Danaus Plexippus Stopped By

Look! Look! There she was in our very own ‘peanut garden’ this afternoon. What a rush it was to watch her, superbly fresh and lush, working this 2017  benchmark garden. I kept going to the our large window, again and again to see if she was still there. She was still there, and she worked these native perennials for more than an hour. Our very own garden, now in its 5th year, and full, verdant with nectar here there and everywhere.

She was chased off several times by an equally pretty Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly. Royal as she is, our monarch patiently allowed the frenzied fritillary to do its thing, and each time she floated back in. What kept her highness in the peanut garden for more than an hour?

The peanut garden is in our side yard, and our side yard abuts Frick Park, a heavily wooded Pittsburgh (city) park of many hundreds of acres. The natives and others in the peanut garden:  Common milkweed; Swamp milkweed; Butterflyweed; Monkeyflower; Celery (in flower), Bergamot, Balloon flower; Buttonbush, Shrubby St.John’s wort, Green headed coneflower, Rue and Chocolate mint. All 3 of the milkweeds (Asclepias spp) are in height of bloom, and buff! very buff.

The instant monarch butterfly shown here was not the flier today. This photo is of another female, who flew in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Today’s monarch’s colors were deeper, richer. She was . . . gorgeous.

How much do I hope that she rewards us with her eggs?

Jeff

Who’s Seen A Milbert’s?

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Sure this is one of my favorite butterflies. I’ve seen Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterflies several times. Always an OMG! butterfly, for when the morning is doing just fine, and you’re having good success with butterflies here and there . . . . One flies into your field of view, and it’s not a this or a that, its . . . OMG! a Milberts!!!! Battlestations!

That how I’ve felt when I’ve seen Milbert’s, a northern butterfly for those of us east of the Mississippi River. I remember each and every time I got that healthy buzz. Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania (2x) and here, Bonkers! unexpectedly in the middle of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory.

When the upper side is at a 90 degree angle to the strong morning sun, and your eyes are level with the wing surface, the sunlight dances on those reddish-orange wing bands. It looks just like fire! dancing. I saw this with my own eyes at Raccoon Creek. I subsequently read such an account in one of the butterfly field guides.

I’ve learned to temper my tales of Milbert’s, for when I ask folks here, there and everywhere, have you ever enjoyed a Milbert’s, my statisticians count a 99.874% No. Keep vigilant, for if you’re there enough, you just may.

Who’s seen a Milbert’s?

Jeff

A. jesous . . . in the HolyLand (Israel)

Azanous Jesous butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

Azanous Jesous butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

Our paths crossed in 2013, while I was working that fabulous trail on the slope of Mt. Meron. I was seeing butterflies each of the mornings that I stayed there, and many were . . . lifers. Israel. The HolyLand. Rachel was now living there for 5 years, met Uri, married, and was Happy!

This tiny beaut flew in and began nectaring. I had no idea what it was. That’s a downside of shooting film, for this one was very quickly vamoose! and over the course of a morning of shooting, looking, watching my footing, I forget details that I saw earlier. Looking by the way across the north, right into Lebanon, into the stronghold of Hezbollah, a very, very bad bunch of boys.

When my slides returned from being processed by Dwayne’s Photo, and flipped open my A Field Guide To The Butterflies of Israel (Dubi Benyamini) and found this butterfly . . . Azanous jesous. Jesous? ID’d in 1849 by Guerin, I to this day consider this name. ?.

What did Guerin, with an accent over the ‘e,’ have in mind? Any feedback much appreciated.

Mary? Sylbie? Jim? Cathy? Curt? Joe? Kim? Kelly? Nancy? John? Robert Michael Pyle? Jeffrey? if, I’ve left you out, please feel free to . . . .

Jeff

 

The Middle Class Butterfly

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14

We saw dozens and dozens of Great Spangled Fritillaries last week in Adams County, Ohio. Just miles north of the Ohio/Kentucky border, they were just super! to watch. Butterflyweed was in full bloom, as were Black eyed susan, common milkweed, clover and just a menu of other native wildflowers. The vast majority of Great spangleds were totally fresh, few bird struck. Why, I asked of my new friends, were so few of these large frits bird struck? Largely because those open prairies were way too risky for birds to enter, what with so much open space, and the ever present danger of raptors, waiting along the treeline for hapless birds.

See, I noticed that my fellow hikers, determined to see orchids, wildflowers, butterflies and mushrooms took little note of this flight of Great spangleds. They went almost unnoticed. Several times over those 3 days I  mulled over this. Especially gorgeous Great spangled fritillaries were mostly invisible to my trail companions. They, like this instant one, treated the eyes, and really encouraged, for they were many, they were Fine! and that’s a good omen for this county, this part of Ohio.

It struck me then, that like red-spotted purple butterflies, and pearl crescents, and eastern-tailed blue butterflies, great spangled fritillaries were the ‘middle class’ of the eastern U.S. butterflies. That is, they largely get little attention and usually go unnoticed. We move right by them, not even breaking stride. We heed them not, and we don’t register that our hike past them will upset them and send them aloft.

Like us, they are beautiful, and at the same time, no light, no action, no cameras, no media, well just about like us, awake, get going, eat, work, and return to roost at the end of the day, with nary a compliment, and surely no  one to tell  us how good we look, how much we are appreciated, or how much our presence makes a whole lot of difference. ID one nearby as an Aphrodite Fritillary, and all come running, running past Great Spangled, as if the didn’t exist.

Great Spangled Fritillaries, the middle class butterfly.

Jeff

Excitement on Beechwood Boulevard

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State ParkA

A sight for sore eyes! Petra and I arrived home last night, completing an 188 miles drive down from Frewsburg, New York. This image was captured in Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County, southwestern Pennsylvania. This very morning I looked out of our window, to the side yard, and its ‘peanut’ garden. And what did I see? A female monarch butterfly, like this one, flying to and fro amongst my 26 common milkweed plants. Yippee! She may then head to the 30 or so milkweeds in the front garden, and . . . set her eggs nicely there, too.

This is the 4th year that our milkweeds ( Asclepias syriaca) are in, purchased from Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. They are beautiful this year, 5-6 footers, with big round flower heads.

We pushed off for this most recent trip on June 12th, and arrived back home on June 21st. Adams County in the south of Ohio was our destination. We met other naturalists there, and spent days visiting fens, wooded trails and prairies. Fantastic , it was, with knowledgeable friends, discovering rare orchids, showy orchids, rare botany. Why, why did America allow its prairies to be developed? They are habitat of boundless life and beauty.

My slide film ships to Kansas tomorrow, and I wait. Images of Northern metalmarks, coral hairstreaks, Baltimore checkerspot caterpillars, Zebra swallowtails on butterflyweed(!), Common ringlet, robust pipevine swallowtails and Edward’s hairstreaks, abound. I simply cannot wait to share.

Pumping that anticipation is my desire to see the fruit of my new Cannon 100mm/2.8 lens, with, with image $tabilizer. Will it, can it, deliver?

Appreciative, I am.

Jeff