We Find a Conversation Stopper in Northwestern Pennsylvania

White Admiral Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at State Gamelands #29, NY

The trail from Chapman State Park to State Game Lands #29 offered up few butterflies. That’s until I startled a . . . White Admiral (Limenitis Arthemis). I had not seen one for many years. ‘For many years’ because my field work rarely takes me north of Pittsburgh, and these beauts are most common to our north.

Took the requisite moment to stare, and then began a long, relentless effort to photograph them. White admiral descends onto trail (slightly moist after rain a few days before), I make a robotic approach (necessary for I shoot macro-, and need to ideally be within 2 feet of butterfly) and . . . it flees, fast, into trailside cover. This was repeated over and over, with the 5 or so that were present along about 90 feet of trail. I never gave up and they usually returned within a handful of minutes.

These Limenitis are closely related to Red-spotted Purples and also to Viceroys. They are exquisite, sporting blue, white, black and reddish-orange, all stark and tightly grouped.

Meeting White Admirals on this trail in northwestern Pennsylvania is electrifying, for the next ½ hour, that’s all you think of, not pressures, tensions, bills to pay, family issues, politics, ISIS – all washes out, as you appreciate the artistry of this butterfly.


Here? There? Everywhere? Those Ladies!

Painted lady butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Society for the Protection of Nature Hermon, Israel

Spokane, Washington? Eatonton, Georgia? Perry, Florida? Jamestown, New York? Toronto, Quebec? Phoenix, Arizona, St. Louis, Mo.? Lumberton, Mississippi? Central Park, New York?

No to all. This Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa Cardui) was nectaring in Northernmost Israel, at the foot of Mt. Hermon. I spent several days in the SPNI field house, my fourth furlough there. Their large nature reserve was rich in wildlife and botany, and it was March 2015, with millions of blooms of countless species.

Considered the most universal (widespread) of all butterflies species, it was, honestly, a shock to be 7,000 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the U.S., and see what? A Painted Lady? Nevertheless, this is H-s plan.

Oh, and how far was this one from ISIS, Hezbollah, regular Syrian troops, Syrian rebel forces and Al Queda? Less than 10 miles, about as far as some drive to the supermarket. Our world!


Jeff in the Briar Patch

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

One key do’er, Virgina Linch decided to single-handedly prime the pump, and began a campaign to reinvent a brownfield site in her town, Eatonton, Georgia. She energized a small group of friends, and they together produced an oasis for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, moths, hundred of other insects as well as birds, reptiles, amphibians . . . did I leave anything out?

One and ¼ hours east of Atlanta, this grew to be a destination for butterflies. Southern species like Gulf Fritillary, Giant Swallowtail, Long-tailed Skippers, Variegated Fritillaries and so many others. Lacking images and experience with southern U.S. butterflies, I was on the lookout for some such destination in 2015. Came across Virginia’s Facebook page, and, having met cold reception so many times from others, noted that I would love to . . . WELL THEN, COME ON DOWN! was just about how she replied.

Just 2 years in the making now, it is a fabulous couple of acres. They have it all there, drawn by an overflow of native hostplants, beckoning butterflies with their nectar and assurance that their caterpillars will find exactly what they need to nourish them and nurture them.

Here I am on a fine morning, dressed in green shirt, tan hat, and blue jeans. My trusty Canon camera sports its macro- lens (100mm, 2.8) and yes David, I am shooting Fuji slide film. The sweat band gets little use in Toronto, but is invaluable in central Georgia.

Three minutes from town hall and the Putnam county seat, it’s 1 minute from the Uncle Remus Br’er Rabbit Museum, where Georgia Smith was someone you want to meet. My beloved Mom (A”H) read me the Uncle Remus stories when I was a tyke in Brooklyn, New York. Jeff, full circle and happy as a duck.


So, I’m Thousands of Miles . . .

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

So, I’m thousands of miles from home, out on the trails of SPNI Hermon, on a sunny March 2015 morning. To give perspective, this site shown in the image is less than 5 miles away from where Russian fighter jets are now flying combat missions in Syria. G-d willing, this ground remains as peaceful and remote as it was that March day. Israel remains strong, and this mad world of ours respects strong.

So I’m traversing the trails of this large SPNI reserve [Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (sort of like the US Audubon Society)] and with my hunt for new butterflies, I’m being stopped repeatedly, because, Wow! what plant is this? OMG! I’ve never seen a flower like that!! 7,000 miles away, in the heart of the Middle East, encountering blooms that they admired thousands of years ago.

My Hebrew? 4% efficient. My field guides are in Hebrew, and the text remains a mystery. Despite a serious difference in color, it would appear (don’t you love that phrase) that this blossom is Barbary Nut (Gynandriris Sisyrinchium).

Sometime soon I will exhaust my images of that recent trip to Israel. Still, these catches thrilled me, and I must, with substantial enthusiasm, share them with you. The Holy Land is gorgeous.


Add More Blue . . .

Our last share was a blue butterfly 7,000 miles away, in the northernmost foothills of Israel. That serene winged beauty was less than a mile from the nearest terrorist outpost of Hezbollah. Only barbed wire, mine fields and a daunting Israeli resolve insure that Jeff and the common blue butterfly enjoyed that morning together.

Back here in the States, this Eastern Tailed Blue flies in terrorist free habitat, Thank G-d, in the verdant Jamestown Audubon Center’s sizable meadow. As I jockeyed for a good vantage point, and went down on my left knee pad, I was pleased to see that he was handsomely colored. A shmeksy butterfly, in an Audubon green meadow in western New York, photographed merrily by a Brooklyn native who always saw beyond the asphalt, concrete and brick.

Aren’t those reddish-orange spots neat?

U.S. blues, 4 hours north of home Pittsburgh, amidst so much that I enjoyed . . . .