Parnassius Mnemosyne (Protected) (2)

Parnassius mnemosyne butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

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?


Great Spangled Fritillary

Great spangled fritillary butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

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 . . .


Common Blue Butterfly (Israel)

Polymattus icarus butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

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.



Show Stopping Vanessa (Israel)

Painted lady butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Ramat Hanadiv,  Israel

Dubbed the “world’s most widespread butterfly (Cech and Tudor, 2005),” this hunk is shown as he was seriously patrolling his territory at the remarkable arboretum, Ramat Hanadiv, in Israel. Imagine, the images of Painted lady butterflies shared in Butterflies of the East Coast (Princeton University Press) are nearly identical to this photo, despite the nearly 7,000 miles that separate these populations.

Sporting a wardrobe pleasing list of Vanessa cardui‘s best looks, including good-sized white spots amidst a wash of full black, eye-pleasing orangey-brown, white wing fringes, and hindwing eyespots dabbed with centers of baby-blue. All carefully patterned together to insure that we savor this show-stopper. Surely, receptive females will take note.

These gardens at Ramat Hanadiv are among my favorite destinations in Israel. The perennial gardens are lushly planted with gazillions of nectaring blooms, and, after a morning of photographing butterflies, the excellent cafe/restaurant is … right there, at the entrance to the planted beds. I have been going there for years now. Shoot until the sun gets too high…then walk 50 feet into the air- conditioned eatery for tasty gluten-free (for me, regular for y’all) selections + (of course) … dessert. Then walk another 100 feet to the generous parking lot, and off you go, satiated, smiling and mission accomplished. Good.


Hackberry Emperor Butterfly

Hackberry emperor butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

You don’t forget this. When you have just begun your serious goal to photograph butterflies, and begun your nearly daily fieldwork, the trails you travel can be thankfully free of other people, and sometimes, a bit too lonely and deserted. Both thoughts alternate, at times. There are several butterflies that break those moods, and provide a smile at the corners of your lips, and a bit of reassurance that you are not wholly alone in your quest for dropdead striking images of Leps.

Asterocampa celtis is an excellent example of a butterfly that will meet you on your trail, sometimes guide you along for a bit, and fly back to await the next hiker or whatever. Once in a while your hackberry host will fly onto your sleeve or hat or backpack . . . resting there a bit, as if to coach, “Keep going, I’ll go with you for a little bit.” You know that this is a smige of fancy, but, while you’re in their company, it ain’t that bad . . . Others will fly up from the trail, into a nearby tree, never more than say 10 feet up from the trail. Should you return in 5 minutes, that same fella will be right back at the same spot on the trail.

Our instant Hackberry emperor is a handsome gent, resting in the morning sun, and showing off his white dots, eyespots, chevrons and browns associated with the finest of shoe leathers. Madison Avenue in New York had the most amazing shoe stores. His assortment of browns reminds me of the shmeksy choices offered on those $$$ shoe racks, of the extraordinary perfume of the leathers therein.

Very territorial, these male butterflies stake out their territory along trails, for hours on end. Females are more difficult to spot. When you find these butterflies, you can be certain that their hostplants, hackberry (Celtis) trees and shrubs are nearby. So in Raccoon Creek State Park, in Pennsylvania, where we met this hackberry.

They are also often seen on scat. Whether in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia or Mississippi, if there is fresh scat left by a carnivore, expect to see a collection of Hackberry emperor males and the closely related Tawny emperor males. Remember, males fly alot, resulting in much protein wear and tear. The proteins available in the scat of meat eaters, and the minerals therein, enable their bodies to synthesize replacement protein, to remain buff, and to give them the vah-vah-vah-voom to attract suitable mates.