We drove nearly 900 miles from Pittsburgh, down to Greenville, Mississippi. It helped that my grade school teachers made the spelling of this beautiful state an absolute must. You had to be able to spell M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. Greenville was a bustling cotton town, cotton brought to the docks was loaded on ships and sent to all corners of the globe. Although Greenville no longer thrives, the wildlife in the Mississippi delta region was all new to me.
Well, almost all new. Asterocampa celtis is also found in Pennsylvania. We have posted several images of our northern hackberrys. The Hackberry emperors and Tawny emperors (Asterocampa clyton) flying in western Mississippi were impressively rich in color. Their appealing coloration often led to confusion, i.e., was this one here a Hackberry or a Tawny? Leroy Percy State Park offered both hackberrys. Ours here is a Hackberry emperor.
A trip back to Mississippi included several mornings at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, the Rangers there declined my request to show me the most promising trails? Of course that little damped my enthusiasm to find and photograph new butterflies. Find them I did. Several species I had never seen before. After once seeing (I have not doubt about that) a Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria) in Raccoon Creek Sate Park in southwestern Pennsylvania (no photo and I was not expecting to encounter it, and it certainly was startled by me and zoomed away), early in the morning at Yazoo, I had one of those, Am I seeing what I am seeing? experiences. There was a Goatweed leafwing perched on a tree trunk, in the shade of the morning. I regained my head, looked, looked, looked and when I remembered, Duh! You are a photographer, I began to raise my Canon. Whist! it disappeared into the forest. Mississipi. Mosquitoes, moderate. Chiggers, Uh oh!
This one stayed in my Neumade metal slide cabinet since my June 2008 trip to the peak of Mt. Hermon. Every butterfly I spotted on the mountain top denied me an easy approach (See our Technique feature). So the slides came back from the lab, and sure enough, they were not perfect…my subjects just kept moving, shifting and fleeing. Found only on Mt. Hermon, at the northernmost tip of Israel, this Parnassius m. only barely tolerated my presence. What an annoyance I was, she seemed to be concluding . . . then, zip! She jetted away, out of sight. I saw just 2 of them that day, and the second was a distance from me, and on the move.
With War! at the base of the mountain (Syria!), I was unable to return to the mountain in June 2013. No civilians were permitted up the mountain. Earlier, in March 2012, we couldn’t photograph butterflies up there because . . . the summit was snow-covered. Magnificent, but its butterflies were not flying.
So this image, now much more valuable to me, has deeper significance, and looks much, much better to me. War! Preparation for armed conflict.Infilitration by terrorists. Land mines that were supposed to have been removed . . . but were missed, and still waiting . . . (See our earlier post, when Eran Banker discovered one right where I was working the top for Leps).
The U.S. has Parnassius species. I’ve yet to see one. Here’s Israel’s Parnassius. They are most closely related to the swallowtails. Ahhhhh, if only one of our American butterfly scholars would share how?
June 23 at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Hmm. Sitting here in mid-November, would I so like to hop into my Tundra tomorrow morning and drive to see this female Speyeria cybele as she purposefully moves from one Common milkweed or Asclepias syriaca flower to the next. There are many bloggers and Facebook contributors urging us to plant Asclepias in our gardens and lots. This is an excellent initiative. Milkweeds support so, so many butterfly populations. After much time in the field, you are always watchful when you approach a stand of Common milkweed. Why? Because they are a beacon that draws all types of butterflies . . . you never know when a tortoiseshell or a hairstreak or who knows what will fly into those sweetly aromatic blossoms.
Great spangleds are such inspirational butterflies. You encounter them on trails at the forest edge, in the morning fleeing from the trail edge when you approach. That adrenaline rush, yours!, is a good wake me up! when you reach your photo opp destination. Weeks later you see some of them again, worn, tattered with significant wing damage, but . . . still flying, with their mission apparently still unsettled . . .
Now on the subject of seeking objectives yet unaccomplished, today I completed my second read of Robert Michael Pyle’s Mariposa Road. I enjoyed it as much as I did the first read. No kidding. Pyle’s Big year effort reignited my thinking and I may well shoot for the stars in 2014. Travel. Travel to photograph butterflies that are eye tantalizing and found in very reduced habitat. Of course I don’t merit the large following that Pyle does, but I do have a Big wind to my back . . . the almost overwhelming joy I experience when I find and photograph new butterflies. Then, when I score good to excellent images . . . Kappow!
Tomorrow I open a 1955 book noted several times by Pyle, Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher’s Wild America (Houghton Mifflin, 1955). OMG! What must it have been like, going to undeveloped, unscrewed-up wilderness in the U.S. in the 1950’s. I occasionally find myself trying to imagine Pennsylvania in the early, mid- and late 1800’s. Cougar in the county in which I live. No way!
A little more than 7 months until Great spangled frits fly again in my county, Allegheny. Regals? Diana’s? Yum yum yum yum! as they say . . .
The trails near the base of Mt. Meron, and the trails near the mountain’s peak were teeming with butterflies. They were of many different species . . . and they were mostly fresh! Like plain bagels coming out of the bagel oven on Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn in the late ’60’s (aroma and taste that still float in my subconscious – Hey, those were real water bagels, and the guys working there were 3 guys name Moe), the beauty of almost all of the butterflies that we encountered was startling.
I was battling with my Canon camera, whose built-in photometer was failing to advise me. The morning was near perfect, it was June 2013, no wind, no 300-lb. boar and no native wild dogs. All this by way of preparing you to embrace the reality of this image. He may be common-named Common Blue, but there was nothing common about this Polyommatus icarus. He had flown since 6:30 A.M. and he was exhausted. Finding shy, hidden females required many meters of flight, and occasional stops to rest. While doing that, he opened his wings to capture the morning sun.
What can’t we say about this male. Is he not gorgeous. Please tell us where else you have seen such blue?
Perhaps my main objective those 3 days was to photograph the largest butterfly found in Israel, the ubra beautiful Two-Tailed Pasha. As you already may have read, I saw 3 of them, and they saw me first, zoooooming away at great speed, off into their hosptlant, strawberry trees. I learned there that they fly at first light, say 6:30 in the morning, and by 8:00-ish, they remain up in the trees, unseen until the next day. Comes the question: should I return to Mt. Meron in May, and capture the image that I never got some months ago?
Anyway, Common Blue may be eh! in Tel Aviv, but they are happy encounters on Mt. Meron…and they are sweet views.