The Elusive Southern

Southern Pearly-eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

The only Pearly-eye butterfly I’d seen was in southwestern Pennsylvania, and that was the Northern Pearly-eye. Nearly impossible to approach is the Northern. Over many years I’d found some Northerns that held fast to their leafy perches, and allowed me to make my Macro- lens approach. Many of you have seen my Northern images here on earlier wingedbeauty.com posts.

My appetite for Pearly-eyes satiated? No, because I wanted to find and shoot the other 2 American Pearly-eyes, the Southern Pearly-eye and the even more elusive, the Creole Pearly-eye. How to find them, go south young man!

Georgia! I made several trips to the Georgia Piedmont, middle Georgia that is, many miles East of Atlanta. There I made new friends, and it was suggested that I contact Rose and Jerry. The next thing I knew, I was to meet them at the Park Office at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. I did and I enjoyed a day I will never forget. Never!

Before we left that Park Office, a Ranger warned me, me!, that I must understand that the wooded bottomlands (wet) we were headed to sickened earlier visitors with several serious, chronic diseases, vectored by mosquitoes. I stood there, as those around me waited for my reaction and response. Me? I thought ‘Cr-p!” I’d grown up on the streets of Brooklyn, often with cold steel in my pocket, navigated a life of frequent risk and danger, been an artillery officer during the early years of Viet Nam, been a Dean in a New York City high school for nearly 6 years (guns, knives, gangs, riots, Connected guys, murder), and well, more. Am I really going to confront a stated risk, disease-transmitting mosquitoes (I think the Ranger told of at least 4 horrible diseases.) Kid Zablow made a snap decision, and we went to the swampy bottomland.

It was as a Hollywood set for a horror movie. Dark, muddy wet, mosquitoes constantly checking to see if my heavy covering of Off! (Deet-25%) was still potent) and all three (3!!!) Pearly-eyes bedeviling us by flying away each and every time we made an approach, forcing us to jump over logs, pull our boots out of the mud, only to find that our Pearly-eye had flown again. Rose and Jerry were selfless, with eagle eyes, always calling me quickly, “Jeff, come quick, a Southern” or “Jeff, over here a Creole, a Creole!”

I was soon exhausted, for I didn’t mention that the humidity there was some 115% and it was hard to breathe, what with the 90F plus heat in that darkened, dank lowland.

You’ve gotta know that none of us quit. They looked like they could have done another 2 hours down there. I must have looked like pudding . . . But, we saw all 3 Pearly-eyes. All 3!

This Pearly -eye is the Southern Pearly-eye butterfly. Forgive the image, for it was very dark under that tree cover, and as you can see, very wet there. I did stop some distance from this beaut, after having so many flee on closer approach. It is a fine looking one though.

I left that site at Piedmont beyond exhausted. Hours of mucking in dank, muddy dark, mosquito infested swampy habitat. Happy as a duck, for I saw and shot all 3 Pearly-eye butterflies. Rose and Jerry? My heroes.

The elusive Southern Pearly-eye captured . . . on Fuji Velvia 100 slide film, that film straining to reward Jeff despite real, dark, super moist light.

Jeff