Common Blue (Mt. Hermon)

Polyonattus Icarus butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

There are 3 Polyomattus blue butterflies found in Israel. I was hoping that this fellow was P. icarus juno, very uncommon and found only on Mt. Hermon, at the northern extreme of Israel (Golan region). That would have been good, very good. Working with my 4 field guides to Israeli butterflies, I have concluded that he is instead P. icarus zelleri, found from central israel (south of Jerusalem) all the way up to the peak of Hermon. The 3rd of the 3 is P. loewii, seen from the Dead Sea south and in the Sinai (Egypt).

Our Common blue is found then in Jerusalem, Gaza, Tel-Aviv, Petach Tikva, Haifa, Tzfat and on Mt. Hermon. Explanation? Butterflies that frequent a wide range of locales and habitats should be considered generalists. Adaptable species that can enjoy a variety of habitat and depend on a wide range of nectaring flowers for their food.

Even though we took the cable car up to the peak of Mt. Hermon, and 7000 feet above sea level searched for the rare Leps of this breathtaking mountain, here we record a butterfly identical to those that fly from shrub to shrub in the gardens fronting the beautiful Ben Gurion Street (Rehov) in Tel-Aviv.

P. icarus in the big city? No way. They stay up on their Mt. Hermon. No impetus to go down to the Mediterranea Sea, or tour Lake Tiberias or visit exquisite Ramat Hanadiv . . . or even to see what humbles most of us, the ancient city of Jerusalem.

Jeff singing the blues on Mt. Hermon in June 2008 (Reminder: Military only at this time).


Nordmannia Myrtale (Mt. Hermon – Protected)

Nordmannia Myrtale butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

June 2013, couldn’t go up Mt. Hermon, Civil War raging in Syria, on  its northern face. March 2012, couldn’t photograph butterflies because Mt. Hermon was snow covered. This image was taken on June 15th, 2008. I forgot that the future is Unpredictable. As you remember, at the time I thought that I could get yet a better photo of this rare butterfly. Rare because it’s only found on Mt. Hermon.

First identified in 1832 by Klug, this little Hairstreak has the tiniest little pair of tails, short and stubby, and missing here? The darkly speckled gray underside surely indicates that this is a female. The tiny yellow splash and black spot at the middle-rear of the hindwing help identify this as Nordmannia m.

They fly from May to August. But, if you are now crazed to travel thousands of miles in 2014 to score a fantastic image of this one, don’t book your flight . . . remember, it can’t be seen on Mt. Hermon because they are killing one another just down the mountainside, and only combat troops are up there, keeping these butterflies company, watching for terrorists and/or reporting ‘stray’ ordinance that just happens to fly over from Syria to Israel. Ho hum . . .

Much then remains to be learned about Nordmannia myrtale. The field guides are in  Hebrew, the Israeli experts don’t . . . , and War! is being waged . . .


Blue-Spot Hairstreak (Mt. Meron)

Blue-spot hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron

This is too much! Moments after I left my quarters at SPNI Mt. Meron, the trails through the field station/refuge challenged me with butterflies, everywhere I went. We know the problem this happily brings, How do I manage…? Wait a second. Almost none of you shoot film, and many of you have never shot film… Well, the challenge is conserving the film that you expose, because you will be abroad in Israel for 10 more days, and you want to be prepared for the unexpected, for butterfly opportunities that are unexpected, and that could be the chance of (almost?) a lifetime. A very recent post of the Israeli swallowtail is a good example of the need to be ready!

Strymonidia spini were almost everywhere. I had to put a limit to the number of photos that I took of them. Look for only those that are handsome and all positioned. That’s what I did. This male wanted me to photograph him. He had good pose, tolerated my approach and cooperated during this ‘photo shoot.’ Some time ago, in New York, we approached a portrait photo shoot of me. I was amazed then that the fellow who photographed me (arranged through a SoHo acquaintance) insisted that he must have a serious number of shots of me. The one finally selected was excellent, but oh, so many taken, and it finally became tiring.

Found from Jerusalem north to the Mediterranean and then along the northern tier of Israel to Mt. Hermon, this hairstreak flies from April to June. Syrian thistle (Notobasis syriaca) can be seen above and to the left of our Blue-spot. These butterflies fly low along the ground, and when they flee, it is only to some 10 feet away. Wait a minute or three, and the males return to the same perch where they were first found. The females’ flight is to a more distant place, usually more difficult to be seen.

I probably saw 75 to 100 Blue-spots that morning. A ‘tail’ on each hindwing, pleasant markings of white, black, blue spot and hindwing red. Like most hairstreaks, you get few looks at their dorsal wing surface. Little sweeties.



Lasiommata Megara (Mt. Meron)

Lasiommata Megera butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron

Ah, good to be back after celebrating my birthday, Thanksgiving holiday and Chanukah, all on the same 28th of November. Our Satyr butterfly here is enjoying the early morning sun on a trail near the base of Mt. Meron, in northernmost Israel’s Golan.

This was one of many that I saw those several mornings. Most fled as soon as they saw me approach on the trail. This male weighed the option, but no doubt, as all young, muscular males, concluded that he could handle any and all that came his way. So, he remained, the sun’s rays warming and soothing him. His eyespots, dark streaking and panels of tasty golden brown surely identify him as a worthy suitor, for the duller colored, more timid females that we saw.

Years before, we would go one morning here, than the next morning there, as so on. More recently, I’ve decided to schedule several mornings here, and then a couple of mornings there. The results are more satisfying. Then, after numerous successes, you can leave the area, knowing that you have been fortunate to sample many of the butterflies that you came to see…and photograph.

I’m now ⅔ through my read of Wild America (Fisher & Peterson, 1955). Thank you Robert Michael Pyle, for acquainting me with this book. What a read! 100 days of searching for wildlife in  Canada, the U.S. and Mexico in 1953! Oh, have Pyle, Fisher & Peterson wet my appetite for busting out in 2014!!! What do I lack…? Friends to guide me to Diana’s, Regals, blues, the Keys and Texas without the crowds…. I’m a grown dreamer, I am….