Pipevine Aglow

Pipeline Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

It seems that when certain butterflies fly into my vicinity, I have them on a mental list, of photo objectives I have. For the tiny Metalmark butterflies, I want better views of those scintillating shiny metal lines that shimmer from their upper wing surface. Mourning cloaks are high on my list. I have a special connection with Mourning Cloaks, a very personal one. I can’t wait for the Spring day when an excitingly fresh one decides to strike a pose for me, and I capture that maroon upper, with the delicious blue spots and those yellow borders. Monarchs? I have 2 or so dozen images in my slide storage cabinet, yet I want a killer image of a Monarch with those strange eyes, deep orange-rust color and body/head aburst with those white explosive dots.

Another chance to shoot that Common Mestra that teased me on the National Butterfly Center trail, would be nice, it not affording my a single exposure. Now that I’m getting a tad Gimme! here, I sure would like to remeet a fresh Compton Tortoiseshell butterfly, this time close enough for my Macro- lens to do what it does, with this heavy favorite of me, the Compton. That Georgia Satyr back in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area  in the Florida Panhandle jumps out to me here, for with the sweat pouring down over my eyes those last days of August, my vision was blurred, and image scores turned out to be Eh!

Not true here with this Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. I wanted to get that shimmering blue that you see on the inner side of those coral spots. I pretty much did, and that is good.


Why Do More And More People Seek Butterflies?

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

The number of people who seek butterflies in the USA is growing. Some have made bold changes in their gardens, uprooting the tired traditional shrubs that can be traced back to Asia, and replacing them with butterfly hostplants and plants that produce the nectar beloved by butterflies. Others have begun to look for butterflies here and there, and have began participating in local annual counts. Many remain on the lookout for speakers at their local Audubon Centers or Native plant Societies.

The joys and thrills of nurturing have caused thousands to collect caterpillars in their gardens, and raise them in protected enclosures . . . that to avoid heavy losses to predators and disease.

This group had sped to the “Wall” at the entrance to the Retama Village development community, when the call went out (on their cell network) . . . that a rare Tropical Greenstreak butterfly was seen in those tall shrubs, and was still! there, nectaring methodically. Many of these folks retired or relocated to this Lower Rio Grande part of Texas, just to be near friends who also pursue butterflies, and they move there to ogle the great variety of rare butterflies than fly up from Mexico.

Why are the numbers of butterfly enthusiasts swelling?

My thinking?

  • Butterflies appeal to our desire to protect and nurture. They are tiny, delicate and vulnerable. So many want to help them, benefit from the satisfaction of enabling their ongoing survival
  • Butterflies are compellingly beautiful. Unlike Tiffany’s, Cartier, the riches of Christie’s & Sotheby’s, butterflies are within reach, not subject to the barrier’s that money throws up
  • So many of us have known butterflies all our lives, in our neighborhood, nearby undeveloped land and in our literature.
  • We know that butterflies, many species of them are being seen in reduced numbers annually. Some, like the Monarch are thought to be at great risk. We worry that we may be the last generation to . . . . . . . . . .
  • Birders have been searching for birds for many years now, many have almost ‘seen them all,’ and butterflies’ convert’ them, draw those birders, presenting new opportunities to open up a whole new world of fliers.
  • There is a sublime appeal in this butterfly pastime. Monied or near broke, butterfliers don’t need fancy hotels, tony restaurants are not needed either, dress is relatively inexpensive, as are binoculars and cameras.
  • Those who want to spend money wantonly, can find butterfly seeking tours to Costa Rica, Brazil . . . well to many corners of the world;.
  • For those who don’t go boating, golf, and have tired of sitting on this or that international beach, butterfly hunting is a whole new pursuit, and an active one at that.
  • There’s a sense of newness here, and a Big factor is, You never know what you might see, as these folks demonstrate in Mission, Texas. For sure you might see one not seen for 10 years, now that’s a rush.

I pause at this punchlist, noting that I could have gone on, again sharing my experiences at Pre-Sale Exhibitions at New York City auction galleries. That’s what launched me. Frieda A”H would try on multi-million dollars rings, broaches, necklaces, bracelets, just a foot or two away from me, that in the 1980’s. I have never seen Magnificent Jewelry  more beautiful than a Monarch or a Malachite or that fresh Common Mestra that flew just before I could cop my first exposure! A fresh Mourning Cloak sends me into a near swoon, Cathy, Kenne, Barbara Ann, Patti, Virginia, Marcie, Beth, Jim, Angela, Ian, Sylbie, Deepthi, Ginny, Laura, Peggy, Susan, Leslie, Laurence and. . . . .


Snout? So What?

American Snout Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Habitat, Eatonton, Georgia

It’s known as the American Snout Butterfly. It’s habitat extends from Massachusetts to Southern California. It makes unscheduled appearances from Maine to the Dakotas and from Oklahoma to Nevada. That’s a whole lot of habitat. Snouts like to be close enough to Hackberry trees and shrubs.

What is most remarkable about this species of brushfoot butterfly? They get No Respect ( apologies to Mr. Dangerfield). They are the ‘So what?’ ‘Who cares’ butterfly.’

Only in big years in Texas do you see Snouts in any appreciable numbers. They are almost always seen as solitary individuals, except for the brief interactions when male discovers a reluctant female.

Why don’t they spark excitement? Well they only briefly generate excitement . . . until it is realized that it is ‘Only a snout.’

Snouts sport muted colors and they have those elongated palps, making them look, well, kind of silly. I no longer stand them up against the Jimmy Durante legend ( Vaudeville star, from Brooklyn, NY, who had a sandpaper voice, was very likable and had a big schnazola (nose). ?. Almost no one remembers Jimmy Durante, is the reason.

Snouts flew around the town greens, when the Patriots were devising their future strategies, but even though snouts are native butterflies, no credit comes their way.

When you are having that kind of day, when you seem well, invisible, you may easily empathize with this American snout. Invisible in plain view.


Edwards Hairstreak Etiquette

Edwards Hairstreak Butterfly on Leaf photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie, OH

My first ever introduction to a Hairstreak was that Striped Hairstreak at the Powdermill Refuge in Rector, Pennsylvania. All Stripes I’ve see since mirrored that first one. They stand motionless on a leaf, and allow many exposures.

Gray Hairstreaks are almost as cooperative. Grays permit me say 8 or more exposures, then vamoose!

Coral Hairstreaks, they so difficult to find, and that thing about how they often skip a whole year, waiting. When I have found Corals, they must be approached carefully. That one last year at Kamamama Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio was more cooperative, though it did make me scramble, with its version of tag!

The 2 Banded Hairstreaks I’ve enjoyed seeing did pose, but for ever so briefly, and then, gone.

The Acadian Hairstreaks I saw in Toronto were nectaring furiously on Common milkweed, and I had to move as quickly as they did on those huge flowerhead.

The very rare Tropical Greenstreak that we saw in the last week of December 2017, at the National Butterfly Center (NBC) was a study in passive movement. Those 2 nectared very slowly, and often took breaks, posing sweetly for the crowd that formed, when the cell network shared where they were.

White M Hairstreaks? I see one maybe every 4 years, maybe. They are spotted, you realize, OMG! is that a White M? Yes! You make cautious approach, cop maybe 3 exposures, and off they go, deeper into the tall growth meadow . . . gone!

Now this Edwards. It was one of several dozen, all fresh, nectaring in that Lynx Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio. They were a joy to shoot. They nectared slowly on mostly luxurious Butterflyweed. Their periods of rest were many, and as here, they nicely enable many, many exposures, as they offered their ‘best side,’ just 12 inches or so above the ground.

Edwards’ etiquette? To be copied and emulated, for sure.