Bet You’ve Never Met a Leonard’s

Leonard's Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Leonard’s Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Please form a single line, and get your betting cash ready, for me thinks that almost None of you have ever seen a Leonard’s Skipper. Hesperia leonardus and I have met only once. It was the most unlikely, improbable meeting!

The odds of seeing her on this trail were about as good as the odds of being there, and . . . along comes Cindy Crawford!

I’d visited this same southwestern Pennsylvania park, Raccoon Creek State Park, dozens of mornings that summer. It was a summer with lots of butterflies, quite the contrast to this summer of 2016. I scored many, many excellent images. I was pleased with that. There was no reason to return to Raccoon Creek, now that September had arrived.

The day before this day, the forecast was for a sunny, beautiful day. Tempting, very. But it was mid-September, y’all were back at work, kids back to school, and . . . I didn’t need more images!

That night I decided, OK, expect nothing much, butterflies in decline or gone, spring ephemerals a faint recollection, just expect a sea of goldenrod, and not much more. Even the Monarchs should be expected to have left.

I went, LaDeDah, it was so nice there, not a sole about, and so comfortable . . . and Then, then, something  flew out from the cut meadow edge, onto the trail in front of me, and my eyes, my eyes sent what they saw to my brain, and my brain, it responded, Huh? What is this???

I had never seen this before. It was a butterfly. It was super fresh. It was a skipper. It was a Big skipper. It remained on the just cut grassy trail, with its dorsal surface in perfect form.

I made my robotic approach, I sllllooooowwwwwllllllllyyyyyyyyy got down on my belly, and I shot away (Fuji film, Velvia 50). I moved some, changed film rolls, and took almost 50 exposures.

I learned something very important that day. There are butterflies that are “our only butterfly with a single brood in late summer (Butterflies of the East Coast by Cech & Tudor, Princeton University Press)” I also learned that I have nothing to complain of, for Cech and Tudor continue, “A strong, rapid-flying skipper, Leonard’s is notoriously difficult to approach.” This babe stayed and posed for me for what seemed like a lifetime, or almost 4 minutes. Leonard’s are said to be steadily disappearing from their known eastern range, making this even more incredible!

I learned: Don’t discount the possibilities when you go out there, never underestimate what you may or may not see.

Oh, I hope you read along here to this end, for I Love retelling this,Truth be Told.

Jeff

8 thoughts on “Bet You’ve Never Met a Leonard’s

  1. I enjoy skippers but am no expert on identifying all of the types – so if you tell me I haven’t seen this one, I probably haven’t.

    Your experience reminds me of something I have discovered in photography: that I receive some of the most valued images when I am not looking for them. I’m not out hunting for this or that but simply walking with my camera to experience whatever is given.

    You were given something very beautiful – both the image and the experience. I am glad for you…Life is so rich.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary, Your experiences mirror my own. Life is so ‘rich.’ Let me share, there have been times, over these years (17?), that over the course of a whole morning, I have been ‘skunked.’ Few butterflies, even those are damaged or deformed or very plain. I try to share butterflies that juice my audience, that excite them and remind them of the special gifts that they are to us. Sometimes, when the frustration is very real, I have a short conversation with G-d, sharing how much I want to see and reap decent images of butterflies I have never seen before, and agreeing to make a $eriou$ contribution to my synagogue. On several of those days, exactly that has happened, before I quit for the morning, I met and shot out, successfully, a species new to me, or an individual so gorgeous as to be a Gift. No cynicism from this boy, I requested, and on those special mornings, the special deal was struck. Thank you for such a thoughtful Comment.

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