Winter Antidotes XI – the eye pleaser

Spring Larkspur Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA
Minutes past noon, and what is the temperatures outside my window? One degree Farenheit! No doubt, 1 lonely degree above 0F. Petra, my Black Russian, ran the ball in the yard today, until she stopped, lifted her front right paw, and signaled. Up went the other paw, and in we went.

Yesterday, in a wind blinding whiteout, I crossed Beechwood Boulevard at the traffic light, with the light. A vehicle heading in that direction, was ½ a block away. Remember, I was with the light and it was 175 feet way. It sounded its horn, and went into a frightening skid, crossing to the other side of the avenue, and just stopping before a light pole in front of Colfax school. Whoever was in that SUV must have had a near heart attack!

Get this though. These deeply tinted spring Larkspur blooms will be open for business some 85 days from now. We’ll be on this favorite trail, and we’ll stop. We will admire these blossoms, and I will think, Thank G-d for such delicate beauty, here in this wonderful year, 2015. One degree days, two degrees days, will soon be forgotten.

Our location for this photograph is Raccoon Creek State Park, 43 minutes west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Butterflies and Hezbollah

Dairy Cattle Challenge photographed in  Northern Golan, Israel
We were in northernmost Israel. When we happened upon this small village, we asked where we might find a nature trail that a family member had suggested to us. We were told to drive up the road, find an opening in the fence (formidable) and the enter the trail. Yep, there was the gate in the fence, unlocked. The trail was amazing. It was lined on both sides with March wildflower blooms. Butterflies were flying, and we had it all:  the botany, the butterflies and the blue sky.

Rachel and I made slow progress as the trail descended down to the distant valley.  I say slow because I stopped often to shoot rare Hermon irises in bloom, rare orchids, and so much more. I continued down to the valley, in the mid-ground of this image. Rachel found a nice rocky spot, and waited there, amidst the sylvan wilderness.

There was a moving stream at the valley floor. I didn’t dare cross the stream, because I was getting very, very close to leaving this no-man’s land, and stepping foot into  Lebanon. This day was several years ago, and Hezbollah was there, in the background, but not very active along this border.

When I returned, up the trail to Rachel, these humongeous cows were on the trail. In an earlier post, I noted how we had to walk serpentine-like to move between the cows, because,  the cows were simply not going to move an inch out of the way. Here’s an open admission:  this Brooklyn-boy is no cow expert.

March 2015 marks 3 years since this brown buster watched us as we were tip-toeing past her. We also can look back at this moment and realize how much danger a new visit to this trail would offer. Why? The background is Lebanon, and currently Hezbollah is being heavily bankrolled by Iran to cause mischief along this border. I once resolved that if I was ever in a bank, and a robbery was announced, I would not get down on floor of the bank. Thankfully I have never had to fulfill on this promise, but I think that I’d be a Ransom of Red Chief-type if G-d forbid I was ever snatched by a terrorist clique.

The world has too many terrorists, and they are making it very difficult for those of us who photograph butterflies.


Where Would You Look?

Close up of Red Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow as it was basking on a trail at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania
Today is February 11th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This Red Admiral butterfly was photographed on August 27th, 2014. I was scouring Doak field for butterflies when this beaut flew in and stopped on a leaf. A real looker this one, sporting those smart red-orange bands, blue dots at the trailing ends of its hindwings, bright orange bands along its hindwing margins and even white tips on antennae. This butterfly is dressed to the 9’s.

“Where Would You Look?” asks a toughie. If you went outdoors today, or tomorrow, determined to find this Vanessa Atalanta, where should you look? To begin, they are common to all eastern US states, from Maine all the way south to Florida. Where in your area are they today, February 11th?

Answer? You’re unlikely to find their eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises or adults. Huh? Almost all the ones you will find in your garden, parks, farms, schoolyards and greenbelts fly up from Southern states in the Spring. Rarely do they overwinter as pupae. They are not well equipped to withstand northern winters. Remember those -9F nights we had this winter? This winged beauty has no adaptation for those temperatures.

You may hesitate to get into your car and drive 14 hours to St. Simons Island, Georgia. The butterflies take their time flying up from around there, but, that is what they do. Route I-95 anyone?


She Was a Sight!

Monarch Butterfly on Goldenrod photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14
This was what America was hoping and praying for: Monarchs. We asked for a flock of Monarchs sizable enough to send back down to Louisiana. Enough of them that we could believe that the Miracle of the Monarch migration would continue for our children and grandchildren. Winged beauties are known to naturalists around the globe. Why? Because these ounces of lovely defy all odds, all naysayers, and fly the miles from Toronto, Boston, Albany, Teaneck, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Charlottesville, Alexandria . . . all the way to Mexico.

The science of the migration is mostly understood, sort of. This too adds to their mystique. Mystique is hard to come by nowadays. Danaus Plexippus still titillates us, even in 2015.

Just look at her. She’s strikingly beautiful, in Doak field on September 5th, as she methodically drinks nectar, pleased that several species of goldenrods would drip unlimited juice.

Oh, and she was there with happy Jeff, happy to share those 100+ acres of field with an unpretentious, drop-dead beauty.

Winter Antidote X?


Do I Know You?

Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14

It is a fine September for viewing the beauty of the natural world. Butterflies are flying, topped by Monarchs reappearing in Doak field. In this Southwestern Pennsylvania field, wildflowers are everywhere. The 100 acres are awash with several species of Goldenrod blooms. The Goldenrod, Bergamot and Joe Pye weed are sirens on the rocks, beckoning hungry butterflies, causing them to take breaks from their romantic pursuits and take nectar. That is to say, you’ll need sugar to continue searching for mating opportunities.

Folks wonder, why do you go to the same field so often? What can possibly be new there for you?

New? I often encounter new butterflies, new situations, new plants and new wildflowers. New insects, new things. New is almost a constant in an undeveloped habitat.

It was September 5th and my scan of the field zoomed in on these wildflowers. Do I know you? Have I seen these before? I didn’t and don’t think so. New!

I’m going to go to my wildflower field guides, and attempt to identify this dainty bloomer. If I can’t conclusively do that, then I’ll contact Shane Miller at Raccoon Creek State Park’s Wildflower Reserve. He is the ultimate resource for identifying botany.

Pete came back with our ID, Gaura biennis, Biennial beebalm. We just keep on learning, No?

New is good. New is stimulating. New is Fun!