Serendipity on Mt. Meron in northern Israel. June 10th was a beautiful day. I worked the trails at SPNI Meron, happily encountering one fresh butterfly after another. Not bothered by crowds or even another person, it was special.
This male sought to support the fun that I was having. He posed on his low perch, sharing his warm, deep oranges, gray, black, and white motif. He was so vivid that I’ve had to spend a little additional time perusing the Israeli field guides, because their printed images do not go to the colorful extremes that this fellow flashes, tails and all.
A grown man and his butterflies . . . Yummy!
This morning, breakfast was enjoyed while re-reading Pyle’s Mariposa Road (a 3rd read is not out of the question). Among the incredible butterflies recalled in this stretch of his book, was the Desert Orangetip. Great! We’ve posted that pretty here in wingedbeauty.com. Breakfast finished, here I am posting, and what better image to share than this Protected orangetip, found only in northernmost Israel. It may also be found in Lebanon and Syria, but butterflying there amongst Hezbollah, al-Queda, the warring sides in the Syrian slaughter grounds, etc. would require a significant risk of not being heard from again.
This snappy gent was busily nectaring in a small nature reserve that March morning. The fine parking lot accommodates cars and buses for touring school excursions. As in most cases, the head of trails in such places (with no park rangers) are heavily worn and often too littered, but once you’ve hiked the trail for some minutes, all you encounter are the occasional serious esthete and wildlife. The orange of his wingtips was deep and easily reminded of several tasty fruits and gourds that share this zippy orange coloring. Female A. damones must swoon over this fellow.
Look how he allowed me to approach! Other such wingtips were seen, but this one was the freshest and I shot away.
June 10th was another near perfect morning. I was booked in the field house at SPNI Meron in very northern Israel. We were at the base of Mt. Meron, a beautiful and strategic mountaintop looking straight into southern Lebanon. The trails in the extensive SPNI (Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel) reserve proved to be packed with nectaring wildflowers and lots and lots of butterflies. With the trails beginning at the door to my quarters, I was able to get an early start, and was out working the wildflowers before 8 A.M.! Soo many great butterfly opportunities. My Canon camera did give me fits, with its built-in photometer becoming unreliable. Ooh!
With so much success that morning, I decided to go out again at 6:30 P.M. on those same trails. The heat of the sun would be reduced, and surely the butterflies would fly again before they roosted for the night. I shot some goodies in that next hour and a quarter. Headed back on the trail, I noticed an alcove to the right side of me, just meters before I reached my 3-day field house quarters. This spot was filled with wildflowers, and blues and others were busily flitting from one to another bloom. There were rocks here and there between this and that, so I noted that I had to be cautious as I worked this promising flower bed.
Good. Good. Nice. Good. SUDDENLY! I was falling. Down I went like a load of bricks. As I hit the ground, I couldn’t understand it. Why did I fall. I didn’t stumble on a rock? I didn’t step into a hole? Huh?
On the ground, I made one of those split second appraisals that you do after a hard hit. I missed falling on the rocks. I assessed that I had no serious injury. Then I looked up. You see what I saw. This cat was right where you see it. Staring right at me. Did I fall because?
I am a very practical, pragmatic man. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop thinking that my fall was mysterious, to say the least!
N.B., The next afternoon, I again hiked these same trails, after dinner-time. On my way back to my villa, within meters of the trailhead, I was startled again. A very large female boar shot across the trail, some 12 to 15 feet ahead of me. It was 300 pounds or more is my guess. I remained in place. 4 little piglets also shot the gap, dashing after their mom. A wild dog on the trail in the morning; then boar in the late afternoon. Mt. Meron is certainly alive with wildlife.
A white adorned butterfly with ‘eyes’ on its hindwings. Melanargia titea is a very purposeful butterfly that flies in and gets whatever nectar it can get, and leaves. Cats and dogs have distinct personalities. They interact with us in mostly predictable ways. I find this to be true for butterflies. Years in the field have enabled me to expect certain minimal, but discernible interactions with most butterflies. The Monarch butterfly that turned to look at me, the Mourning cloak butterfly that caused me to tear up, the jolly little duskywings that escort you down the trails you hike. I find Levantine marbled whites to be very aloof and business-like. Come, nectar, go. Unlike the female tiger swallowtails that will tolerate my presence, with some ‘complaint,’ as they work the wildflowers.
This one was on the top of Israel’s Mt. Hermon (2008) when there was unseen military presence, and Eran, my guide and I roamed the mountain top, encountering lots of butterflies, grazing cows, shy lizards, eagles and 1 ugly, old land mine.
Levantine marbled whites are found throughout the northern half of Israel. This satyr-type of butterfly flies from April to August. It’s host plants are native grasses.
Boy do I wish I could get back up on Mt. Hermon.
When I was teaching at South Vo-Tech High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (for our international friends, that is west of the state of New York), we introduced a new Laboratory. My Biology students enjoyed this Lab each Friday. What Lab? I called it ‘Slide lab.’ Some 80% of my students were from low-income city neighborhoods. When I met them each September, they (97% of them) could not name or recognize a single local bird (robin, house sparrow, crow, blue jay) or butterfly. They were children of brick, asphalt and concrete. This struck me as sadder than dirt!
I love to photograph wildlife. They were studying Biology. Thanks to my background (the streets of Brooklyn, National Guard Artillery, OCS and years as a Dean (Discipline) in a NYCity high school) we were getting alot done, and they were enjoying it. Honest. So I invented Slide lab. If you have taught for a living, you will not be surprised to learn that school administrators were not happy about this Slide lab. It didn’t matter that the kids were learning about their own communities. This initiative did not come down from the top. Cut! When June arrived, my students identified many, many local birds, butterflies, insects and wildflowers by name. This made me happy and satisfied.
When my wife Frieda was spending so much time in Shadyside Hospital, I would occasionally encounter some of these students. Almost none of them went on to university, but there they were as custodial, techs and nurse assistants. They would see me: up comes a big smile, and then “Mr. Zablow?” Then, they would proudly rattle off the names of our local fauna & flora. Me? My heart, broken upstairs on that sad, sad 7W stem cell transplant wing, would suddenly Surge with HAPPINESS. Grown now, these men and woman were surely introducing their own children to the now familiar wildlife living right next door to them. City parks and empty lots no longer remained invisible.
Now to this Epargyreus clarus. That silver patch set in a field of dark brown enables all of us to recognize this butterfly immediately. They were ideal for my kids. Ideal. They saw them in their neighborhoods, They saw them in their playgrounds and they saw them as they walked home from the bus stop each afternoon. They averted their eyes from the many disappointing sights that summed up their surroundings. But they looked for and saw Silver-spotted skippers, and Cabbage whites and Orange sulphurs and searched, searched those empty lots for the elusive Monarch or Red Admiral.
Slide Lab? What happened to Slide Lab?