Winter Antidotes V

Hermon Iris Wildflower (Protected Species) photographed in Northern Golan, Israel
This rare, protected Hermon Iris startled me, on that trail near Israel’s border with Lebanon. Startled me? Yes, there they were, a handful of them, unexpected and starkly beautiful. A trail that sees few, though you may have seen a post on this site of cattle grazing here about.

It was nicely warm that day, and butterflies and wildflowers lined the trail, Nirvana! The kind of morning that we in the U.S. are just some weeks away from enjoying. A winter antidote, No?

What brought this to mind, now? This spot is a 5 minute hike from the border. At this moment that I write, Israeli IDF forces are massed nearby, reports anticipating Hezbollah terrorism in this very area. Very rare wildflowers, butterflies, cattle foraging and terrorists from Lebanon nearby, terrorists who were not born in Lebanon, who trained in Iran, and whose work is training to kill civilians.


Winter Antidotes IV

Parnassius mnemosyne butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel
How do I view a day like today? Mid-January and a ‘balmy’ 41F. With caution I think, because the extended forecast for us here includes snow showers, cold and lots of cloudy, cold days. In the middle of winter, we are. Still more winter to go, therefore . . . need additional winter antidotes.

Noted recently that this 2015 I am looking forward to travel, to meet butterflies I’ve never met before in Colorado, Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Ontario and Israel.

Israel? Today’s news, encountered almost everywhere, features tiny, little Israel, beloved to Christians, Land of Milk and Honey. IAF rockets directed at terrorists on the Syrian side of the mountain, and it revealed that they struck terrorists and Iranians. An Iranian general was amongst the casualties. Huh, what’s an Iranian general doing on the other side of that mountainous border? Surrounded on all sides by governments, militia, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS that wish its children dead. How’s that for a downer of a thought?

OK, I was there 6 months ago, and if, if, you haven’t traveled to Israel, you have no idea how moving, beautiful, youthful, safe (Yep!) and Now! a place it is. This Parnassius Mnemosyne Syra butterfly was on the peak of Mt. Hermon, sipping nectar in the blazing heat of the mid-day sun. Rare, when I got my slides back and verified that this image was that species, I was elated! Want to see one, travel thousands of miles, drive to the northern tip of Israel, Hope that the military allows you to go up to the top, bring many liters of water (Or else!), watch for land mines! when you step off of the primitive trails, and then maybe, just maybe you’ll encounter this butterfly, with its almost transparent wings. She was flying low along the ground, fast, but stopped for these blooms. Made my approach, and shot away . . . 10 or 12 exposures later, sped away. Yay!!

Can, will I be back in April? Will they allow me to ascent to the mountain-top? If I can and they do, it will be Muy Hot. Just warms me up, thinking about it. Winter Antidote, that.


Jeff In The Presence of Royalty

Empress Leila Butterfly at White Tanks Mountains, AZ

Sitting here, happily enjoying the warm air rushing through our HVAC duct vents, the 6F outside vanishes, as I reminisce, sweet memories of my discreet approach to this royal butterfly, Empress Leila. Was this regal Lep a male or female, well, I’m not sure.

We were both in the bed of that Arizona Arroyo, 40 minutes from Sun City West, where I was visiting family. Many know the saying, “Stay too long and you begin to smell like fish.” Seeking to avoid that, I’d leave the house at 6:30 A.M. and search that arroyo for butterflies until about 10 A.M. those March mornings. After 10 A.M. I found it difficult to go any further. Alone, naturally, I blogged some time ago that one of those mornings I almost bought it. Briefly shedding my good sense, I continued seeking winged beauties after 10:30 A.M. and then SUDDENLY, instantaneously I began to lose my senses. Didn’t use the cell that family forces me to carry, and didn’t call for help. D . . b.

So here this Empress Leila was motionless on this rock, and everything was perfect, the sun at my back. Patented approach. He (probably) flew to another rock. I froze, waited. Back to this rock again. I continued to close in. He moved slightly, but held the rock. We came closer and closer. Necessary for macro- work. I’m thinking “Don’t go. Don’t leave.” Here is the image. Blue eyespots on his right hindwing and all.

Close relative to Eastern Brushfoots, an extraordinary opportunity for Jeff to pal around with royalty.


The Battle Is On

Monarch butterfly chrysalis photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Here is the prize that has motivated 493,000 home gardeners in the U.S.. Caused them to make big changes in their home gardens, lots and farm edges. The prospect of finding a Monarch butterfly chrysalis in 2015 has induced all of them to pull existing perennials, defer from putting in the same annuals as they have done for years, caused them to open their wallets/purses and acquire expen$ive milkweeds, and convinced them that the labor to do all this is well worth it.

NABA, Xerces, Eatonton’s Briar Patch, state and federal departments of conservation as well as many wonderful blogs, all trumpet the need to give Monarchs what they need most, reliable, unaltered milkweed plants. Plants that are free of introduced genes. Plants like those present in your county 200 years ago.

Mail-order nurseries have rushed production of young milkweed plants, anticipating the strong demand from the 493,000 gardeners and the horticultural conservatories across the United States, who know that their visitors in 2015 will be asking, ‘Where are your milkweeds?’

The thrill of explaining to the child next door, that this bejeweled little chrysalis case was the product of parents that flew 986 miles to your neighborhood. That this is their offspring . . . that when it exits it will be an adult Monarch butterfly . . . that this winged beauty will fly 986 miles back to Louisiana . . . What a wondrous moment!

The Battle is on. Americans don’t want the Monarch miracle to disappear. They don’t want to deprive their grandchildren of this inspirational tale of challenge upon challenge . . . overcome. They want the America they knew to be there, ongoing.


Winter Antidotes III

Desert Orangetip Butterfly at White Tank Mountains, AZ
Disregard the slightly cold weather outside your door. It may be 9F this very moment in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but, soon all that will change. Do you question me? What do I have to support that? Spring is on its way, have no doubt about it. The $800,000,000. industry that sends dozens of catalogs, catalogs offering myriad choices of perennials, seeds, bushes, vines, and trees began mailing their offerings at the stroke of midnight on New Years. They are not one to waste money. If you’re getting those catalogs, then Spring ’15 is on its way.

Examine this Winter Antidote. It was March, and central Arizona had above average rainfall January and February. The desert was abloom, seas of wildflowers, all exuberant because moisture was suddenly abundant. Me, I was there, visiting family and keen to get my camera to work. Temperature was in the mid-80’s F, comfortable for Arizona.

Whom did I meet, at White Tank Mountains Regional Park, none other than this Desert Orangetip butterfly (Anthocharis Cethura). Not all that surprising, because this beauty is known for making an appearance after winter rains. A common Arizona species? No. Considered uncommon and unpredictable. A desert butterfly of the southwestern corner of the U.S..

So linger here just one more moment. A desert butterfly, met in March, west of Phoenix. A precious gem of a flyer, enjoying near ideal conditions in a desert that for the moment defies the criteria of desert.

Nursery catalogs, longer days, desert butterflies flying anew. Spring will be here, in the East, soon. Jeff will take his macro- from his backpack, load his Fuji slide film (ASA’s 50/100), and G-d willing step onto Colorado, Georgia, Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Ontario and Israel. Hey, maybe even get to Dolly Sods and Buzzard Swamp. Seems I have some friends in fantastic places!

If you know that butterflies exist, then I tell you, Spring is a ‘comin!