Feel the Excitement?

Pipeline Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

As we watch February 2017 wane, and we see our daffodils peak here, friends farther south of Pittsburgh are sharing images of perennials in bloom, and butterflies flying . . . now! Knock on wood, for the Weather.com forecast here calls for moderate temperatures in the next 2 whole weeks. Carramba!! With some of those 14 forecasts predicting temps above 60F, we can expect butterflies: Cabbage whites, Eastern Commas & Mourning cloaks, and you can almost ‘take that to the bank.’

This view is very special to me, enjoyed at the restricted military reserve in central Pennsylvania. You remember that I travelled there 2 years ago, in June, when it is opened for 4 days, for folks like us to see and go Pop-eye! at the sight of Regal fritillary butterflies. George Washington saw them throughout the colonies, but today, the only ones known to fly between Maine and the Panhandle are in this Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reserve, near Harrisburg, PA and near Penn State University. This instant look captures a very shmeksy! Pipevine swallowtail butterfly, at the thistle bar.

Those regal fritillaries fulfilled a long-term goal. Now what butterflies fly out at my field guides, as I turn the pages? Diana fritillaries in the mountains of northern Georgia (Who? to lead me to them??), Uncommon commas in northern Maine (once again, who??), Northern metalmarks & Swamp metalmarks in Ohio (That one is booked!), Great Purple hairstreaks (Virginia?), Dorcas coppers (That Ohio caper?), the 3 northern Fritillaries that I have yet to make the acquaintance of (Bog, Purplish & Silver-bordered), Viola’s Little Wood-Satyr (???) & Cofaqui Giant-skipper (Dare I ask my friend for another favor???) for starters. Then there is Texas, northeastern Texas (Dreamy!) and my eyes extend to Vancouver Island (With a very experienced resident).

2017, dare I to dream. With the ’06 Tundra willing, Petra (my black russian) eager, and sufficient resource$, the excitement just keeps bubbling up in me. Which of you feel that breed of excitement?


Your Monarch Prediction?

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

Six years into wingedbeauty.com, and we have seen burgeoning interest in Monarch butterflies. More and more us of fret over why we find fewer of them in the east most one-third of the United States.

We read most recently that the populations of Monarch butterflies in those central Mexico conifer forests are seriously down again. I hope that those reports are incorrect, but find myself concerned that another summer and fall will produce fewer Monarch sightings here in western Pennsylvania.

In 2016 I spotted very few in and around Pittsburgh. Happily, I photographed this male in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. There were many Monarchs flying there when I visited in August and again when I returned there in September., Virginia Linch verified that central Georgia enjoyed good Monarch numbers last year.

With 2017 upon us . . . What do you Predict? How numerous do you expect Monarchs to be in your state, your county, and in your own garden?


Jeff’s Believe It Or Not

Hiker with Emperor butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

What a near perfect morning. I was there on Nichol Road Trail at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania (see our New Destinatons feature for more about this superb trail). Got there early, and conditions were perfect: sun, just the right temperature, and recent rains left the little creek flowing, no wind, all just right for butterflies.

The best of all? No hikers or horseback riders on the trail, to jeopardize my good butterfly looks that morning. And the butterflies were diverse, fresh and aloft. Good, very good.

Suddenly, along came 3 people, talking animatedly, walking with bouncy, buoyant gait. Two men and a woman. Well, OK, if I ever see people on this trail, on horseback or not, they almost never do more than say ‘Hi.’ They almost never divert me from my search for butterflies on this wonderful stretch of trail, that has been kind to me since 1995.

They greeted me, and they we’re curious, I guess. What, when, why, where, how. And, they were interesting, very. They were a married couple and a visiting friend. The couple had moved not too long ago from Virginia, to a homestead nearby, and they have established an organic truck farm. The 4 of us were enjoying sharing, and I must say, I decided to relax that little voice in me, telling me to get back to this morning’s burgeoning opportunities. I decided to enjoy these folks, so upbeat, so universal and so interested in all and whatever.

Then it happened! . . . . A Hackberry Emperor butterfly flew in from ? and landed on the woman. You see where he landed. Now the men were clothed as I, fully with long sleeves and long pants. She was dressed to be cool and comfortable in this 85F degree weather.

Now all 3 of my new acquaintances were buzzed by this buster of an Emperor. They wasted not a millionth of a second, insisting I capture this magical moment! I just as fast explained that I was shooting Macro-, and could only get this by a close-up shot. Me? I’m say traditional, they, for sure are Hip! (I managed property in SoHo and the East Village and Chelsea in NYNY = my creds for ID’ing cool folk). They pleaded, that I not hesitate, Get this surreal moment on film!

So I move in, feeling kind of ??? And I shot away. Both were worthy of the camera lens. Sometimes the trail provides real Believe It Or Not Moments. They, pleased, wished me well, and hiked on. I stood there, wondering what to do with the images, if any of them merited saving.


An American Lady Butterfly at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch

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

Why are so many southern butterflies so richly colored? We’ve already noted that with Viceroy butterflies, and I’ve noticed that, frequently, in my field work in the South. This American Lady butterfly flew into view at the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat (BBBPatch) in Eatonton, Georgia. Battle stations!, for this one was very sweet in its orange/brown, white spots, blue hindwing trailing spots and deep black markings.

Not a Painted Lady, that’s for sure. Why? See that isolated white spot on orange/brown field in the outer center of each forewing? That ID’s American Ladies.

This one fascinates too, for those light orange epaulets on the black fields at the front edge of each forewing.

You’ll forgive I hope for our being some distance from this baby, but on trails, American Ladies forbid approach. Honest.


Red Admiral at Shellman Bluff Challenges Jeff

Red Admiral butterfly on log, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Shellman Bluff, GA

It’s another of our challenges, not often discussed. This image sets the challenge out nicely. Right place: Shellman Bluff, Georgia. Right time: Summer 2016. Right butterfly: Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). The Challenge, then?

When I began photographing butterflies, and I remember this with a smile at the corners my mouth, I chased and shot almost all that flew. Know what though? I soon figured out that . . . most of y’all don’t, really, want to see worn butterflies. No more heavy wing scale loss, no more bird-struck wings, no more faded color. I disciplined myself, to only pursue and expose fresh, shmeksy! butterflies. Good strategy that, and wingedbeauty’s traffic climbed.

The challenge? again. it’s shown here. Jeff spotted a Red admiral in an off-road spot, and sought after it. When it stopped it stopped on a downed tree trunk. The red admiral, once seen up close was worn, but featured great antennae, fine body and sweet blue dots at the trailing end of the hindwings. It was perky and alert. The log it was on introduced positive geometric to the view, with butterfly and log and an inviting angle. The log’s color was many variations of tan to brown, much of it rich browns, and the botany just beyond the log would not be focused in this Macro- look, but brought good eye-tantalizing rich green to the fore.

So the challenge is: Butterfly worn but comely, and all around it, promising, very promising.

I shot away, satisfied. Yes film is expen$ive, but I sought the look, the appeal.

What would you have done?