Finally! Three weeks in Israel would soon end, and yet another flight back home (Pittsburgh, PA, USA) without a passable photo of Israel’s Papilio machaon. Ramat Hanadiv, Mishmarot, the foot of Mt. Hermon, Tel Dan Reserve, Tal Kadosh Nature Park, and other northern Golan locales, and now Mt. Meron. Still no decent image of this beautiful swallowtail.
It was a lesson in perserverance. I was returning on a Mt. Meron trail, after having worked both sides of it for ¾ of a mile. It was hot, as it should be in mid-June 2013. But it was not excessively hot, and . . . the wildflowers were in bloom everywhere . . . and the butterflies were everywhere. So I was thankful for all that I had accomplished. A fantastic trip, joyous time with family in Mishmarot, travel in Israel without mishap, fair enough rental car, met many fascinating people, the personal joy of a strong, upright Israel, tremendous weather . . .
I was approaching the trailhead and my rental car. I’m thinking in total, Thank You. Ok, so maybe the next trip for images of Swallowtails and Two-tailed Pasha butterflies. My eye catches sight of a fresh Lep just off the trial, and I go to it, with my roll of slide film still waiting in my camera. Good, a couple of images . . . Then, WHOA! I see a swallowtail fly in and land on the tiny flower that you see in the image. Battlestations!
Do I risk moving closer to it? Isn’t the flower too tiny to keep the swallowtail interested, as I make an approach? Hasn’t it been years, without a shareable image? Move? Don’t move. Didn’t Uncle Sam train me to make decisions and execute them? I made an especially cautious approach. Careful Jeff, don’t risk getting too close. She will flee like a rocket!
It may well be that some will look again at this image and think, Eh! I tell you this is one wild, unapproachable species, this Papilio m. This female had not just exited her chrysalis in a house or shed, slowly drying and waiting to spread her wings and then, then fly. Lady Machaon is a wild as they get. I stopped 5 feet away from her, followed the steps in our Technique feature (See the Technique click near the top of your view) and shot, shot, shot, shot . . .
I am more than happy with the product. Her splashes of blue are dramatic. A bit of her orange/red hindwing marking can be seen. Her wings are sharp and intact. Youthful beauty!
That morning your ears did not deceive you. Whether you were in London, Calcutta, Mexico City, Charleston or Toronto…You did hear a faint, “Yes!” Faint because it was a scream that I let loose, from near the top of Mt. Meron, thousands of miles from wherever you were! I finally, finally scored images of Papilio machaon, just minutes before my final field work in 2013 in Israel.
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