Tropical Leafwing Butterfly

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

Leafwings? I’ve seen three Goatweed Leafwings over these years. I scored not a single image of any of them. In both Mississippi and Southwestern Pennsylvania, I was on trail and a leaf suspended from the trunk of a smallish tree caught me eye. I approached, stared, realized that I was peering at a Goatweed Leafwing butterfly and realized too that I photograph butterflies and How Much I Want An Image Of A Goatweed! During that unfortunate mini-moment, those Goatweeds flew: Vamoose!

Here at the National Butterfly Center’s gardens in Mission, Texas, December 2017, that changed. We saw this Tropical Leafwing (Anaea aidea) on a ‘bait-log,’ smeared with banana, beer and more. She tolerated moments of approach, then flew to this tree limb. I shoot Macro- (Canon ISM 100mm/2.8) and got as close to her as safely possible, and shot, shot, shot.

These are my first images of a Leafwing, and a Tropical at that!

What do you think? Is she is the looker? No?


Clytie What?

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

I shared with you a Erato heliconian butterfly, a Malachite butterfly and a very large Monarch butterfly. I saw them all at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Truth be told, we’d see a butterfly, then those with me would whisper its name. Me, with substantial hearing loss in my right ear, would struggle to hear what they said. They’d whisper “Erato!” and standing to their left, I’d (LOL) revert to my Brooklyn roots and ask who’d name a butterfly “Erotic?” This query garnered interesting looks, but not laughs.

The last week in December 2017, and here again with moderate excitement they’d share in low voice, Clytie Ministreak butterfly. ‘Clytie what?’ Know too that this was fun, much fun over that nearly a week in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

Ministreaks are hairstreaks. All hairstreaks fascinate me. Nearly all hairstreaks are tiny, very tiny. When I was a kid, those boys who couldn’t give back what they got, stayed inside their homes after they came home from school. These hairstreaks, absent the ability to strike back, amaze this city kid, for they perch on their flowers in full view, nectaring with no visual rush, and slowly move about the flowerhead, oblivious to the Macro- photographer now within 18 inches away. I have never seen a hairstreak assaulted while it was feeding at a flower, or while it was perched on a leaf. Within one hundred feet of this pookie butterfly are birds, wasps, lizards, beetles, darners, and mantids. This natural world brings out the amazed boy in me, in so many ways.

Lots of friends and family remain puzzled at this, what I do. Me? For me it begins with Clytie what?


The Malachite Butterfly

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

More than 20 years of field work, seeking butterflies. All that time, here and there, I’d see shared images of Malachites. Big, big butterflies sometimes seen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and in southern Florida. No problem trying to figure out what they are when you spot them, for there’s nothing else like them. You think you see a Malachite, then it’s a Malachite. The size, rich minty green encapsulated amongst dark border, leaves no room for doubt. Problem was, I’d never seen one. Texas delivered my first ever Malachite.

Our previous wingedbeauty post was an Erato Heliconian butterfly. Uncommon in the LGRV, but onstage for my last week in December 2017 visit to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. I was just miles from Mexico.

This Malachite here was seen relaxing on a broad leaf, in dappled shade. It was very close to where I’d seen the Erato. A fine, cooperative subject, it held this pose for some time, enabling some 4 or 5 folks the opportunity for good shots.

Many minutes after holding this wings fully open pose, it closed it’s wings, providing us with many minutes to study and photograph its ventral wings. It was magnificent. Some of the others had seen Malachites before, and I heard it said that this was the finest one they had seen. Good, very Good.

Me? I was thinking again of the craft of the D-signer, and I was reminded of those moments in my life when I was close to celebrity. They poised; coiffured and confident. That’s our Malachite here.

Awe, elegance, those kinds of words shoot into your thinking.


Erato Heliconian at the National Butterfly Center in Mission Texas

Erato heliconian butterfly (Dorsal view) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

A beautiful day at the National Butterfly Center (NBC) in Mission, Texas. The extensive perennials beds of the NBC’s gardens and trails were just loaded with butterflies! Most of them, new to me. Battle stations!! The few other people there, that last week in December, 2017 were skilled butterfly folks.

Someone told us, excitedly, that an Erato Heliconian butterfly had been spotted at the head of a nearby trail, in a sunken trench like crevice that runs about 300 feet. Judging from the electricity that that news! dished up, I sped there too, wondering (I have severe hearing loss in one ear) who would name a butterfly an “Erotic” anything. LOL.

We got there, and two wonderful men showed us where it was. OMG! It was stunning.The black was jet black. The yellow was bright yellow. The red? My red. Lipstick red is the kind of red that always caught my attention way back when.

This was a very fresh, screamingly exquisite butterfly. It rested there, for many minutes. It tolerated my robotic approach and remained in pose as I shot away. The lighting was not ideal, subdued. It remained in place as several others photographed it, most with telephoto lenses. It remained there more, and I left, not expecting to see that magnificent butterfly ever again.

I returned some 15 or so minutes later. All of its admirers have gone. I made yet another slow, robotic approach. Good. It remained in place. After some moments, it flew. I watched it, my Erato as it flew straight, away along the trail that forms the bottom of the trench. I watched my Erato fly some 150′ in a straight trajectory, no rising and descending (like Monarchs and Zebra heliconians). No twisting and turning( like Satyrs). I was transfixed! Those red bands remained in full sight all of the time. Never did they not reveal.

My conclusion? Erato heliconians must be toxic. Oh, it’s gotta be. Those red bands surely advise all potent predators, “See my red. bands? I am one toxic Erato”

I left that low-lying trail, heavily in shade, warmly appreciative of this eye opener, product of the D-signer.


The Queen

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

Great News! My images shot in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas are now safely set in my Media Library, and ready to be shared. Six days of introduction after introduction to new, and often rare butterflies.

The last week of 2017 and just miles from the Mexican border, this fine Queen butterfly was one of hundreds that I saw over those 6 days. Something like their closely related Monarch butterflies, Queens prove much more difficult to approach and photograph. They are very aware, skittish and frustrate the photographer. As you settle in for a good one of a fresh Queen, it will leave as you are preparing to set in on your knee for the Macro photo capture.

Most of the people that I saw those days seemed oblivious to the Queens. Me? I’d seen them before, but very rarely, and seeing platoons of them was yes, something to behold.

It was work, I tell you, constantly reminding yourself that these are Queens, not Monarchs.

This one on a mistflower in the gardens of the National Butterfly Center, Mission Texas. I flew to San Antonio and then took a four hour drive to McAllen and then had 6 days of beautiful butterflies. Rare ones came out to great me.

And yes, those Queens!