A Rare, Well, Very Rare Copper

Bog Copper Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New YorkDorsal View of Bog Copper Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

My love for American Copper butterflies has extended over many years. At Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, they greet me along the mowed paths in that 100-acre meadow. Perky little butterflies, they so remind me of Shih Tzu pups, pookie perky!

I’ve seen and captured images of Bronze Coppers, although they are very limited and in decline. In Israel, I’ve found several species of coppers, too.

With my Copper butterfly dance card filling up, there was a blank still left, the Bog Copper. Cech & Tudor, in Butterflies of the East Coast, cite them as “rare, bog-dependent species.” To see them, you must travel, travel to one of the very few remaining acid bogs, tamarack (tree) bogs, left over from that time when glaciers began to recede from the northeastern United States.

I travelled up to a protected bog in western New York. I had to be guided there, for Bog Coppers are now seriously protected, and need that concern. You could not find Allenberg Bog yourself. The trail from road is 99.999% impossible to see from the road access.  Allenberg Bog is also known to some as Waterman’s Swamp, Congdon’s Pond, and Owlenburg Bog and is on the border of the towns of Napoli and New Albion, New York in Cattaraugus County. A unique and fascinating refuge of 390 acres, it is the jewel of the Buffalo Audubon Preserve System.

When I got there??? A real, totally real acid bog, complete with pitcher plants, sundew plants, an open pond-like center, tamaracks, swamp milkweed, and the hostplant for Bog Coppers, wild cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon). A sunny day, mild for July, and no wind. Perfect!

And then, there was a Bog Copper (Lycaena epixanthe). Tiny, low flying, and mostly males about. I saw many those 2 mornings. They perch occasionally, and tolerate my close macro- approach. Jeff and the diminutive little butterflies that remind me of, well that sweet little Tinkerbell in the Peter Pan movie.

Now folks, this came to be one of the most challenging photography of butterflies efforts I can recall. For starters they average o.9″ inches from wing tip to wing tip. They are solitary. Not enough challenge for you yet? Get this! It’s a real, bonafide thousands of year old acid bog. So you think? When you can approach a good looking Bog copper, and set yourself for the shot(s), focus, focus, then . . . . OMG! you realize, Holy Moley! I am sinking!!! You become distracted, concerned that you will be found again 400 years from now, mummified at the bottom of this highly acidic bog, still clutching your Canon Elan 7e.

What about the shot(s) you were about to capture? What shots? You were sinking, you kept losing focus, you were wondering if the bottom of the bog held other unfortunate butterfly photographers, native Americans or Good Humor ice cream truck drivers? So getting decent looks at Bog Coppers is akin to finding the . . . .

Jeff found his rare, rare Bog coppers. Male image on the top. Female image on the bottom. Bingo!!

Jeff

8 thoughts on “A Rare, Well, Very Rare Copper

  1. This post gave me a good chuckle as I have photographed in bogs also and have experienced that sinking feeling of “the earth moving under my feet”, A Carole King moment for sure. And I can easily imagine you, focused in as you approach your subject, then a loud splash as you step off of the mat and disappear from sight. Your trail companions look toward the sound, and all they see is your one hand held high above your head so your camera does not get wet, and then your other hand scrambling for something solid to grab onto to pull yourself up as the water pours over the top of your boots and seeps up to your knees.
    Exploring a bog is a magical experience and definitely worthy of adding to your bucket list.For anyone who plans to explore the wonders of a bog, it is best to take a few companions along to watch out for each other, and carry a long walking stick to test the ground in front of you before you take a step.
    Happy bogging !

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    • You clearly agree that bogging (if there is such a word?) is a fun, challenging and totally different experience. It should not be an experience reserved solely for some, but I’d say is recommended, for . . . all.

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