Things I Do . . .

Jeff photographing Georgia's Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, Eatonton, GA

I’ve read many books written by naturalists who seek butterflies. What I noted each time was that these folks individually developed their own field practices and strategies. Not one of them devoted much time to trying to copy others. They each worked out ways of doing things, with time the common denominator. Over time, they kept successful techniques, or modified them, or stopped doing what did not produce result.

At the Butterflies and Blooms Briar Patch in Eatonton, Georgia, Stanley or Virginia captured me photographing a Black Swallowtail caterpillar (can you find it?) on parsley. After noting all that you can in this June 2015 image, stop and look at . . . me. I did. There are several unique habits that I see. I rarely ever meet anyone who does these things.

My long sleeved shirt: I always wear long sleeves. Even this day, destined to reach 99F, and at 11:15 AM, it is already in the 80’s. Long sleeves reduce my exposure to bites. I spray Off! on my sleeves before I set out. The shirt is green. Green enables me to get closer, and look more like a living plant than a living photographer. My collar is up, covering my lower neck. Comfortable for me even after hours of the camera strap draped on my neck, and something of a barrier against those biters. I spray the back of my neck, the back of my ears and the area where my neck meets my chest, with Off!.

My hat is on backwards: This allows for unobstructed camera latitude, and contributes to protecting my neck from nasties. I do not apply an creams or sun block or Off! to my face or forehead. On a humid, hot morning like this one, that would result in sweat carrying these chemicals into my eyes. Many an OMG! shot was lost years ago, as I tried to protect myself and get the bookcover-worthy shot.

My head band: I wear whatever color I can find in the stores. This red/white/blue combination is special to me though. This band prevents sweat from drowning my eyes, and my eyesight.

My long beard: Dad passed on May 16th, and this was within 30 days of that sad day. We have a tradition of letting our hair grow, at least up to 30 days after the death of a loved one.

Finally, kudos to Virginia C. Linch, the driving force responsible for converting this abandoned aluminum factory site into a butterfly Habitat visited by dozens of different species of butterflies, in a single day! Congrats! to all those who work with her to weed, seed, tug, pull, water, plant, purchase, and all the rest that goes into creating beauty from man’s waste-lot.


NB, Once my June ’15 images are back from Rewind Memories, I’ll begin sharing these Southern butterflies with you.

Tomorrow or the Next Day?

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA

Each day more reports are shared of Monarchs spotted here and there, east of the Mississippi River. These sightings shimmer with the excitement of seeing a Monarch in your town, city or county, after so many months of 3′ snowfalls and so many days of zero degree F weather.

My personal estimate? I’d say that some 21,653,208 additional milkweed plants have been added to home gardens and perennial beds in the last year. All this to set the table for returning Danaus Plexippus. Nary a single one of us regrets the effort, cost or emotional investment.

Me? I’ve seen Monarchs this year in the Jamestown Audubon Center in northwest New York, in Frick Park in Pittsburgh and in the Briar Patch Butterfly Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. Today is June 28th, and I think the table is set for their return. So many knowledgeable folks are striving to insure their success, that I am encouraged that we will soon enjoy them. Tomorrow or the next day.


Monarchs, Come Home!

Monarch caterpillar photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park
What made me stop here? Well, awaiting my 67 new images, shot in Israel in March of this year, I just reviewed my Media library of images. Had to stop at this one. Why?

Like tens of thousands of you, I have, right this very moment, a spectacular stand of common milkweed (Asclepius Syriaca) in my front garden. It has a very good pedigree, having been nurtured by Monarch Watch.  The plants are 5-footers, and the flower heads are just a day or two away from opening. Lush is the operative word.

Every morning, afternoon and evening I take Petra for her exercise time. We stop, I lean over the fence and examine, looking here and there, just as they taught us to at Fort Dix, New Jersey: Scan, scan, scan.

Not a monarch have I seen here. I saw one much farther north, at the Jamestown Audubon Center in New York some weeks ago, and I saw a couple at the Briar Patch Habitat in beautiful Eatonton, Georgia, last week. But none yet in my native US plants garden or in the adjoining Frick  Park (900 acres+).

Yes I am anxious to see them and watch them eating my milkweed, some of the best Monarch caterpillar food there is. Would seeing their caterpillars excite me? Yuuup!

Monarchs, come home. We need you. Need you to reaffirm that all is good, or almost good.


From Savannah Carolina to a Georgia Briar Patch

Little Wood Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, August 2014
What a joy to spend so many days with butterflies in Eatonton’s Briar Patch Habitat! Eatonton is a wonderful town, southeast of Atlanta, Georgia. An active citizen and town leader initiated the conversion of this one-time aluminum  plant site from hardscrabble empty lot to . . . Butterfly Habitat. Virginia Cartwright Linch got her hands dirty, and pulled, tugged, dragged, shoveled her way through that 3-acre site. Top soil, mulch, straw, seeds, seedlings were brought, donated, and offered by an increasing cadre of volunteers.

With my father and brother living not too far from Eatonton, I had been seeking a good destination to find Southern U.S. butterflies. I noted their website, visited it, and was immediately greeted warmly. As the months went by, I was invited to come down and enjoy the progress of this start-up, a butterfly dream-world.

Virginia’ s description of the Habitat was right on the money. This June 2015 visit was rich in butterfly sightings. Caterpillars and eggs were everywhere. Too much fun for Jeff!

The slides now go to Kansas, and upon their return (this time they will not be stolen) they’ll be scanned at Rewind Memories, here in Pittsburgh.

I took a moment to explore the tree-line bordering the Habitat. As I ran my eyes across an opening in the trees–Hey was that a Little Wood Satyr, like the one shared here? No! No! It rested on a shaded leaf, and its dorsal wing surface did not have eyespots. No eyespots!! A Carolina Satyr. Dadah! I haven’t seen one since a trip to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, some years ago.

On June 18th I finally was able to photograph it, wings closed this time. My film will travel from Pittsburgh to Kansas to Pittsburgh. If my images merit it, then to be shared. Time will tell.


Hello Again

White Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Toronto, Canada, International. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at

Seven years is a very long time. Yesterday morning, June 3rd, I checked out of my cottage at Chapman State Park (in the Allegheny National Forest Reserve) before check-out time, and worked the trail that begins in the park and then continues in a State Game Land. Tiger Swallowtails (all male) flying at top speeds, Little Wood Satyrs, Pearl Crescents, then Red-Spotted Purple butterflies, almost all of them taking minerals on the trail floor.

Whoa! One of them is not a red-spotted purple, but instead their more northern relative, the White Spotted Admiral. Breaking my own rules, I continued photographing well  after noontime. To the end of that fieldwork, along came Jeff, geocaching. He rode a bicycle, and we stopped and talking. Both of us retired teachers, me city schools and he in a small western New York high school that graduates 20 seniors each year. He recalled Sally’s (a friend) sad battle with cancer, and I Frieda’s (A”H) sad battle with cancer. Then he biked on, and I continued finding white admirals.

I saw about 5 or 6 of them. I would approach them on the trail, robotically (see our Technique feature) and almost ever time it would fly low to another place, some 30 feet away, or fly in nearby bushes. Sometimes one would fly on a low hanging branch and that was much appreciated.

This image was taken in Toronto, Ontario on July 17, 2008. My new images from today’s shoot at Allegheny National Forest Reserve must first go to Kansas, then be scanned here in Pittsburgh. If I have captured any good ones, I’ll surely share them ASAP. Ah the joys of shooting Fuji slide film.