Palamedes Swallowtail in the Panhandle

Palmed Swallowtail Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida

It was a joy! A total joy to arrive at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area’s Spring Creek Unit, and be surrounded by a ballet troupe. The dancers? They were Palamedes swallowtail butterflies, all earnest to find nectar. These thistles were the clear choice for sipping nectar.

There were worn ones, bird-struck ones, and butterflies that were missing a “tail.” Most were wary of me, and took off when I came within 15 feet. I was captivated by these butterflies. They are big, graceful fliers, able to gently move their wings, and be 30 feet away in an instant.

A photograph of one. I really, really wanted a fine photograph of one. “Pop, pop, pop, pop,” went the camera, using my Fuji Velvia fine grain slide film with an ASA of 50.

Males and females are similar, leaving us guessing the gender of this particular butterfly. It is indeed a Southern butterfly. It’s a very classy, very large southern butterfly and good company to be with.


Gemmed Satyr . . . Good

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

Phil, Rose and Jerry worked so hard to introduce me to the Satyrs of the Georgia Piedmont. They hustled here and there. Their eagle eyes searched for these rich chocolate butterflies, with their jeweled ‘eyes’ on their wings. Oh, how Happy! was I too have such warm, generous sharing new friends. And tireless? They must have resorted to increments of stored energy! We mucked, hiked and climbed over falling timber, always searching, working the bush so that . . . Jeff can see and photograph. There was no way for me to know how to thank them, ‘though they seemed to reap their own pleasure those mornings.

Here in Hard Labor Creek State Park, Phil’s osprey-level vision roused up this Gemmed Satyr. It flew low and about, and might have been a response to my whispered plea, as it alighted on this leaf. Cyllopsis gemma is a very rare, elusive resident of the southeastern United States.

It’s a Gemmed satyr and is probably a male. It’s a good image, taken at a long-awaited meeting. This is a reminder of an earlier time, when I had the privilege to attend pre-sale exhibitions of Magnificent Jewelry at ‘ and at Sotheby’s New York galleries. So I saw the finest gems, very up close and personal. This butterfly evokes those memories.  They are sweet. They will always be, and that is Good.


Absolute Beauty in the Briar Patch

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (Black form), photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies & Blooms in the Habitat, Georgia

The beautiful butterflies descended onto the Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) blooms, reminding me of memorable celebrities appearing at awards ceremonies, fully adorned in fashionable gowns. With hair placed just right, their shoes, jewelry and accessories all contributed to near visual perfection. This time though, we were not in Hollywood, New York or Nashville. I was working those Tithonia blossoms, walking with eyes pealed for extraordinarily fresh winged beauties.

Many of the flyers were worn, would not cooperate. They did not pause to nectar, or sadly, were seriously birdstruck. Patience dictated that I not depress the shutter button on my Canon camera. Film is expen$ive and keepers require all the goods: good positioning, good light, good angle to the lens, good luck, good timing and  . . .

Then she descended onto a nearby bloom. Oh, there was so much to like: Her blues were gushing. Those swallow tails were whole. Her blacks were solid and dense and orange spots were Florida orange. All of her white chevrons, spots and streaks were straight from make-up. This Tiger swallowtail dark form female was more than Cartiers, Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, all in one.

Absolute beauty in the Butterflies & Blooms in the Brair Patch, now pied pipering butterflies to the center of Eatonton, Georgia for what, Virginia, the 4th year now?


Southern Pearly-eye Butterfly with Cane

Southern Pearly-eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Rose and Jerry were spotting for me, in this dimly-lit Piedmont National Wildlife Swamp. It was difficult going, with each step either sinking in the soft terrain, or almost sending you, slipping and sliding.  Time and time again, it was an almost Plop! Onto your back. So many of the Southerns, Northerns, Creole Pearly-eyes, Gemmed Satyrs and Carolina Satyrs fled before I could respond to Rose’s or Jerry’s “Come look at this!”

This Southern Pearly-eye cooperated. Resplendent in its gentle colors, it was a treat to see it, among the canes and river oats.

August 2015, with the locally respected Paynes. Jeffrey, with the Satyrs. I was indeed a Happy Boy with extraordinary folks and exemplary butterflies in Georgia.


As Good As Coney Island?

Sign = Big Bend, Spring Creek Unit photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

Admission price? Free. What’s this Big Bend Wildlife Management Area in the Florida Panhandle, equivalent to? For this Lover of butterflies, wildflowers and nature’s beauty?

Compared to Coney Island in Brooklyn, Rockaway’s Playland in Rockaway Beach, New York, and Kennywood in Pittsburgh, Big Bend gives gives the same roller coaster thrills, feelings of weightlessness, ferris wheel excitement and (though muted!) the same Screams as your car wends its way through the Haunted House of Horrors.

A minefield of Delight! Astonishing twists and pulls at your sense of life’s inertia.

Tickets are . . . Free. Will we be going this September in 2016? The Blazing Star Blooms should be fully open.