Rare Middle Eastern Parnassian

False Apollo butterfly in Nahal Dishon National Park, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Upper Galilee, Israel

I drove my rental car up, up into the hilly Upper Galilee of Israel. Lacking any guidance, I came upon Nahal Dishon Park. Drove in, and parked. Nahal in Hebrew mean stream. The Nahal Dishon stream moves its water from the higher elevations in the Golan, south westerly. People were coming and going from this park, mostly following the Dishon stream toward its origin. Me? I went in the opposite direction, and was soon alone, naturally.

March is a super time to traipse the Galilee and the Golan, for the snow capped Mt. Hermon range generously waters all below it, and the wildflowers were all around me, lush. The landscape blanketed by vegetation, verdant green everywhere.

I was seeing butterflies, a lot. I’ve been coming to Israel to shoot, since 2008. Most butterflies were now familiar to me. Truth be told, I came to see rare Middle Eastern butterflies. I was in high excitation, for the Upper Galilee is home to many of them.

Bingo! Here’s the most exciting meet-up that morning, a female False Apollo, the Parnassian Archon apollinus. She’s fresh and festooned with reds, blues, black, yellow.

You know that my approach, armed with my Macro- lens, was robotic. She held to that rock, and reluctant to risk all, I stopped a prudent distance from her, and shot, shot, shot, shot, shot.

Female butterflies are generally more relaxed than males and don’t fly like maniacs, as males mostly do. She held her rock perch. I smiled, and Thanked G-d for this opportunity.

A rare, hard to find cousin of our Swallowtails.

Have I seen a parnassgan butterfly in the U.S.? Nope, not yet. They only fly west of our Mississippi River, and mostly in high mountain. If you were along with me, I might do high mountain. Otherwise heights bedevil me.


The Virtue of Right Time, Right Place

Apharitis Cilissa butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

It’s a rare, protected little butterfly, that flies in June, a very short flight time. It only flies in a limited range in Israel’s Upper Galilee Region. Ian Lawson just shared an Apharitis image from eastern Turkey, and I immediately thought it was time to share my fav Apharitis with you.

I so much wanted to see Apharitis cilissa. That it was a Protected species of butterfly called out to me. More than that the challenge beckoned. Short flight time, very limited range, and I’d have to find it without anyone’s help, for there was no one to guide me, or even pinpoint where to search?

On Mt. Meron, I was startled by the realization that I DID find them! They were tiny as expected. Those silvery spots shone so exquisitely when reflecting the powerful Middle Eastern sunlight. I found that they liked to nectar, and they also would perch, prominently and did tolerate very brief approach.

I stayed with their small colony for some time, noticing that they would actively move their hindwings, as hairstreaks often do. Oh, how I wanted to capture a good image, with the shiny spots glistening and some upper wing revealed.

You know I shoot film, and once exposed, I have to wait some week or two or more, for my slides to be FeExed back from Kansas. I waited. They were delivered and out came the lightbox.

This survived the culling. My best of Apharitis cilissa, an endangered butterfly of the HolyLand, on a comely mountain bloom.


The Atala and the Ruddy Dangerwing

 Jeff Zablow's Perennial Beds Pittsburgh, PA, 7/10/07

A friend shared her pic today, of a Ruddy Daggerwing on her own Ficus, aka fig plant. I looked, and looked and asked myself, How can a Ruddy Daggerwing be up there in the northeastern USA. Hey, they have been seen in the Dakotas, and they are native to very southern Florida, but New York state? (I’ve never seen a Daggerwing, yet).

That shot a thought across my recollection. The time in this very garden, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was moving through this much missed perennial garden, late on a beautiful morning, when I spotted something resting on the granite slab you see there. I look. I was stunned. Thousands of times poring through my Cech and Tudor Butterflies of the East Coast (Princeton University Press), I’ve long wanted to see an Atala butterfly.  Southern Florida.

I bent down . . . Yep, an Atala butterfly in my Pittsburgh garden. Zero doubt about it. Wwhhaatt! A moment or two later, it was gone.

I checked and I checked and there was the explanation: They will on occasion appear in locales where folks have planted or container-planted Coontie plants. I did not have a Coontie, but someone nearby did.

Turns out the friend on Facebook was no longer living up north, and now resided in Florida. I laughed, no mystery at all, but . . . Totally Exciting, to see a Ruddy in your own yard, on your own fig plant.

So, Floridians, especially those in south Florida, can score a double-header, an Atala and a Ruddy Daggerwing on the same morning, in their own garden. Mamma Mia!


My First Ringlet

Common Ringlet Butterfly on Daisy photographed by Jeff Zablow at Frewsburg, NY

I’d expected to see my first Common Ringlet some 15 years ago. Not to be. True I saw a species of Ringlet in 2016 along the Israeli Mediterranean coastline, just south of the Lebanon border. That was unexpected, and exciting. When would I finally see the American Common Ringlet?

The first encounter with a USA Common Ringlet, this one, could not have been predicted. Barbara Ann and I returned from doing field work in her far western New York state. I dropped her off in her Frewsburg, New York home. She suggested that before I went back to my rented cabin, I scour the wildflowers on either side of her road. OK, it was a beautiful day, and who knows?

Bingo! My first Common Ringlet, nectaring peacefully, on those hundreds of tiny flowerhead.s.

Lesson learned? Listen to Barbara Ann and lesson #2, don’t discount the possibilities offered by your own, and your friend’s nearby blooms?

What’s your best remembered find, right there under your own nose?


Longing To Meet Again

Gemmed Satyr Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Hard Labor creek State Park, Georgia

Phil D. selflessly agreed to meet me at Hard Labor Creek State Park (Rutledge, Georgia, USA). He was a Park Ranger Naturalist, and friends had urged me to reach out to him, to see and shoot certain Georgia butterflies.

I was reluctant, for in my then home, Pennsylvania, only one person had ever invited me to see butterflies in habitat, ever (I think). Phil responded sure, when, what?

My list of butterflies I so wanted to see included this one, the Gemmed Satyr butterfly. You say “Gem?” and I’m all in. That goes back to Frieda A”H.

Faster than you can say, “I Love Georgia,” Phil and I reached a moderately treed area, and he was pointing out one, then another and another Gemmed Satyr. This one first flew to, and landed in a shady spot just inches above the ground. Then it flew to this nearby leaf and . . . posed. Posed for me. Wowwwww!

Years of wanting to see this one, as I had wanted to see Regal Frits, Giant swallowtails, Zebra Heliconians and Comptons, over, for here was one that topped the List. Private, hued in gorgeous browns, sporting that band of  ‘jewels,’ this little flier stood there with fine posture, quite proud of itself, and I shot away.

Jeff and the Gemmed, happily confirming a meet-up that only 1 in 100,000 Americans have experienced!