Virginia repeated her offer, call Mike in Kathleen, if you really want to see Zebras. Yep, I’d met Zebra Swallowtail butterflies before, in Virginia and in Maryland. Just as little Jeff back in Brooklyn watched nature shows on TV of the zebras on the African veldt, the zebra swallowtails were exciting! to see. They were gentle, acrobatic fliers, and they exuded a very royal, very indulged air about them. African zebras, Virginian zebras were all easily remembered. Very beautiful, very amazing to watch, and very puzzling, what with their unique striping, so out of the box!
So I hitched up my trusty Toyota Tundra and drove south from Eatonton, through Conie Mac’s Macon to Kathleen. My copy of Butterflies of the East Coast by Cech and Tudor reminding me that though Zebra heliconian butterflies might be found as far north as Kathleen, their range extended no farther than southern Georgia. But Virginia recommended this drive, and Virginia C Linch is not one to be doubted.
Got lost twice on the drive, had trouble finding Mike’s driveway. Met Mike, and well, Mike knows his botany, and he had a perennial garden that was fascinating, extensive, and that he knew, hands down. We hiked about 10 minutes from his home. I’m thinking, look at me, Brooklyn-born, Pittsburgh now, pursuing butterflies in rural Georgia, with a retired pharmacist, on an unlikely mission, to find a spectacular butterfly that should not even be within 120 miles of here . . . all to fill the Zebra triad. A zealot I have become. Zealous for zebras.
Virginia and Mike delivered, big time. Here is Heliconius charitonius right where Mike said they’d be, in a thicket of wild passionflowers. I’ll tell you, you just stare, stare at these zebras with their zebra stripes, seeming almost out of place in that green to greener thicket. You raise up your trusty Canon camera, with its Macro-lens, and then there’s that pause, Hey to get images of them, I must close the space gap, and be ideally 18″ inches away from them.
18 inches? This is a natural habitat, and the trail leaves me some 8′ to 10 feet from this zebra. Uh oh! to approach I have to wade into 3′ to 4 foot high growth . . . . Snakes? Unknowns? Sure we didn’t hesitate a moment when we were kids, but I’m no longer such. That’s why my exposures of these Zebras appear to be a tad distant from the butterflies.
Don’t want to be the man of many excuses, but yes, I charged in, kind of a . . . zealot. Was my zealotry unfounded . . . ? . . . . Know that my left leg suffered fire ant bites, and Thank G-d we don’t have those Rocky Balboas up north.