Zealous For Zebras


Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA













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.


Eastern Black Beauty

Black Swallowtail butterfly and chrysalis, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, Eatonton, GA

Early. Its was nice and early when I arrived at the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch. Good things happen when I arrive at prime habitat early. This was just that kind of a day.

I scrutinized the perennial beds for cooping butterflies, still in their night sleep poses. Things were going well, the morning was just right, and the Briar Patch Habitat was delivering nicely.

Then I saw this Eastern Black Swallowtail. Nice, very nice. The oranges shot orange, the blue was eye-soothing, the black was jet black, the white spots on the body beamed white and so much more.

I shot away, and am fond of this image of Papilio polyxenes. More than that, this may be one of the butterflies in the soon to be published Jeff’s Earring series. You are going to want to see that 1 in 1,000,000 share.

The shocker for me, when I got this slide back from Dwayne’s Photo, was . . . this chrysalis. I do not know if this butterfly emerged from it, or if it is still active, TBT I didn’t even notice it as I bombed this beau with many, many exposures.

Jeff just never knows what he’ll find in the field. And that folks, makes the anticipation exponential.


Monarch Heroics

Monarch butterfly (female) on Tithonia, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Me? I try as hard as I can to not buy ‘Made in China.’ That for so many reasons. It’s been tough for those of us who make this extra effort, but mostly it pays off. Made in USA sings to me, as I can find it. Our Monarch butterflies so evoke that for me. Danaus plexippus flies from coast to coast, north to south. Seeing a Monarch titillates all, ages 1 to 110. This one is on Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) in the Butterflies & Blooms Habitat in Eatonon, Georgia.

A very beautiful butterfly, waves of burnt orange, spots of a type of yellow, white, bands trailing the wing margins of black black, spiffy black wing lines, the stark sizable white spots on head and thorax, all eye-candy in a fresh Monarch.

Americans are also blessed, with the still phenomenal saga of Monarchs flying from Maine to Mexico, Eatonton to Mexico, Frewsburg to Mexico, Shellman Bluff to Mexico . . . and once winter slips away, from Mexico to Maine, Eatonton, Fresburg and Shellman Bluff. Oh, and from Washington State to California and from . . . .

Now, this image triggered my thinking to that word ‘Heroics.’ Would you look at those right wings? Thousands of tiny scales lost, holes in the wing, scratches. She has seen, experienced and survived. Her color remains sugary sweet, and her head, well, she is a real looker! American women & American Monarchs, the finest. The most heroic.


The $100 Question?

Rare Skipper, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Brunswick, GA

That $100 question is . . . . Where must you head out to, if you are desirous of  meeting a Salt Marsh Skipper? In my case, the Crosby’s and I drove to Brunswick, Georgia. We wished to see and shoot Eastern Pygmy Blue Butterflies and Salt Marsh Skippers.

Why did we go to Brunswick, on the Georgia coast. Because to find Salt Marsh Skippers, you have to find their habitat, coastal salt marshes. Off we went, for my hoped for 1st view of Panoquina panoquin.

Bingo! Coastal marsh dwellers, they were challenging, alighting on these small yellow flowerheads, and remaining in place for fractions of seconds. No complaint mind you, for that sunny morning these coastal marshes were spectacularly beautiful, and we were treated with a menu of wetland birds, including hard to find Roseate spoonbills, very methodical working the marsh edges with their fascinating bills.

Our Salt marsh skippers spend their whole life living in salty or brackish marshes. I remember as a kid, spending all of those summers at Grandma Polisar’s tiny bungalow in Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York. Every bungalow in that little ‘colony’ had an outdoor shower, a little wooden affair, which scarily housed huge (? were they) spiders in their corner webs. You always showered after spending those 9 AM to 5-ish PM at the salty Atlantic beach. How do these skippers live 24/7 in a habitat just covered with briny salt? Well, that’s why they get the tag, butterfly ‘specialists.’


Love Me Tender in the Briar Patch

Gulf Fritillary butterflies flirting, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Dozens. I’d seen dozens of Gulf Fritillary butterflies in the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, in 2016. Maybe more than dozens. Maybe hundreds. If the sun shone, as it is almost always, there Gulf frits are flying and nectaring and males scouring, scouring all corners for likely females.

I’ve seen males approach females, too many times to count. I don’t recall ever seeing one of those males ever receiving the time of day from a female. I would wonder about that. Gulf frits are very numerous in the Eatonton, Georgia oasis for butterflies, so there was no concern for the future, Gulf frits would fly, but how, when, why and where did they consummate their mission: to produce progeny?

This answered many of my theories. I noticed these 2, in an area of mixed perennials and native grasses and plants. They were almost motionless, facing one another, all movement passive and gentle.  They remained there for at lease 5 minutes. It was I who left, left them where they were. You’ve got to know that this fascinated, and continues to fascinate me. We are sort of blowhards, for we boast of All that we know, yet . . . at the same time there is much going on, at our feet, that we know little about.

Wasn’t it Elvis (Presley) who embedded Love Me Tender deep into my brain, to remain there, sweetly? This little vignette of a photo evokes those aromatic lines in my mind. Capisci?