Back to Phoebe!

Melitaea Phoebe butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

In the Run-up to my flight on February 23rd, let’s share this reminisce. He was perched on this dried twig with the 8:00 A.M. morning sun warming him up. The nights in Israel are cool, and he needed to warm up before he could fly off at a safe speed. In a field at Mishmarot, a field now destined for development, he was a 5 minute walk from my daughter’s home. This butterfly was fresh, proud and self-confident: a buster.

Melitaea phoebe telona is a common Israeli fritillary, and flies over much of Israel from Mt. Hermon south to the Negev. I expect to see Phoebes again. My objectives include field work along the Mediterranean coast near Haifa (butterflies and orchids), in the uppermost Galilee region (right up along the testy border with Lebanon), and in the middle of the Golan region (in and around Yom Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)). Posts of several FB friends have reminded me that I will be in and around many places cherished by Jews as well as places beloved by Christians. With air fares unusually low at the moment, I still could not entice a single FB stalwart to meet me there.

I will be careful, I will not autograph the signs at the Lebanese (Hezbollah) border or the Syrian border. (Syrian regulars, Iranian forces, ISIS, al Queda, Hezbollah, Russians, and ???) I promise.

I could see this Phoebe’s grandkids. Actually I tabbed quite a few butterflies there I’ve not yet met, so there’s lots to get done.

Like her mother, Rachel’s a terrific cook. Hertz will be the rental, and I have my Cocoa Loco bars packed, for field snacks.

I will not be posting until I return in late March. Will be missing the run-up to the RNC/DNC conventions, so I leave that to y’all to get right.


August Argiope

Argiope Spider photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

These things catch my attention each and every time. This female was in Traci’s Kelso Swamp in FayetteTownship, southwestern Pennsylvania. In September 2015 her OMG! web was stretched between non-woody plants. She was just about 10 feet from the swamp, patiently waiting for some insect to fly to or away from the swamp, and into her sticky, amazingly resilient web.

I stopped, stooped down, and respectfully kept a discrete distance from her. I’ve walked into spider webs, right into the bulls-eye center, too many times. I know they aren’t aggressive and don’t retaliate, but . . . they do look bigger and scarier than they should. Black and Yellow Argiopes remind me of those guys in my Brooklyn neighborhood who you just didn’t mess with.

We had a good laugh that day, when I DID walk into one of their webs. Back recently from Georgia, I shared our readers that southern US webs and northern spider webs taste the same.

Like I’ve said before, all the Carnegie Mellon U, Cal Tech, MIT, Berkeley, Georgia Tech engineering and robotics departments combined shouldn’t even try to outdo this beast, engineered by the B-st.


Gemmed in the Dark

Gemmed Satyr Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Hard Labor Creek State Park, Georgia

It was wonderful, pinch-me-if-I’m-dreaming fieldwork, guided by Phil in Hard Labor Creek State Park’s many diverse habitats. We were looking for butterflies and botany in Central Georgia. Phil is an excellent point man for seeking and finding wildlife and difficult to locate wildflowers. He knows this particular state park well. His knowledge led us to all the park species we were seeking.

This Gemmed satyr butterfly flew its low, rambling flight near us. Phil saw it and we went after it. The challenge was to photograph in a heavily wooded area, with just dabs of sunlight peeking through, here and there.

To take a shot or not? Knowing that my Fuji slide film was ASA 50, and originally loaded when we had been in a sunnier space. Would taking a chance be worth it?

So here is the result of our attempt, a truly fine, long sought after Gemmed satyr. It is captured as it really looks, in its chosen habitat, the poorly lit lowlands and swamps.


Baltimore, Begosh!

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Jamestown Audubon Center in Jamestown, NY.

They’ve eluded me for many years. I kept my eyes open, for their wetland hostplants, Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), and I’ve found them, many times in many places. But these spectacular checkerspot butterflies, no such luck.

During a visit to the Jamestown Audubon Center in Jamestown, New York, I enjoyed the friendliest, warmest reception that I’ve ever gotten from the staff of an Audubon Center. Relishing the experience, I left the Visitors Center building. Standing at the edge of their cultivated Butterfly garden, my eyes, always keen to spot butterfly movement or color, signaled Stop! Look! There on the ground cover was a Baltimore checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas phaeton). Would it flee? It didn’t, and I took photograph after photograph.

So many years since my last encounter with a checkerspot at Powdermill in Rector, Pennsylvania. I was as happy as . . .

I count this photograph as one of the most satisfying images I’ve photographed. It’s a real American beauty.


Have You Seen This Regal?

Regal Fritillary Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania

Watching the Jeopardy College Championship Episodes on TV came to mind as I examined this photograph of a Regal fritillary butterfly, taken on June 10, 2015. Jeopardy often asks their contestants questions about British royalty. I’m impressed that when asked, the college kids responded.

In the United States we don’t have our own royalty. We did better than that with George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. We do keep an eye out for British royalty. We missed Princess Di and the young gallivanting princes, as well as her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. As far as we know none who frequent wingedbeauty have ever met royalty, have you?

Reduced to a single site east of the Mississippi River, our Regal fritillary butterflies are so few in number, that these Regals have become our own butterfly royalty. This male here, a hunk, lives with his species mates in a very extensive meadow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, guarded and patrolled by the U.S. Armed Forces.

I met this butterfly and many of his royal entourage at the Fort. As expected, I was thrilled to do so. How many of you have been so fortunate? Thank goodness for this military post, and its role in stopping the extirpation of this gorgeous butterfly.

Occasionally, in conversation with other butterfly fans, we ask, as if we were 7-year olds, Why aren’t more people interested in seeing and conserving butterflies? All of us are capable thinkers, and rarely are we able to respond to that one, to our own satisfaction. Such is life . . .