Closed for Business . . . Mt. Hermon looking to . . .

View from Mt. Hermon, Israel photographed by Jeff Zablow, 6/16/08

Butterflies, moths, beetles, mantids . . . the list goes on and on. Species of insects, birds and reptiles that are rare, found on Mt. Hermon and no where else. My opportunity in 2012 was curtailed by the full covering of snow on the mountain. I again went there in 2013, and could not climb the mountain . . . War! on the Syrian side . . . infiltrators, missiles, RPG’s, mortars that somehow strayed . . .

Anticipating a family event in July, it’s my hope to reacquaint myself with part of the mountain, the (I hope!) lower half. Re-entry to the peak of Hermon may be more than a life- time away . . .

Here we take in the view from Mt. Hermon westward, into Lebanon. All I see across this huge expanse of territory are butterflies, butterflies, butterflies. Can I hike anywhere within this panorama. NO! IDF restricted, the risk of encountering terrorists, and Lebanon? Nope. Hezbollah and who knows who else, who will find my trailing Brooklynese, rather interesting. I have always thanked G-d that I was never in a bank at the time of an armed robbery. I do not think that I am going down on the floor just because . . .

Butterflies? Do you see them too?


Common Whitetail Skimmer

Darner butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 6/7/07

Some of us are very much like street photographers, seeking subjects with real visual interest, and that certain illogical attractiveness. In the field, I too struggle to resist capturing images of stand-out plants and animals. That’s what happened when this Libellula lydia flew to this leaf, just ahead of me. We were at Raccoon Creek State Park, on Nichol Road. A small stream moved through a culvert under the narrow road, its borders classic wetland.

Quick appraisal! She looked good, she was undamaged, the light was excellent, she knew I was near her, and she tolerated that. Quicker decision needed . . . Way too much challenge here. Darners (dragonflies) are among the most improbable creatures. Who after all would design such a thing? The heart of the challenge, getting much of it in good focus and, those wings. Sharing the venation of those wings.

These last 14 or so years have found me spending thousands of hours scouring habitat for butterflies in the U.S., Canada & Israel. That painful memory, recounted earlier, when the very foolish Jeff-boy, whose hands as a boy were fast, very fast, bypassed his gray matter and caught a darner in mid-flight, in the air. PAIN! It’s bite may have been the most painful bite I have ever received is forever remembered. That’s the thing here. During my lifetime I have spent considerable time with very dangerous people, all of whom fortunately understood their potential risk to others, and managed to contain it. That same acknowledgement leads me to a certain fondness for darners. They have flown past me a million times, have the ability to PAIN, and never, never do. Quite civilized, no?


Gray Hairstreak on Goldenrod

Gray Hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 9/21/06

Whatever it is that puts that look in your amiga’s eyes when attractive male leads take center screen…here is another handsome figure, capable of that same star power. September 21st finds him in Nichol field, the 100 acre +/- field in Raccoon Creek  State Park, southwestern Pennsylvania. Set out before him are tens of acres of goldenrod, so there is no need to rush. That calm helped me, too, for he wasn’t apprehensive or reluctant to my approach.

Savor his many fine details. Two pairs of hindwing tails, rich reddish patch, with black dot on each hindwing border, well-defined post median dash-line in 3 distinct colors, that smart orangish leading edge on his forewings, the orange club tips on each antenna, those pookie eyes, the grays of the wings, that last so typical of his fellow hairstreaks.

Favored with a taste for all sorts of nectars, this adaptive feature brings them to a very great variety of wild flowering and garden plants. Strymon melinus flies in the east, from Maine to the Keys, from as early as April to as late as Novemeber…and is aloft all year in southern Florida.

Gray hairstreaks are small butterflies, but bestowed with much beauty. May I ask THE question? Have you seen one? Won’t cost a cent, and will bring much Yes! into your life.

Oh yes, they are not too difficult to find. Once you find a fresh one, truth be told, they often pose quite well, and move methodically from one look to another, so good images can be additional reward. ‘Nough said?


Milbert’s Tortoiseshell – Do you see what I see?

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Painters keep painting. Writers keep writing. Athletes keep playing tennis, softball and coach their beloved baseball, basketball or football, if they can. Gardeners keep gardening. Folks hunt and fish for a lifetime, if they can.

When I caught this image of Nymphalis milberti, at the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory, I was ecstatic. Her coloration was fresh and rich in color. Rarely seen, and at the southerly edge of its range, it was also well into the perennial beds, preventing me from stepping in to get closer. So, this image was taken at some distance, and each time I view it, I return to the same thought, I want to get a closer image of an equally magnificent Milbert’s.

So 2014 looms ahead as, I hope and pray, a bust-out year. Given limitations of time and $, I aim for some combination of destinations, to broaden our selection of butterfly images and knowledge. Challenge with a capital ‘C.’ I’m not Pyle. I am a member of NABA and Xerces. Nevertheless I have a paucity (an especially useful word here) of contacts and useful advice about the potential destinations that I want to get to: The Keys, Mts. Greylock and Everett, Mt. Meron, Ontario, Portal, a special locale near Albany, Telluride and Regal frit habitat. Fuji film, macro-lens, gluten-free wafers, Redwing boots, Brown hat and raring to go.

You see an image of Nymphalis m. I see challenge. Long drives, airports, motels (?), scouting for gluten free stuff- and then joy! Sheer joy ahead. G-d willing.


They’re Known as Anglewings Because . . .

Comma Butterflys at Raccoon Creek State Park

Long-time visitors can readily picture the smile that exploded on my face when I saw this grouping on Nichol Road in Raccoon Creek State Park. The Anglewings are a loosely related group of butterflies that never fly too far from the tree-line. This is a popular horseback riding trail, and these Comma butterflies are contentedly sipping manure!

You’ve noticed that the edges of their wings are heavily angled. Others are the Mourning cloaks, Milbert’s and Compton tortoiseshells and the Question Mark Butterflies.

Getting back to that smile- this was a A+ opportunity to show two species of commas, in a side-by-side comparison. Good.

The comma on the left is an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma). The comma in the center remains a mystery. The comma on the right is a Gray Comma (Polygonia progne). See the differences in color, color arrangement, patterns, wing shape, size, and shape of the “comma” that appears on the hindwings. If you return several days after this has been posted, you will be able to click to enlarge the image, and these differences will be easier to view.

We can presume that these 3 individuals are all males. We have recently discussed why males need to bulk up on nutrients (flying furiously here and there to find mates/protect their ‘territory’). This plop of horse scat seems to be just super for these guys. Even more attractive is the scat of carnivores (weasels, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons at times, hawks (?), etc.).

These species much prefer the northern states and Canada. 2014 will hopefully bring me up north, and I can’t wait to share the Anglewings that abound up north from Pittsburgh.