“Lonely Boy” at the Wall

People viewing Gold-Bordered hairstreak butterfly at “The Wall,” photographed by Jeff Zablow in Mission, TX

For more than two decades, I’ve often sung to myself, in Wildlife Management Areas, State Parks, Sylvan Reserves and in the Galilee and Golan in the HolyLand (Israel). The song was usually semi-melancholy, “Lonely Boy,” the smash hit sung by Paul Anka. It goes like this: “I’m just a lonely boy, Lonely and blue, I’m all alone, With nothin’ to do. I’ve got everything, You could think of, But all I want . . . .”

I had love in those early years, but I was slow singing the loneliness I felt on those trails, looking for butterflies, alone, always alone. I Loved (capital ‘L’) my butterfly field work, but, at times it was bone-chillingly lonely. I sing less often these last years, and there have been times when I went afield with Virginia, Jerry & Rose, Barbara Ann, Angela, Cathy, Mike, and Erica. But building my slide library collection usually has me going off alone.

This full week, at the end of December 2017, was a Big Change, for it was the first time in my life that I was ever amongst people who were also very, very interested in finding and watching and photographing butterflies. We were all at the ‘Wall’ ( see my post of the White Peacock Butterfly ), excited about the Tropical Greenstreak Butterfly that was nectaring in those yellow-flowering shrubs.

You must know that with a single exception, I did not hit it off with anyone there. I even stopped offering my ‘business’ card, for our wavelengths never matched, me and them? I sit here now, imagining how it would be if I were out working the trails with Peggy, Leslie, Linda, Deepthi, Curt, Lois, Joanne, Patti, Nancy, Marcie, Kelly and . . . you.


A White Peacock Butterfly in Texas!

Peacock butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Seven White Peacocks came to greet me in Mission, Texas near the border wall. Common to the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Florida, they sure catch the attention of a guy like me who has never seen one before.

Their flight is kind of slow, unrushed. They do frustrate, though, for as approachable as they usually are, they are heavily white, and like Cabbage white butterflies, defy the camera lens, mostly serving up mediocre images, even when you are convinced that you’ve landed some fine, fine looks. The image here is good proof. I scored good right wings, front and hind, but those left wings- they are filled with depth of field and white-challenge issues.

It was kind of funny. I’d see a White Peacock, and be at it immediately. Those in my vicinity, either at the National Butterfly Center or at the ‘Wall,’ wouldn’t even give it a nanosecond of a look. I guess it’s the ETB (Eastern Tailed-Blue) of the LRGValley.

Why did he or she name it the White Peacock?


Fatal Metalmark Butterfly

Fatal Metalmark butterfly (2) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Another dividend collected from my late December 2017 trip to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. When I was shown this tiny metalmark, I was really Happy, so Happy. I met a Little Metalmark butterfly in Shellman Bluff, Georgia in 2016. In June of 2017 I met dozens and dozens of Northern Metalmarks in Adams County, Ohio, just miles from the Kentucky border.

This Fatal Metalmark butterfly is now my 3rd metalmark from Texas, and the southern reaches of New Mexico, Arizona and California.

All the metalmarks I’ve seen are especially small. They all move, fly and rest with much conviction and self-assurance. Have I completed my metalmark campaign? Uh, no. There remain 22 metalmarks found in the 48 U.S. states that I’ve not yet been introduced to.

Any leads?




Malachite Butterfly with Beautiful Wings

Malachite butterfly (Ventral) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

I’m standing there, fixed in place, just 24″ from this Malachite butterfly. Fifteen minutes did it rest there, on these very same leaves, with its big wings fully open. The 5 or 6 of those in the area took their turns, approaching and scoring exposures of those open wings. I shared one of my best images just a few days ago.

With the self-assurance of a Reagan or a Churchill, it kept this perch, and closed those yummy! beautiful wings. When my turn came, I again shot, shot, shot. A perfect Malachite butterfly, seen every so often in the National Butterfly Center, Mission, Texas near the border wall.  The buzz amongst the others was that this was the finest one they had ever seen.

Jeff stood there, fully captivated by the magic of the moment. Me, here in the Rio Grande River Valley, scoping a Malachite. You have to be me to fathom the triumph of those moments. I arrived in McAllen, Alamo and Mission, Texas, never having been here before. I was stunned!! I had painted this picture of these 3 towns as dusty hamlets, with one traffic light apiece. Nope. Each had a minimum of 80,000 or more people, heavy traffic, and development ongoing and planned.

That said, the National Butterfly Center with the wisdom of the sages, had bought and established this reserve, and the whole plan works, for here I am gazing at a wild, gorgeous Malachite, just miles from the Mexican border.

I felt like William Bartram, some what, 300 years ago, as he travelled through Georgia and Florida, and described them as we would describe a present day, Shanghai La. That’s how I felt, alone for minutes on a sunken trail with this Malachite.


Gold Rush Butterfly

Gold-bordered hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at 'The Wall,' Mission, Texas

I was the ‘new kid’ at the ‘Wall’ that today. It seems that we were at the National Butterfly Center, seeing a paucity of butterflies, when a blanket alert was received, that a very, very, very special butterfly was spotted nearby, at the ‘Wall.’ To the Budget Rental car we rushed, and drove the mile or so to the ‘Wall.’

Background is called for here. There is such an abundance of amazing butterflies in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, such that hundreds, maybe thousands of folks like you or I has moved here over these decades, and made the LRGValley their home. Several developments have been built, especially for such butterfly fans. One of these developments, Re________ (I somehow did not memorize that comfortable name) shrewdly landscaped with butterfly friendly natives, shrubs and trees. The development is walled, all around. The entrance to the development was very wisely planted with excellent choices for nectar craving butterflies. This entrance is locally known by hundreds as ‘The Wall.’

We rushed to the Wall, parked, and joined several people encircling a butterfly that one gentlemen, Mike, well known here, said he had not seen here since 1968!

As we watched this Gold-Bordered Hairstreak, more and more cars arrived, and the circle grew.

The backstory? I shoot Macro- and all the rest were armed with long lenses. They stood their customary 10 feet away from the tiny miracle of a find. Me? 18 inches would have been ideal, but I didn’t want to make that approach, for if it I caused this uber rare butterfly to bolt, there’s no knowing what that crowd would have done to me.

I made my approach, very low to not block anyone’s view. I carefully retreated after. Cars kept arriving, with new and excited Lepidopterists. Minutes later, the Gold-bordered Hairstreak was still there, moving about the bloom, leisurely. I decided to go in with my low approach one more time. As I did, I asked the Ab-ve to please keep the sweetie in place, because at this point in time, the Kid from Brooklyn can no longer take on 10 at once! G-d listened, and I a second time slowly stepped back.

The postscript? I was told that my actions disappointed those there, and those who were on their way to see this miracle at ‘The Wall.’

Me? I really made an effort to come in low and slow, to not approach as I normally would, and to bring home an image of a butterfly seen in the USA once or twice every 2 decades, or less. I had you in mind, honest.

(This episode did pique the Joe Pesci in me, more than a tad.)