The Eyes of Buckeyes

Buckeye (ventral) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Veterans of years of sidling up to resting Buckeye butterflies, will agree that this is a thankless task. Buckeyes are super wary, and dislike your approach. You carefully, robotically move toward one, and before you move within 8 feet of them . . . Zoom! away they go. My Macro- Canon lens needs to be no more than 24″ from our Buckeye, and by the time I have lens to Buckeye . . . my Buckeye is no more!

That and I sincerely i wanted a good image of the ventral (lower) surface of the Buckeye’s wings. Most field guides share a good ventral look, but they use digital cameras to capture them, and my film camera can do much better real-time color. Add to that another challenge for field guides, in the production of the guides, most images suffer a bit, and do not achieve what the original did.

Score another check-mark for the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat (Eatonton, Georgia). This Junonia coenia was at rest and hiding along the Briar Patch trail. She tolerated my super slow approach, and I shot away. Hoping, hoping to score a UGA touchdown ( AKA an image that puts points on the board ).

Me? I like this one, much. Those ventral eyespots sport baby-blue, the color is rich, the wing surface fascinates, the eye will do, antenna passes, legs OK, palps too, and wing margins deserve a look.

What think you of this swell butterfly, found from Maine to Florida?


The Truth About Painted Ladies?

Painted Lady Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

We are always learning. Today I was very impressed with one of our most personable butterflies. Painted Ladies remind of that $100 word, ‘ubiquitous.’ They do seem to be just about everywhere, across these United States. Sure they are not seen everywhere everyday, but . . . they show up here, there and just about everywhere, at some time or another. I see them regularly when I travel to Israel, confirming for me their special status: the most widespread of butterfly species, around the entire world!

What did I learn today? Well, if you live in Ohio, where are your Ladies at this moment (December it is)? If you live in South Dakota, where are they now? Georgia? California? State of Washington? Oklahoma? North Carolina?

The truth about our Painted Ladies is, that they are a migratory species. Across much of the U.S. we are in winter now. Answer to this question? They are in . . . Mexico. Mexico. When Spring ’17 begins, they fly by the hundreds of millions north, spreading across America. Comes September, progeny of the Mexican generation takes to wing, and return to . . . Mexico. How do they do that? You tell me. Vanessa cardui. Vanessa!


Do You Know Buttonbush?

Butterflyonbush wildflowers, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center in New York

See that’s the thing. Twenty years in, and I’m still learning. Anxious to add new native butterfly targets to my home garden, I noted that friends and knowledgeable folks included Buttonbush, when asked “What are the best shrubs to add to a garden designed to attract butterflies?”

Some of my new adds in my Pittsburgh garden have been excellent: Common milkweed, Mexican sunflower (not a native, but a winner!),  Asters,Greenhead coneflower. Others have disappointed: Clethra, sadly, never took.

I planted 3 Buttonbushes ( Cephalanthus occidentalis ) in our ‘peanut’ garden in June. All three flourished, but have a lot of growing to do, to reach that 3′ – 10.’ They prefer ‘wet feet’ in moist soil, and that part of my garden usually retains good moisture.

2017 may, should bring our first nourish of blooms, hopefully like these, met at the rich reserve of the Jamestown Audubon Center, in western New York State. Just down that same trail, I met a nice population of Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies. Nice trail that. Wetlands give.


Why Am I Fond of This Pearly Eye?

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Peggy Klaczyk is an extraordinary landscape photographer, her work on Facebook is stunning. Her beat? Vancouver Island, in far western Canada. Today she shared an image, and Peggy wrote that she “loves” that 2011 capture of a forest winterscape. I ‘Commented’ agreeing it was special, and I asked why of her prolific output, this one was special to her. I await a possible response.

Sure got me to thinking. I recently reordered business cards from Moo, and that forced me to choose images among my Media Library. Of the 650 +/- images, I asked that they print those 500 cards, dividing them among the 49 images I’d chosen. This gave my an opportunity to review my images, and select, well . . . favorites. Select ones I “love.”

Images I love. Should you ask how many I may have seriously taken since 1996, my guess would be, some 120,000 give or take, shot with film.

Now the instant image, of a Northern Pearly- Eye ( Enodia anthedon  ). One of 3 of this individual in the Library, I captured perhaps ten exposures of it, but when lightboxing those 10, I could not eliminate the 3, try as I did. All 3 scanned well. Some weeks ago I posted one, and this is another. This morning I went to critique the 3, and well, I must admit . . . I love this one, the earlier posted one, and the yet unposted third.

Why am I so fond of this image?  Several reasons, some very familiar to me. You must know that I have had my eyes peeled for Northern Pearly-eyes for hundreds of field excursions. Secretive, elusive, rarely seen, shy, seen at the darkish forest edge, never seen nectaring, met on that OMG! trip into the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge (Georgia) with Rose and Jerry, this is a deeply frustrating butterfly, never providing its best face, never posing long enough for me to set-up, and always frustrating JLZ when the images come back, and they are . . . well very pedestrian.

This time the butterfly was shockingly beautiful, and when the image and its sister were delivered from Kansas by FedEx, Holy Smoley! I loved it, them. You examine it, and you will know what I know.

Maine to Georgia, that’s where you find them. If, if, if, if you find them. Then, as I do at times, knock yourself out, trying to get . . . . Then contact me, and let’s share.


Admire Swamp Milkweed?

Swamp Milkweed, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center in New York

Growing at the edge of that Tamarack acid bog, there were this one and another nearby, both standalones. Swamp milkweed, one of our native Asclepias milkweeds. I had to stop and admire.

They sway gracefully in wind, but hold their posture effectively. Once their individual flower buds open, they attract butterflies from great distance. A Great spangled fritillary butterfly flew in during my watch, and it stayed for many minutes, sipping seriously across the flower heads. Sugar, pollen and available proteins, a healthy cocktail for butterfly nourishment and reproductive health.

Just 70′ or so from the ancient bog itself, this swamp milkweed shows no discomfort with the relatively acid environment around it.

We won’t know if Monarch butterflies took nectar here. I hope they did, for it could only have been good Monarch nutrient!