Distracting Darner Dragonflies

Darner photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center, NY

I just, just finished reading Travels of William Bartram ( Dover Publications, 1955, first published in 1928 ), Bartram’s travels through Georgia, Florida and other southern states in . . . the 1780’s. You know, I often wonder what this place and that place was like in the late 18th century. Bartram was a trained botanist, whose father hiked that land before him, and they both chronicled the flora, fauna, geology and topography of early Florida, Georgia, Alabama the Carolinas and Virginia. Our William Bartram describes the grasses, annuals, perennials, bushes and trees, especially the trees that he saw. They were, by today’s comparison, beyond belief! Yet he never exceeds, or exaggerates. He shares the wildlife, roebuck, bear, cats, snakes and birds, and Very Aggressive bands of ‘crocodiles.’

Especially readable are his accounts of the Creeks, Muscogulges, Cherokees, Seminoles and Choctaws. He lived with them, they befriended him. He shares their physical appearances ( way different than I expected, i.e., most of the Creek men were 6 feet tall or more, the woman also tall ). Bartram shares their games, their solemn ceremonies, too frequent skirmishes, and their near absolute respect of one another, absent the need for police. They had formal organization to govern themselves, they had ‘kings’ and they had slaves. His accounts of the woman also surprise, but you must read to learn more of that.

I, well, could not put this book down. If you’re like Barbara Ann, Angela, Mike A. or Dave, the rich, colorful introduction to the botany will mesmerize. I guarantee that.

Come to this comely Darner. My guides are inaccessible for a while, so short of searching for a name online, I leave it to you. Know that often butterflies are not seen for pieces of time, when we’re on trails, and again, I admit that making a calculated approach of a dandy Darner is a distraction that I sometimes . . . cannot pass up.


Chasing the Checkered Skipper Butterfly

Checkered Skipper butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, GA

There are large butterflies (Monarchs, Swallowtails) and there are small butterflies (Pearl Crescents, Orange Sulphurs) . . . and there are those tiny butterflies (Hairstreaks and the Blues). It’s those tiny butterflies that are so often offended, by our apparent disinterest in them, again and again. Hikes in the field usually ‘kick-up’ the tiny butterflies, from their resting perches just inches off the ground: American coppers, azures, Eastern tailed blues, and skippers, many different skippers.

There aren’t a whole lot of butterfly blogs extant, although there are now a good number of Facebook butterfly lovers who share their image captures. What they don’t share much are images of the tiny butterflies. Why? Tiny butterflies remain mostly close to the ground, or in the case of the skippers fly away at blurring speed.

Getting down to shoot a tiny requires that you bring your entire body down, down to them. That especially vexes me, for I shoot Macro- and must get within some 18″ or so of them. If you live with chronic knee, back, hip or leg conditions, well then, getting down to cop tiny butterfly images is not near half-worth the pain it will cause. That plus while you’re getting down, the butterfly more than likely will be . . . fleeing your approach, leaving you near nose to the ground, and nothing to show for it.

Me? I run a butterfly blog, and I love butterflies. They mean so much to me. They evoke such strong emotional feelings. That and I WANT to bring good butterfly images to you. I want to. I enjoy doing that. I’ve had difficulty explaining that to folks who grapple with some explanation for why I do this. I do my best to make my responses brief, and me and Fuji slide film continue our work, undeterred.

This Common  Checkered Skipper butterfly might be the 75th shutter click that I’ve made of them. They are very, very common in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in  Eatonton, Georgia. They flee as you walk the paths there. On a given morning there, I may see 30 or more of them.

Most of my looks at them end with so-so images. This capture of a fresh male pleases me. There are several things I like about this share. I may have clicked my 75th checkered skipper, but another benchmark should be known. This may well have been my 150th go down to the ground move. They don’t like approach, won’t tolerate it. Most of us just no  longer try, and set them on our Don’t Care About Them List.

Me, I don’t give up . . . I can do it, even if it takes . . . Jeff, chasing the checkereds.


Northern Metalmark at Kamama

Northern Metalmark Butterfly on Oxe-eye Daisy photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie, OH

That day again in June 2017, when after lingering a bit too long at something that caught my eye, I found myself Totally Separated from the small group I was part of. Descending into a mood I am not now  proud of, I called for a quorum of  experts, and me, myself and I fulfilled that call. We (all the I’s) concluded that I was ditched by the group, and an unfortunately ‘bad’ word or two was uttered. That silly business over with, I decided, What the Heck! I’m always alone on trails, naturally, so go ahead into Kamama Prairie Preserve (privately held land) and make the best of it.

Make the best of it?? It turned from silly drama (mine alone) to Holy Cow! I took the trail around the perimeter of this goodly sized prairie, and spotted a Northern metalmark butterfly. The day before, nearby, in Lynx Prairie, I had seen my first ever Northern. This new day, a second, now a third . . . until I had seen way more than 40, and stopped counting. A sizable flight of these tiny artworks, some nectaring, others resting upon broad leaves, some in the verge near the forest edge, others in the open prairie.

This Northern is at rest upon a prairie daisy. They are so tiny, and prefer being close to the ground, that my Macro- lens work demands that I stoop way down to the ground. Avoiding camera sway was constant, but this time, my New ISM lens was there to enable some fair images to be captured.

I sure did get some share of those nifty ‘metallic’ lines that parallel one another, along the outer margins of forewings and hindwing.

Later I found the group, kept telling myself (internally) to not mention the regrettable thoughts I had earlier, and so restrained, learned that they did . . . not see more than a couple of this winged beauties. Jeff, still growing up.

Adams County, southernmost Ohio.


American Coral

Coral Hairstreak Butterfly on Oxe-eye Daisy photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie, OH

Discover a bracelet or broach up in your attic, call Aunt Betty and ask her if she remembers Grandma ever buying and wearing it . . . and, if it turns out Yes . . . and it is the color of the coral spots on this Coral Hairstreak, give me a shout. When you describe the jewelry heirloom over the telephone, I’ll ask if it seems to have numerous coral stones on it? Yes? Are they the color of this butterfly’s spots? Yes? My advice will be to call Christie’s auction gallery in New York, New York. During that call, they’ll ask you to provide them with a picture of the broach  (bracelet). If it is as it is, they’ll ask you the provenance, or how can you be sure that Grandma purchased it in Dallas, when, and more. Should you or your cousins or Aunt Betty have a photo of Grandma Pearl wearing the bracelet (broach) in 1937, well that’s good, Very Good.

Christie’s will ask that you ship the broach (bracelet) to them, with much caution. Perhaps 2 weeks later, they will call you, and someone with a very Connecticut sounding voice will tell you that Christie’s would like to include your “item’ in their upcoming March sale of Magnificent Jewelry. Now you are really getting into this, and trying not to sound too anxious, you may ask, “What do you think it’d sell for [at auction in New York or London]?” Have someone there with you when you call, and well, be sitting down, when Ms Connecticut answers, ” We think it will fetch 100 to 200, especially if the room is filled with Chinese buyers.” Now, when you are deflated at this, and respond, ” One hundred to two hundred dollars?” That’s when you should also have prepared an oxygen tank at your side, for the young woman from Westport will pause, and politely say, “No, one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand dollars, and perhaps more than that.”

That by way of sharing that this rich east Asian coral reddish-orange is dazzling, and when we met in Lynx Prairie Reserve in Adams County, very southern Ohio, that was the sweet tale that shot through my mind.

Yes, in the ’80’s I attended such auctions with my wife, and sometimes the sellers are in the large auction room, and it’s too much fun to watch them as the bidders from China, Belgium, Taiwan, Moscow, Dallas, Antwerp, London, New York, Sao Palo and Atlanta begin getting enthusiastic at owning Grandma Pearl’s broach. Some will be in the room, others will be on the telephone, working with gallery associates.

Coral hairstreak, a tiny gem of a butterfly, that LoVeS butterflyweed, and often skips a year or two or more, making it a rather hard to find rarity.


Identifying Bugs ‘n’ Butterflies at the Briar Patch Habitat

Using Georgia Guide James Murdock and Virginia Linch photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, GA

You’ve read of my ‘discovery’ of the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat. Yep. That incredible 2 acres enable me. It enabled me to meet and greet the butterflies of the southeastern USA, right there. Saved me drives to Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Alabama. That because the Briar Patch Habitat’s thousands of hostplants have attracted dozens of different species of butterflies. This 2017 proved that, with the appearance and everyday reappearance of Zebra heliconians!

What can you expect to see on a typical morning there? 20, 25, 30 or more species of butterflies! All aloft in this open, wild Habitat, in, yes, in the town of Eatonton, Georgia. Fresh, active, strikingly beautiful butterflies.

Virginia C Linch launched the Habitat, supported it, planted, mulched, weeded, watered it, promoted it around town and beyond, and, on occasion, defended it, when folks who should have known better, acted in any way that jeopardized this unique jewel in a pretty town, in the welcoming Georgia Piedmont region.

Virginia here is smiling, though you have to know her to know that. She just showed James Murdock the recently published Georgia fold-out photo guide to Georgia butterflies. James, a Georgia state naturalist and writer for local newspapers, paid a visit to the Briar Patch Butterfly Habitat, wanting to know what all the buzz was about! This was June 2017, and I was there, watching him, transfixed as he was, with the air lanes in the Habitat full, full with beautiful sylvan wings aloft!

The Big New News? The City of Eatonton has agreed to move the Habitat to a new, much larger location in Eatonton. Once Virginia and her stalwart band of friends move the thousands of perennials, shrubs and trees, know that Eatonton’s name and fame will spread. 2018 will be good, Very Good for any and all who favor beautiful, gorgeous and fascinating . . . butterflies.