Hairy Pink Flax (Israel)

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

I was up there, March 2015, near the base of Mt. Hermon, in the hilly reserve of SPNI Hermon. The trails was busting bountiful with wildflowers, and the butterflies that I came to see and photograph. I’d brought 53 rolls of Fuji slide film (ASA 50/100) through Security in Pittsburgh and JFK New York and again through Ben Gurion airport. Each time Security and I spent more time together than most, with my “Hand Check!”requests, usually met with frowns and shrugs. My film did not get x-rayed once, despite some pleas that the irradiation does effect film. That a chance I do no wish to take.

So it was supposed, supposed to be butterflies only, but . . . the wildflowers could not be denied. New to me, fresh and beautiful.

These Hairy Pink Flax (Linum Pubescens) were just so pretty, perky and inviting. Why they are not pink, Quien sabe? Three field guides seem to ID them as such.

I love butterflies, wildflowers, cantaloupe, black russians, babaganoush, Breyers mint chip, . . . .


The Monarch That Americans Tolerate

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I’m more than half way through Benjamin Franklin, An American Life by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2003). I’m enjoying it alot, and PS 244 in Brooklyn taught us little to nothing about this period in our history. The English royalty is always in the background, playing a silent but critical role in the disfunction that existed between the Colonies and England. I’m now on page 301, with the great majority of the colonists through and done with the King and Crown. Franklin loved the Crown, but came to realize the our place in the British Empire was cooked, done, over.

Now, Americans retain a great Love for this Monarch, (Danaus Plexippus). has posted many images of Monarch butterflies, yet personally, I do not get bored seeing a good one. We suffered a real scare these last years, with doomsayers forecasting the flight of the very last East Coast U.S. Danaus Plexippus.

Now that we are hearing that the flight of the East Coast and Mid-Western Monarchs is substantial, we can relax at least this one tension in our lives.

This one (gender?) is fresh, and that forewing flash of burnt orange bedazzles. In this photograph, we’re at the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory, in the center of my home city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


N.B., The 122 scans are back from Rewind Memories, and very soon we will be sharing our images from New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida. Yippee! You Bet!

That’s the Mediterranean You See

Rosh Hanikra, sign at shoreline (Mediterranean Sea), photographed by Jeff Zablow in Israel

Hebrew, Arabic and English all warn that this shoreline and surrounding are closed military areas. Folks in the United States never get to see such warnings. Our neighbors, Mexico and Canada are at peace with us. Israel’s neighbors, including Lebanon, the Gaza strip and many thousands of terrorists nearby dream of slipping into this and many other stretches of Meditteranean shore in  Israel to do really horrendous things. Think about the latest that they did in Paris.

I was working the strip along the shore, seeking butterflies to photograph. I found many and relished the experience. In the back of my mind was the irony of this scene. Total beauty, amazing botany and butterflies, blue waters of the Sea, and just several hundred yards from Israel’s northwestern border with Lebanon. Rosh Hanikra, Israel, 24/7 surveillance, watching this very same spot, for dinghies, kayaks, rubber boats, submergibles, frogmen and . . . .

If G-d forbid any of these appeared, this spot would be . . .  And they know it.

Jeff . . . mixing butterflies, rare orchids, and the reality of current affairs.

What You’re Thinking When You . . . Rare Butterflies

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa - Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap. (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

Those ten or more years, wanting, but unable to see and photograph Regal Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria Idalia) ended here, in June 2015. I never knew that Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation opened this expansive meadow to visitors, 2 Fridays and 2 Saturdays a year, in the first weeks of June. Surprise. There is not much sharing amongst those of us who seek butterflies, and why is that?

So I drove the 2.5 hours to Harrisburg, Pa.. on Thursday, stayed in a Hampton Inn, and Friday morning there I was . . . not one of 15 excited lovers of butterflies . . . I was amongst 130 guests. Each of those 4 days had something like that number of people, a whopping 520 or more had gone there to see the Regal Fritillarys. Kinda like those seeking audience with English royalty.

What was the Friday morning and early afternoon like, for me? I thought that it would be a disappointment, for how can I do what I do with 129 folks on my heels. No. It was much better than that. The Army post employs naturalists to husband their unique wildlife, and these folks were there to help, watch, caution, and inevitably work us into much smaller groups, working the huge reserve meadows. Soon it was Jeff, 2 fellow guests and a naturalist. That’s when it became Whoopee!

I was impressed with the seriousness of the hours before me. It was sunny, mild, minimal wind, the Regals were flying and their butterfly milkweed was mid-bloom and lush. Fine field conditions, and therefore fully the chance of a lifetime. Seen in singles and at most in 3’s, some Regals were worn, others were “fresh.” Decades of my life have been enjoyed, yet I’d never seen these before, and may never see them again. I live in the eastern U.S., and you cannot meet Regals in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. Only in this military reserve in central Pennsylvania.

With each and every camera click counting, I had to be sure that I was shooting fresh fliers I had to do lots of moving around as a beauty of a male or female (more males than females on the wing) fled one milkweed and flew 70 feet to another. Often someone else was bearing down on a bloom or butterfly before I got there. I kept aware of the time, knowing that fritillary butterflies often nectar and fly intermittently, and that the morning experience would end when our hosts announced, “it’s time to take your last shots.”

I was pleased that I found a mating pair, and my best images of them together rate as “good.” That’s a coup of sorts. I saw other butterflies too, including Coral Hairstreaks and Monarchs.

Unlike y’all, I shoot film, and don’t know how my images fare until weeks later, when my slides return from Dwayne’s Photo Lab in Parsons, Kansas. Please resist advice on that, thank you.


Holy Thistle

Thistle, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Mishmarot, Israel

Butterflies kept me busy, but their wildflower choices couldn’t be ignored. This thistle, growing against a chain-link fence in the Mishmarot orchards, was a handsome flowerhead.

Prime bloom time, vibrant color, and beacon to swallowtails and many other butterflies, what was the name of this Israeli blossom?

Holy Thistle (Silybum Marianum). Only in the Holy land would you expect such a name. Butterflies heading to Holy thistle to find succor . . . makes sense, No?