She Lowered Her Guard. . . .

Maniola Telmessia (female) photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

This is the way it is when you pursue wild beings. They are super attentive to any approach, and sustain that level of high alert. Experience has taught me to wait. Sometimes, sometimes that suspicion slips, especially when attractive nourishment is there.

This Turkish Meadow Brown butterfly (Maniola telmessia) flew to this tiny, but abundant wildflower. She began to sip nectar, with her wings closed. Turkish meadow brown butterflies rarely open their wings for you. Friends who follow know that I rank this one high on my list of Favorites. They are beautiful. Dozens of images of them, yet still going for a shot with wings open, with that dorsal surface and its Daddah! spot awash in yellow, orange & black.

So I waited. She nectared. Then, OMG! She opened her wings. You know, I am currently reading a biography of Roger Tory Peterson. I respectfully share that Peterson, Pyle, Fisher, Destrade, Nabokov, Linch, Kaufman, Malone and I all enjoy such moments. Moments when especially beautiful creatures shine. They just shine. Sparkle!

She lowered her guard, revealing that shmeksy! left upper wing. The morning sunlight, on the slope of Mt. Meron (Israel), kissed her wing, and here it is, my best shot!


Kauai & the Golan Heights . . .

Long-tailed blue butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel
How some of us cringe at the thought of traveling half-way around the world. I mean the packing, dash to the airport, the airport!, security’s distrust of You (although you’ve spent your life being loyal), the cramped airplane, with the usual impassive fellow fliers seated around you . . . . Now look at this cutie, nectaring on a thistle growing near a small village, on the slope of Israel’s Mt. Hermon. A Long-Tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus) patiently sipping the sugars energized by the sun of the desert that is the Middle East.

Imagine how I perked up when Robert Michael Pyle, in his Mariposa Road ( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) stood with his wife Thea on Hawaii’s Kauai island, and “she spotted a long-tailed blue, a.k.a. bean butterfly (Lampides boeticus), gone to roost six feet up in tall grass . . . it was introduced from elsewhere; in its case, Asia.”

Whoa! Israel’s highest mountain and an island in Hawaii share the same blue butterfly? Teeny, tiny blues that somehow were transplanted from the Middle East/Asia to the verdant Hawaiian islands. And are thriving there. Yet another indication  that it’s almost time to consider pitching that rule book out the window.


Fascinating Caterpillars ID’d

Caterpillar photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

Day one on Mt. Meron, I worked the mountainside trail. So much to see and photograph. On my way back to the trailhead, I weighed the options for me that morning. The road up to the mountain ends at the large parking lot for visitors and tour buses and a restricted turn in the road leads to the very restricted military base at the mountaintop.

Roadsides can be good places to find butterflies. This roadside differed from most, with IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) personnel speeding up and down, often. Just a few yards from the trailhead, the guy who rarely finds caterpillars could not believe his eyes! There, about 2 feet from the asphalt, was this Verbascum Sinuatum plant. On it, in screaming yellow and black spots & bands, were 2 caterpillars. Eureka!

What Mama butterfly (Moth?) laid her eggs on this wildflower plant? Was she insane? The road to the top of the mountain passes rocky outcroppings on its one side, and was almost a natural wind tunnel. This Verbascum was in almost constant motion, blown by the wind that never stopped. Vehicles, cars, trucks, buses passed by often, and they too buffeted the Verbascum stalks.

Think that that bothered the caterpillars. Nope. They just ate and ate and move up or down to . . . eat.

I decided that I would score good images of host plant and caterpillars. After all, Jeff rarely finds caterpillars (although Jeff knows that they are there, somewhere).

My field guides for Israeli butterflies and moths do not offer a caterpillar match. What Leps will these cats become, on this mountainside in the northernmost Galilee region of Israel?

Thanks to Oz Ben Yehuda who identified these caterpillars as the larval stage of Charaxes jasius, the Mullein moth. I saw them on their favorite host plant. Get this, you can also see them in Western Europe, Southern Europe, Central Europe and in much of North Africa. Adult moths fly at night, and, these caterpillars are considered . . . pests, stripping crop plants, bare. Hmm.


The Land of Milk & Honey

Eastern strawberry tree photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

This is the tree (Eastern Strawberry Tree) that hosts the caterpillars of the butterfly (Two-Tailed Pasha) that Jeff went to Mt. Meron to photograph. Three days on those trails in 2013 and 5 days back again in June 2014. Nada. Zilch. Not a single image of that multicolored, large butterfly. Saw as many as 14 of them. All were positioned on that trail, very early in the morning. I never got any closer than 30 feet from any of them. Skunked?

Funny about those of us who enjoy spending time in the refuges and preserves. We enjoy the whole, the entire geshtalt. So from minute one, I admired those Eastern Strawberry trees. The very young trees, the trees in mid-growth and the adult trees. Spectacular trees, not in height, or girth, rather they were simply beautiful.

Our image here is produced from Fuji slide film, and of course, not photo-shopped. A breath-taking tree, fruits and all, in the Land  of Milk and Honey.