June 2013 was near perfect in the northernmost Golan. Sunny, pleasant, and on June 5, nearly free of all but resident Israelis. My rental car was fine, the accommodations at the SPNI (Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel) fieldhouse were good, and the staff in the fieldhouse office were helpful. What could not be changed was the army’s directive that the peak of Mt. Hermon was closed. Only IDF (military) was allowed to ascend this strategic mountain. War! below. We contacted guides who might be able to reverse this ban for a lonely photographer of parpurim (butterflies) They all declined, all having served before and they knew.
So, unable to work the top of the mountain, I examined my maps and decided to go to a small village on the slope of the mountain, Neve Ativ was a tiny community. Good that the perimeter of this village had habitat that was abundant with butterflies. That was a wonderful morning! All alone, no one to interrupt me and the Leps, with the exception of that small military plane (noted elsewhere) that continuously flew up and back over nearby valleys, no doubt searching for infiltrators from the Syrian side of the mount.
This Lampides boeticus was one of many butterflies there that were active that morning, nectaring seriously on the extensive menu of wildflowers that surrounded them. All of the field guides that I was able to find in Israel were printed in Hebrew only, so I can only offer that this plant appears to be a thistle. Sure, I did visit public libraries in Tel Aviv, they and the museum bookshops possessed wildflower field guides in Ivrit (Hebrew). Sorry.
Once Syria resolves its murderous internal strife, back I intend to go, to Mt. Hermon. It’s summit is breathtaking, with Israel, Syria and Lebanon all there for you to see, with soldiers from armies watching one another, seriously, not sleepily, and with the surveillance devices (and satellites passing above) of who knows how many countries monitoring the movement (or lack of it) below, including hopefully the future furtive searching of one photographer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Oh how it seems that just a couple of weeks ago our effort was rewarded and this study in angles was the prize. Papilio glaucus nectaring on Asclepias tuberosa. Rain is steadily falling this morning in Pittsburgh, with a 45 degree Farenheit temperature reading.
So where are our featured butterfly and wildflower on this late October morning? She has passed on to dust to dust. The progeny that she surely produced now are hidden or not as pupae, in tree hollows, wood piles and downed logs. The Butterfly weed can no longer be found above ground, resting below the surface, roots and stem await the signals that Spring ’14 will provide.
In most years, the leaves you see here would present damage to their tips, evidence that Monarch caterpillars had been feeding on their primary food, the leaves of milkweed plants. No so in 2013. Very few Monarch came up north here to Raccoon Creek State Park, 40 minutes from Pittsburgh. Severe late winter weather probably destroyed countless million of the Monarchs, as they perched overnight, much too cold in the otherwise hospitable forest of Tennesse, Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Who visits wingedbeauty.com? Who will see this photo? Visitors come from more than 75 countries. Where they come from is fascinating. For example, Trindidad & Tobago has a population of 1.2 million people. China has a population of 1.3 Billion people (yes, that’s a bold B). Ready? Trinidad & Tobago brought many more views here than have come from China! These last 2 years, Chinese citizens viewed fewer than 5 of our posts. And that’s because?
The sun heated the top of Mt. Hermon. It was good that my guide, Eran, was a substantial, powerful guy. The liter bottles of water that he carried up there with him were very vital. We spent hours up on the mountain top that day. Looking back on that experience, the view of Syria, laid out below us, was beautiful and serene. Today, men hunt other men (and woman and children) and blast them to bits down there. War!
Marvel at how these butterflies spend the day on this scorched mountain peak, with nary a bottle of water or any source of water in sight. Incredible. This is the only place that Melitaea persea are found in Israel. Good.
These fritillaries (I saw several) all looked harried, as if they had spent a frazzled day at the office. This one thankfully decided to maintain its resting pose during my careful approach. Perhaps it heard my whispered plea of “Stay there, hold that pose. Don’t move.”
A moment of regret: How I sooo wanted to get back up on the top of Mt. Hermon in 2013 and again in June 2014. War! below stopped me. Sad. Too sad. Boy, are men stupid!
OMG! Bingo! Score! Thank YOU! September 14th along the front walk to world known Phipps Conservatory, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the middle of the city, 1/4 mile from the University of Pittsburgh and 1/4 mile from Carnegie Mellon University, half of whose students have travelled thousands of miles to study there. There, surrounded by hundreds of acres of verdant Schenley Park, our Nymphalis milberti hungrily sips the nectar produced by planted Tall Verbena.
I was there too, right time right place. What a rush! when a Milbert’s tortoiseshell flies in to a flower bed that you have staked out. This one tolerated the safe distance that I kept from it. My challenge was to avoid entry into the spacious flower bed, and, capture macro- images of the exquisite butterfly. It worked the verbena slowly and methodically. I had to be especially patient, as it seemed like hours went by, as it collected at each and every flower on the verbena flowerhead. My teeth grinding caution paid off, as it flew to these verbena, closer to where I was waiting. Pop! pop! pop! Pop! I shot away on slide film (Yes, slide film) and re-loaded several rolls of Fuji ASA 50.
I am pleased with this and a couple of other images. This is a beautiful butterfly. Enjoy the extraordinary upper wing colors, and contrast them with the stark ventral wing design. Yay! to the Craftsman who fashioned this gem of a creature. And Congrats! to these Milbert’s, who have straddled the 20th and now the 21st centuries, seemingly unaffected by all that we say and do.
Yesterday I picked up Robert Michael Pyle’s Mariposa Road for a second read. Now, that was a good decision. Joy in reading. Ah, if he would find this post and make Comment. Right place, right time, right share?
Found only on Mt. Hermon in Israel, this butterfly is also known as the Clouded Apollo. Regular visitors to wingedbeauty.com know that 2013 brought War! to the north face of Mt. Hermon, with mortars, ordinance and RPG’s hurtling this way and that down there and sometimes over Mt. Hermon and into Israel.
Sure, it is always hoped and expected that we will soon capture images that surpass the ones that we have been lucky enough to already own. So, I waited. This image was taken in June 2008. Wow! Butterflies on the peak of Mt. Hermon were numerous, exotic, and like Israeli fighter jets, knew only one speed when approached, Zoooommmmm. The challenge was real. The wait for new images up there on the peak was frustrated when I attempted to return in June of this year. Uh uh! Only IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). War below!
This image now has increased worth. A protected species found only on the 7,000 feet above sea level Mt. Hermon, and that now a closed military reservation. They nectar fiercely, like my black russian pup, Petra does, as if the ‘food’ will be snatched away imminently. After this butterfly exhausted the sugary nectar of this ground hugging flower, Zoooommmmm! Gone!