Human Sacrifice . . .

Gulf Fritillary shot at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR), North Carolina

She is resting along the trail on one of the many dikes at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, in southeastern South Carolina, some 30 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia. Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanilla), fresh, exquisite and posing contentedly for Jeff. Yes. There is a but a major but here…but, meanwhile, I was being swarmed by dozens (?) of crazed mosquitoes. Our ‘Technique” feature (Have you seen it?) warns of the need to move robotically, slowly, to insure that the butterfly is not frightened and spooked. Hard to do there and then, with my hands lathered in several species of mosquitoes.

Few bites were made. I had sprayed myself with Off! when I arrived at the Refuge. With my jeans securely  tucked into my Red Wing boots, with the aid of blousing garters (Ft. Dix, NJ issue, thanks to the US Army), I sprayed my jeans, front and back, I sprayed the sleeves of my green, long sleeved shirt (LL Bean, cotton), I sprayed my neck, heavily, all around, my ears (exterior only), and the top of my cap (the university that my daughters attended sold a green hat, with just the right green tint to minimize startling butterflies). Yes I sprayed the backs of my hands, reluctantly, but later I was glad that I did. I didn’t spray my faces or forehead. Nor do I apply sun screen to my face, each year causing my dermatologist to give me a good talking to. I don’t apply anything to me face or forehead because…those creams and chemicals soon work down or up into my eyes, causing irritations, and that invariably occurs just as a fantastic butterfly enters my life space!

Many of you may prefer other purchased or home concocted insect repellents. Off! works well for me, very well, in the heavy strengthed aerosol spray can.

So this day I came away lucky, but miffed. I had to stand there and take it from the mini-insect-savages. I would have liked to somehow kapop! them right back, onto their teeny, weeny little backs.

Not the time to discuss, chiggers (Ugh!), biting deer flies (stealth biters!) or horseflies (ambushers, always reminding me of that one that kamikazed me at Black Moshannon State Park in central Pennsylvania).

What have I left out. Never been introduced to fire ants, or africanized bees or….enough,  Let me outta! here!

Jeff

18,000,000 Wait . . .

Monarch Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

April 20th, 2014, and 18 million Americans wait. Additional tens of millions of naturalists and esthetes around the world wait, too. They wait to see if this beautiful moment will again be seen in fields and flowery margins from the Rocky Mountains east to the Atlantic coast. Will Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) return from Mexico and decorate flowerheads, like these Wild Bergamots (Monarda fistulosa)?

My estimates may be too low. Almost every American child learns about the incredible migration of Monarch generations from the mountains of central Mexico to Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Connecticut and Maine. When their schoolteachers assure that these seemingly delicate butterflies actually do make the trips, children internalize a lesson: Determination and sticking to the task lead to reward and success.

Critical trees continue to be illegally and legally cut on those Mexican mountains, genetically modified crops and other agricultural initiatives that reduce the milkweed plants that Monarch caterpillars require, and untimely frosts and storms during the migration north all jeopardize the Monarchs of 2014.

I will also add Common  Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) to my own garden, adding to the millions of gardeners in the USA who are planting them to support Monarchs.

I just have to believe that they will return, and flourish, and return back to Mexico in September…and savor that moment, when at Raccoon Creek State Park I turn my head and Yes! A Monarch!!

Jeff

 

Wildlife and Not so- Wild Life on the Trails….

Cow photographed by Jeff Zablow on Northern Golan Trail, Israel, on 3/20/12

How well do you know your state’s cattle? She’s grazing in Texas? Louisiana? Kansas? New Mexico? Calgary? New Jersey? Montana? Baja California? Holding out for Colorado? Gotta be Utah? If you held out for more choices . . . you’re a gifted bovine identifier. She’s sampling tasties along  a trail in the northernmost Golan, at the extreme north of Israel.

Rachel and I found ourselves facing a bunch (?) of these behemoths, on our way back on a trail that had descended to a small river. An earlier blog described our nimble response to this challenge. Louise of Pittsburgh commented that we had nothing to be concerned about . . . cattle want to do one thing and one thing only, eat. But you know, Louise wasn’t there on that remote hill with us. Nevertheless, city-dad and suburban-daughter did puzzle over this Excuse Me!

With winter gone, we look forward to getting back onto other wilderness trails. What wildlife will we meet up with? Record-breaking drought west of the Mississippi may well have skunked our plans to hike Colorado, or Arizona or California  or Washington mountains and valleys. Grizzlies, cougars, wolves, rattlers and much more may have to await another year for an encounter with Jeffrey.

I have shared trails, fields and forest with an assortment of macro-organisms. All that I can recall communicated about the same message – They were more than uncomfortable near me, and like the huge Israeli boar I startled last year, shot away from me at impressive speed. Others seen include species of wild dogs, alligators, white-tail deer, fox, marten, and a 40-pound long-tailed cat (in southwestern Pennsylvania, of all places). Rattlesnake in Rector, PA.

Which wildlife have made me wary and sent my hand down to the steel I bring along? Dogs. Domesticated dogs traveling in pairs. In Rector, PA two large dogs continued to advance on me with the wrong look on their faces, turning only  when I gave them my patented dog-warning wail and at the same time confronted them with shiny, pointy steel.

Out to see butterflies, delighted to see other wildlife…wary when the wildlife reminds me of guys I used to share those Brooklyn, NY sidewalks with…. But then, that’s me.

Jeff

Apharitis Acamas Acamas (Mt. Hermon)

Apharitis Acama photographed by Jeff Zablow on Mt. Hermon, Israel, 6/16/08

The Tawny Silver-Line butterfly is an Israeli butterfly found in higher elevations. This female enjoys the best views of all, residing at the peak of Mt. Hermon at the northernmost tip of Israel. Adults leave the chrysalis and fly from April to early September. They will suffer little human intrusion in 2014, only rarely sharing the mountaintop with IDF soldiers and even rarer tours of the peak by VIP’s escorted by elite troop chaperones. As we noted recently, we may never again be able to retrace our 2008 field trip up there. Syria is afire below. Those who cry for peace for all, pathetically remain silent while real chemical weaponry is used down there . . . with women and children about.

Apharitis a. a. is such a whimsical looking butterfly. It’s head look so other-worldy, its wings appear to be too small, and her abdomen . . . Oops . . .

Ant-tended, and with its larval host plant yet unknown, this is one interesting butterfly. One of the little Hairstreaks, with its pairs of tails just visible.

Jeff