Gonepteryx Farinosa Farinosa on Mt. Hermon

Gonepteryx farinosa butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

How did this image get away with it? I’ve dug into my Neumade metal slide cabinets (a gift from a friend some years ago!) who knows how many times, and this June 16th 2008 image somehow managed to again and again give me the slip. What we have here is a large Pieridae butterfly that flies from May to August. In Israel, it is only found in one place. Mount Hermon. If it is found on the other side of the mountain, in Syria, your search for Gonepteryx ff. would be a brief one. Within minutes, pick-up trucks, full of heavily armed men would speed up to you (not me, because I survived Brooklyn, and I ‘ain’t’ looking to end it there). They would yell at you, maybe push you, hard, and then you would be rushed away, to who knows what fate. Why were you there? Who are you? Why do you photograph their positions? Passport! Are you CIA, NSA, with Assad, Seals, or are you . . . stupid. Let’s say that the quest for butterflies is a very dangerous science in Syria.

She flew at high speed to here and then to there, until she spotted this thistle flowerhead. It must have been irresistible, because then and only then did she allow me to approach within 18″ of her. I cannot be sure of the identity of this thistle. The field guides I own are in Hebrew. Feedback from naturalists in Israel is, regrettably, minimal. Oh well.

So her species is not rare, but is found only on that militarized peak. There is a good chance that I will be photographing in Israel this year, with the anticipation of a family celebration. This time, as in 2012 and 2013, Mt.  Hermon is out, IDF only (army). My fervent hope is once again, to photograph the Two-tailed Pasha, Israel’s largest butterfly, and an artist’s palette of a beauty. That is a challenge. In June ’13 I saw 3 of them, and each would not let me get within 30 feet of them. All were on the ground when noticed, all must have been engineered by Grumman, because they swooshed away at incredible speed. I think that I now know the strategy I’ll need. Get there before 6:30 AM and pray alot.


I Was Walking Through the . . .

Israeli Wildflower butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Neve Ativ, near the base of Mt. Hermon, Israel.

I am reminded of a very dated tune, I was walking through the park one day, in the very very month of May, when I was taken by surprise by . . . Happened to me just about that way in a field at Neve Ativ, near the base of Mt. Hermon, Israel.

Nursing my 50 or so rolls of Fuji slide film, I must corral my occasional excitement, when new wonders introduce themselves, unexpectedly. Well, not exactly unexpectedly. I did drive several hours north from my children’s home near Pardes Hanna . . . and that was all about seeking new opps and new adventures and especially, new images to share with you. Often, I would make little audible reminders to myself, you’re here for butterflies, No?

So there we were in the last days of May 2013, and hardened as I am to this enigma, I was taken by surprise by these enticing blooms. I went through the usual exercise, and concluded that Hey, I may never be lucky enough to set eyes on this wildflower again, and most importantly, they appeal to me.

My field guides and texts, of Israeli wildflowers, a)are all in Hebrew and b)don’t include this species. Oh, if only an Israeli botanist or naturalist will jump in and help us identify and learn more about . . .


Long Tailed Blue (Mt. Meron)

Long tailed blue butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron

Vladimir, what would you have thought about this blue, encountered on Mt. Meron in Israel? Nabokov, perhaps the most expert student of the world’s blue butterflies, probably would have understood the frustration that I felt when the built-in light meter on my Canon film camera . . . failed while I was out on the trails of Mt. Meron. I knew that I was in a ‘pickle’ and I also knew that these hours on the mountain  were precious to me. So, I did my best to guess apertures and shutter speed. Arrrgh!

Lampides boeticus Linnaeus enjoying some restful minutes on grass, the location, north-central Israel. Found where Asia, Africa & the Middle East come together, this male, with wings fully open, proudly displays its full upper wing surface. Diagnostic tails and black spots, he looks just fine against the mystically back-lit grass tuft.

It is my hope that 2014 will see me travel to several promising destinations to photograph. I am seeking help with pinpointing actual locations to find butterflies in the Florida Keys, alpine butterflies in Colorado, regal fritillaries, Dianas in West Virginia, Appalachian Satyrs, and more. If you are able to direct me to likely destinations,  please let me know.

We are scanning 60 new images, so keep coming back, my friends, there’s so much more winged beauty that we can enjoy!


Plebejus Eurypilus Euaemon (Protected) (Israel)

Plebejus evrypilus butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

Every minute was precious. On the peak of Mt. Hermon in Israel. My guide, Eran Banker, and I were alone up there, though we later met a German birder and his Israeli guide on our way down from the mountain. Turn here, turn there, no matter which way we turned, butterflies I had never seen before. Nirvana. Jeff in the candy store, ogling the mouth watering choices, this time, with the coin to select and savor.

2008 on the mountain. I said it again. One of those days I will never forget. The kid from Brooklyn, who usually had no coin in his pockets, was now the photographer of butterflies on Hermon. Success by Ralph Waldo Emerson came to mind. Surrounded by beauty, appreciating the beauty and soon sharing that beauty with our followers in 83 countries around the world (The Peoples Republic of China, with its 1.3 billion people, remains still out of range, with not 1 visit in our 2.5 years).

Rare, endangered and elusive butterflies here, then there, then over there. The sky was crystal clear blue, there was only a slight breeze . . . and it was hot, very hot. Eran lugged several liter bottles of water, and we drank often.

Our protected blue here flew to this rock to rest, serendipity! My approach was slow . . . and successful. This blue butterfly flies from May to July. Limited to Mt. Hermon and its slopes. Here you find another example of my sometimes overly positive thinking. Sure I have this image, and it is rare, but won’t I score a better one in ’09 or ’11? So what happened? My next chance to go to the top came in ’12 . . . and it was March and the mountain was covered in snow. No problem, I’ll go up in ’13. ’13 comes, I arrange to go to the peak . . . and War! War! on the Syrian side of the mountain.

I don’t know how many others have photographed this male, but here’s mine. See the missing piece of the left hindwing. Look carefully and you’ll note that the right upper wing surface shows some orange. That helped me determine which of the blues this is.


Lesser Fiery Copper (Base of Mt. Hermon)

Lesser Fiery Skipper butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

Closed. Local guides all explained to me that Mt. Hermon’s peak was closed. June 2013, with lots of Fuji slide film fresh and waiting, and I had to change my plans. No chair lift to the peak of Hermon. I have not been on the pinnacles of many mountains in my lifetime, so this one will remain a once explored . . . The thing is that in 2008 I went up there, and there are species of butterflies found up there that are not found anywhere else. I was so excited while I was up there, that I didn’t keep count of the many butterflies we saw, but that I could not approach. How many rare ones fled and could not be photographed? I do not know. But that was 2008, and in 2013, when I again wanted to search Mt. Hermon, and try once again to get Amazing images . . . War! raged below in Syria, War! that did not spare women and children. Savagery.

When will Mt. Hermon’s summit invite us to visit it? Who knows.

My plan was to travel up the base of Mt. Hermon, and find butterflies along the lower ⅓ of the mountain. That worked well. I drove up a road that curved around the south face of Mt. Hermon, up and up it went, and I easily found my goal, the tiny village of Neve Ativ. I parked my rental and hiked around this tiny enclave, to a small meadow, where wildflowers where everywhere.

Lycaena thersamon omphale was a beautiful little treat to greet me when I began my exploration of that field of blooms. This male’s orange wing bands more than rival those in the field guides. He held his perch, enabling me to photograph him. The Israeli rule applied here too, come to close, Whissst! Gone! Found throughout most of Israel, this one mirrored the stark beauty of the Golan Highlands and Mt. Hermon. They fly most of the year in the south of Israel, and probably cannot be found when Neve Ativ suffers its winter season.