Me and Ralph . . .

Jeff photographing Georgia's Butterflies and glooms in the Eatonton Briar Patch
694 miles from my home in Pittsburgh, fully engrossed, in this gem of an urban habitat, the Briar Patch in Eatonton, Georgia. Brownfield land, once an aluminum  plant and company housing. Now human dynamo Virginia Linch has marshaled a band of merry volunteers to do a Presto Chango! and with blood, sweat and likely a few happy tears, it is a community asset, attracting adults and kids, to come and marvel over the winged beauties that come for nectar, pollen and good leaf chew. Thanking G-d frequently, for the opportunity, these photo evokes that message I love so deeply, penned by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In part:

To appreciate beauty; To give of one’s self . . .
To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition . . .
To laugh and play with enthusiasm and to sing with exultation and to know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived –
That is to succeed . . . .

Do you see what I see?
Jeff

Guess What Else I Shot?

Coral HairstreakButterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park
July 9, 2015 I loaded the Tundra, suitcase, photograph backpack (LL Bean), gluten-free food, snack, Red Wing boots, plus, and drove the 202 miles to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Stayed in a Hampton Inn there, and early July 10th drove to where I wanted to go for the last decade! This was the 3rd of 4 days that the Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation opened the military base for visitors to try to see . . . Regal Fritillaries (Speyeria idalia). I expected 20 people total to be there with me. Uh, uh. 130 came to join me.

The drive to the hotel was in rain, with tornado warnings. The forecasters called this one perfectly, because on Friday, it was magnificent. Sun, low 80’s, low humidity and no wind. Wow!

Big crowd? Yes. But very soon the expansive open fields caused the folks to space themselves well, and with the guidance and patience of Jake Fronko, a staff biologist posted there, it was Wonderful, with that capital ‘W.’ I saw upwards of 50 Regal frits during my 2.5 hours of searching. I was ecstatic. They are exquisite, and they often allowed themselves to be photographed, at close range. I even photographed a mating pair.

Funny, I’ve been on the lookout for Coral Hairstreaks, like this one seen some time ago at Raccoon Creek State Park, and there they were, sharing Butterflyweed flowerheads with the regals and Monarchs, too.

It will take some time before my film (Fuji slide/ASA 50) is processed and scanned. I do look forward to sharing them shortly, and I hope that I’ve captured some beauts. I’ve waited actually some 14 years to have my own Regal images, and this short wait for me will be just fine, Thank you.

When you have all the elements of a super duper photography opportunity, are there at the right time (I was), and have seriously good, serious guides like Jake and Dave McNaughton (also staff on base), you produce a day that you can easily remember 20 years later, G-d willing.

Jeff

Are Monarch Butterflies being Archived?

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

July 8, 2015 and I have not seen a single Monarch butterfly on the Asclepias Syriaca (common milkweed) in our front yard or our side yard. Not a single leaf of the hundreds show any chewing. Not a Monarch caterpillar can I find. The plants were purchased from Monarch Watch. They are affiliated with the University of Kansas and the plants are lush. One of them has grown to a lofty 7′ tall, with a fine looking flowerhead higher than 6′.

This year reminds of 2014, when I didn’t see them until very late August. Those 2014 Monarchs I saw sipping nectar on my Blazing Stars and on Asclepias Syriaca in Doak field at Raccoon Creek State Park.

It’s July and I have not enjoyed a view like this one in 2015. This photo was taken some years ago at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. We know how this situation gnaws away at us.

Admission? I find myself thinking how fortunate I am to have more than 20 quality images of Monarchs stored in my Neumade slide cabinets. Then I regret even thinking this unthinkable. What if they . . . ?

Ay, if we could round up Peterson, Edwards, Nabokov, and Audubon and get them over to the mucky mucks in Washington, D.C. to do some heavy lobbying. A dreamer am I.

Jeff

This Year 2015

Wild Bergamot wildflowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Oconee National Forest in Central Georgia, the Jamestown Audubon Center reserve in Western New York,  and the Allegheny National Forest in Northwestern Pennsylvania were joyous visits for me, new regions, new butterflies and new wildflowers. With 2015 fully in progress, I went to Doak Field in Raccoon Creek State Park last Thursday, July 2nd. As I worked those Southwestern Pennsylvania trails, there were surprises in store. Darners were flying in squadrons in 2014. I met few on July 2nd. Butterflies were many in ’14, I encountered relatively few this time, and didn’t fill a roll of Fuji slide film. Common milkweed are present in good numbers, but with the sun out, little wind blowing, I found no Monarchs and very, very few Swallowtails.

When I rounded the bend on a trail cut through the meadow, where hundreds of Wild Bergamot (pictured here) greeted me in 2014, there are very few to be seen on July 2, 2015.

No, Monica, we don’t get bored in the field, for each year brings its owns mysteries and surprises. The camera lens must be cleaned, for you Never know what’s to be around the next bend.

Jeff

Traffic Picked Up in the Perennial Garden Today

Hackberry Emperor Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

The sun came out today in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Traffic picked up in my perennial garden, so much so that there was double and triple parking going on on popular flower hot spots.

Who showed? Red Admirals came and went, sometimes in pairs. They make you feel so acutely sharp, their beaming red bands enabling split second identification. They stopped and sip nectar on  the anise hyssop blooms, our giant zinnias and on the purple and white coneflowers.

Great Spangled Fritillaries also found parking spaces, especially on the common milkweed, called Liatris (white), coneflowers (purple) and briefly on the magnificent ‘ice’ hydrangeas (Thanks to Joe Ambrogio Sr. for suggesting them).

Cabbage white butterflies flew in throughout the day, seemingly males, barely stopping for a sip of any nectar here or there.

Trimming spent giant zinnia blooms rousted a Striped Hairstreak, either from its perch, or from a nectar interlude.

Silver Spotted Skippers showed off their jet propulsion potential, jetting to the milkweed, coneflowers, hydrangea and surely more. Tinier Skippers, no doubt.

Did not spend the day sitting and observing, so I know that additional others have come by, and hopefully, among them Monarchs. When they come, they’ll not find blazingstar blossoms (a huge favorite of theirs in late summer) because . . . well, groundhogs love blazing star leaves and stems, I now know.

Soon to open and bloom? Mexican sunflower (TY VcL), native cardinal flower (Sylvania Natives, Pittsburgh), false dragonhead (Sylvania Natives), monkeyflower (SNatives), chocolate mint, swamp milkweed (TY BAC) and I hope, I hope, this year clethra.

Am preparing to put in 5 sennas, purchased 2 days ago at sylvania natives, to attract yellow/orange butterflies.

The show has begun here, Folks.

Jeff