Petite Wildflower at Traci’s Swamp (At Risk)

Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

Sure, Traci’s Swamp at Kelso Road and Pattridge Lane is a neat, pocket swamp. Fayette Township is just 7 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Beavers likely created the swamp, and hundred of animals and plants are now forever in their debt. The swamp is privately owned, and Traci can’t get the Western Pennsylvania Nature Conservancy to come and consider conserving the swamp and Traci’s Meadow. The Conservancy is too busy to visit, and with much more important fish to fry. Traci? She lives a stone’s throw away, and she’s a consummate naturalist.

At Traci’s invite, I visited the Swamp, and was delighted. Butterflies were all about, and the Viceroys were fresh and deeply hued.

During one of those breaks in the butterfly action, I notice this tiny wildflower. My wildflower guides haven’t helped me yet. It’s pert, self-confident and very optimistic. It grows in very wet soil, in between rivulets of water seeping from the swamp.

Soon after sharing this post, two of our friends got to work identifying it. Here we have Small Flowered Willow (Epilobium parviflorum). Native, no. Rare here, yes. It is a naturalized european transplant. Thanks Pete and Barbara Ann.


Regal Fritillaries and the U.S.A

Regal Butterfly sipping nectar photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

How many of you have ever seen this super rare butterfly? Regal fritillaries exist east of the Mississippi River because they are protected. Yes, protected by the U.S. armed forces, on a military base. Their prairie/meadow habitat has been so heavily developed, that the only safe haven left is smack dab in the middle of Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reserve, Pennsylvania.

When I heard that I could go there, with the invite of the Army post, I went. Thrilled, I was! to see this butterfly, and many other Regals.

If we, Americans, manage to maintain our heads, and keep this U.S. of A. strong and healthy, we will protect the Regals, our sanity and the home that we’ve worked to build for all of us.

I’m speaking for our butterflies, our neighbors, and our children and grandchildren.


The Southern Pearly-Eye Butterfly and 99.987% of Americans

Southern Pearly Eye Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, GA

It’s a fact, research shares that 99.987% of Americans, including those in Pennsylvania, know nothing of Southern Pearly-Eye butterflies. I’d be among them, save for the patience and kindness of Rose and Jerry, who guided me to them in the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, in north central Georgia. It was the Piedmont swamp, with cane and river oats.

Why is this photograph so dark? My ASA 100 Fuji slide film was more than challenged by the limited light in that part of the swamp, overhung as it was by trees. I shoot only with available light, without flash added.

Enodia portlandia was very elusive. Rose or Jerry would give the call to come quick, Here’s a Southern! I’d hop over branches, through mud, nearly take a pratfall, only to find Oh, it took off.

I’m telling you, it was toooo much Fun! Just had my annual check-up this morning, and my PCP agreed that it looks like I got away without any of several serious diseases that have been contracted . . . In This Very Swamp. Think about that. Now, who’s ready to return with me in August, to this very spot? Raise your hands higher, ’cause I can’t ’em.


Georgia Satyr Butterfly . . . Hold the Trumpets

Georgia Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

I’m finally there. 150 miles down from Eatonton, Georgia (home of the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch), and add to that the 700 miles drive from Pittsburgh. My first ever trip to meet Florida’s butterflies. I’m in the Florida Panhandle, in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, thanks to NABA’s very pin-point article, under the heading, Destinations.

Now I own quite a few butterfly field guides, and my love affair with U.S. Satyrs has simmered for some time now. If I could score what my goals for this trip were, the top 3 would include: capture images of southern Satyrs that are as good as or more satisfying than those in my field guides. I think I might have been a little cocky, on that score, truth be told.

Well, it was very hot, and very humid. I was acutely sensitive to this strange habitat that was new to me, the Florida swamp. It was not Brooklyn. There might be an alligator, or endangered crocodile. I had been warned (since my work has me stepping into the unknown alot) of snakes new and familiar, and some kinds of ants that are impolite, and chiggers and mosquitoes with OMG! micronaughties. Why not feral dogs and hogs? Well yes, it sort of was my old Brooklyn in the sense that you should always know who is around you, and keep your eyes open.

I met several Georgia Satyrs on the “Old Grade” trail. They flew low, hugged the trail edge.  Whenever I made my macro- approach, they twitched and signaled that any millisecond, if I move even a teensy 1/100 inch, they would flee. In the meantime, the sweat on my head was threatening to flow over the top of my Dick’s headband, and further fog my glasses. I just laughed, because it was so ridiculous.

I was anxious to achieve high quality images of a butterfly I had Never seen before, the Georgia Satyr (Neonympha areolata). I was on my stomach (ticks? ants?), threatened by sweat, with my glasses fogged. There I was, thinking about You and wanting to share really fine images with my readers.

Here we see one of those Georgia Satyrs, a very shy butterfly.  They appear to be loaded with inertia until the moment they decide it’s time to rocket away into the swamp. And I Loved It! Thank You G-d, from a Florida swamp. No drums. No trumpets blaring anew, and never so beautiful an image of a Georgia butterfly.


Prime Meadow Habitat . . . Doomed? Partial View

Traci Meadow Trail photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fayette Township, PA

Some two weeks ago, we posted Prime Meadow Habitat . . . Doomed?  You saw the view to the north of Traci’s Meadow, looking to the homes built at the crest of the gently rising meadow. Here you can see the path cut through the west edge of the meadow, ending at Partridge Road. Traci, who lives just out of view, across the road, brought me to this gem of a meadow, presumably historically linked to a much earlier time.

We exceeded 120 views of this particular blog post that day. Folks from near and very far away saw and mulled over this doomed acreage, another doomed meadow.

Traci and I speculated if this would tickle the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy or some John Bears Firtipton, who would hesitate not 1 minute, and have their downtown Pittsburgh legal eagles purchase this sweet spot, just 8 miles from their lofty office windows.

Nah. It seems like everyone is resigned to lose more meadow. No Joan of Arc in sight. Sad is the word, isn’t it?