butterflies that hikers, picnickers, naturalists, and home gardeners can see. We offer information  and identification assistance, hopefully leading our readers to results. My favorite of these possibilities are that 1) people are prompted to be much more aware of the butterflies they encounter and 2) then they head out into the field to locate and identify butterflies. These responses will increase the universal awareness of butterflies and exponentially strengthen the ranks of butterfly lovers.

Polygonia interrogationis butterflies are usually met on trails that skirt the forest. The best time to spot one is in the mid-morning. They fly in a leisurely manner at this time of day. This butterfly had just abandoned its nighttime hiding spot. Still sluggish, the insect allowed me to approach with care. Resting on a fern in Raccoon Creek State Park (Southwestern Pennsylvania), its chosen position made for an image that reminds us that the Question Mark Butterfly is one of the anglewing butterflies, recognizable for its severe hooks and the turns of its wing margins.

Moments later this butterfly flew speedily out of sight. You almost never see them drinking nectar from flowers, so these are the kinds of meetings you must have with Question mark butterflies. To see what they eat, why don’t you have a look at our other posts on Question Mark Butterflies.

This photograph is a good representative for the types of butterflies that we share here: Butterflies of your city, town, farm, and rural neighborhood. They are our neighbors, so to speak.