Rare Parnassian Butterfly? Check!

Allancastria Ceryisri butterfly (Protected), photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

The flight from Pittsburgh to JFK Airport in New York and the 5-hour layover in JFK. A good flight on El Al (12.5 hours), with a friendly, fascinating couple from Florida sitting next to me. Through the Security screening in Ben Gurion Airport, and onto the train, north to Binyamina. Several days in Mishmarot with my daughter Rachel and her terrific family.

We have an expression, Stay with family too long, and you “begin to smell like fish.” The Hertz car rental in Herzliyah enabled me to drive north, all the way to SPNI Rosh Hanikrah. SPNI is the Israeli organization that strives to fight for and protect wildlife in Israel. They maintain ‘field houses’ throughout Israel, and this one was at the northeastern tip of Israel, roughly 2 miles from the border with Lebanon.

My goal was set months before, search that region for the Protected butterfly, Allancastria Cerisyi. No guarantee that  I would see them. They fly 1 month of the year, April. I went there in the 3rd week of March, so all bets were off.

Without anyone to guide me or direct me to my goal, I studied the map (taught map reading at one time) and off I went. Here? There?

I parked my rental, and followed an existing trail near the village of Hanita. Battle stations! Battle stations! I found one, then another of these members of the Swallowtail family. They were intent upon nectaring, and were . . . approachable.

Here we see a fresh male, focused upon the nectar oozing from these tiny blooms. Pop! Pop! Pop! Rare Parnassian, like those found only in the U.S. far western mountain ranges. Here on a hillside in Israel. A sylvan, sooo green hillside, with rare, protected winged beauties, flying a bit earlier than the field guide suggested. A Happy boy from Pittsburgh, I was.

Jeff

Exotic Blooms in the Land of Milk and Honey

Scilla wildflowers, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Society for the Protection of Nature Hermon, Israel

Two Unforgettable flower stalks, perched on a rocky hill edge, overlooking the verdant (OMG! green) northern border of Israel. I was determined to save my film for butterflies, but c’mon, how could I not succumb to this temptation? March 2015 in the Golan Heights region of Israel. A wet winter insured the arrival of a Spring with flowers blanketing the land, and rare wildflowers determined to capitalize on the excellent growing conditions.

These Hyacinth Squill blooms (Scilla Hyacinthoides) dotted the sides of these hills, on the SPNI Hermon Reserve. They enjoy a short growing season, and are listed as a Protected Species. The expanse of view looks to the northwest, into Lebanon. Lebanon, a country wracked with violence. A pastoral view then, with bad-boy land to the horizon.

Yes, this is primarily a butterfly blog, but . . . the camera made me do it!

Jeff . . . Sigh! . . . .

Northeastern U.S. Orchids

Pink Lady's Slipper (hooded), photographed by Jeff Zablow in Chapman State Park,  PA

Yes, there are American orchids. Are they the same orchids that are now sold in all large supermarkets? No.

U.S. orchids tend to be very habitat sensitive. They generally will not survive in a pot on your kitchen windowsill. Like most of our magnificent blooms and wildlife, their habitat requirements are real and special.

This Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid blossom was seen in a wooded grove in Chapman State Park, within the giant Allegheny National Forest. Some 7.5 hours drive east from New York City (for our international friends). It prefers moist ground, in spots where there is a break in the canopy of densely wooded habitat.

I remember when I came upon my first one, at Bear Run Reserve, in the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania. You may have been just a few hundred feet away from that spot, if you have ever visited Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright‘s architectural phenomenon. Bear Run is just across the road. I saw them, and fell forever in Love.

Jeff

The Monarch Army Triumphant

Monarch Butterfly on Goldenrod Blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14

Full sun, minimal breeze, and a morning with temps that reached no more than 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Doak field at Raccoon Creek State Park reminded me of a map of the world, with oceans and seas of goldenrod no matter where you looked. This 100-acre gem of a meadow, in southwestern Pennsylvania was a tour de force of yellow, bright, rich yellow.

It was a thrill to see female and male monarchs everywhere. Everywhere! We all spent winter ’15 and spring ’15 fraught with concern. Was Danaus Plexxipus destined to disappear? Would the monarch migration that grade schoolers learn about, become the tale of what used to happen in our cities, towns and counties?

Americans mobilized, and ripped and tore out tired, passion-less gardens, replacing them with new, vibrant beds of milkweeds, zinnias, blazing stars, ironweeds and more. Armies of compassionate gardeners descended on their Audubon Centers, county parks, and native wildflower nurseries, seeking to learn what to plant and how to take in and nurture monarch caterpillars. Facebook swelled with folks sharing suggestions. NABA (North American Butterfly Association) Chat boards lit up with discussions and queries. An Army of lovers of Monarch butterflies materialized.

Well, today in Doak field, I stopped counting Monarchs . . . at 80. Eighty!! Fresh males and females. Skittish to my approach, determined to bulk-up before the anticipated flight to . . . Mexico.

The Monarch Army of Regular and Irregular Volunteers, Triumphant. Virginia, Traci, Barbara Ann, Terry, Kim, Phil, you did it!

Jeff

Upbeat Butterfly on Upbeat Bloom

Skipper on orange Hawkweed, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center, NY

That expansive meadow at the Jamestown Audubon Center‘s Reserve was jam-packed with blooms and fliers. This Orange Hawkweed flowerhead caught my eye. Lush in color, Hieracium Aurantiacum could have had a tiny sign posted on it, “Super healthy bloom ready for nectarers!”

Decided to pause there awhile, and see if it’s aromatic teasers brought in any action. Bingo! This sweet as sugar skipper zoomed in, and stayed. My instincts must have been good, sweet nectar ready at the pump, so to speak.

The eye candy that it was challenged me to capture a suitable image, and I shot away. A comely bloom with a sucre-sweet little skipper, on a fine morning in Jamestown, New York. ID? A Least Skipper is my vote. Good, very good.

Oh, if I could do as some of you do, block out the nonsense of this nutty political world, and focus on the gravitas of this eye-popping world that we share.

Jeff