My, What Big Eyes You Have

Little wood satyr butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Miss this one too. It’s been some time since I’ve seen a Little Wood Satyr. Now relocated to the southeast, what I see are dozens and dozens of Carolina Satyr butterflies. With all respect to the Carolina satyrs, they cannot boast the oversized ‘eyes’ that this one sports. Little Wood Satyrs also give pause for a smile, as the bound about the forest edge with their near ridiculous flight, bouncing, bobbing and weaving.

They mean no harm, seem to be purposeful and give those of us who frequent those trails from Maine to Florida, North Dakota to Texas, sweet thoughts and quizzical looks. How the heck do they roam about the forest perimeter, carefree, when there are so many predators and predicaments just waiting for them?

I love Little Wood Satyrs and their Big ‘eyes’ and chocolate stripes. We are overdue, we are.

Jeff

Meadow Frit Eludes Tiffany’s

Meadow Fritillary Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

Those were cherished moments, working the expansive Doak’s Field meadow at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. It was July, and the 100-plus acre  meadow was in full bloom on those hot, sunny July mornings.

I’d wade into the 5′ tall grass, if I spotted something nice on the Common Milkweed, or Bergamot or late Teasel. I’d be reminded of the classic (now) movie, “Jaws,” for after 13 whole summers on the ocean beach at the Rockaways in Queens, New York, that evil film really got to me, and I’d no longer go into the ocean surf beyond my mid-thighs. Yep, the street kid from Brooklyn met his match with that mind-blowing film. Why reminded of “Jaws?” Because wading through all that tall botany to reach the island of milkweed, I knew that I for sure risked picking up a tick or 2 or 5.

Now in the meadow itself, grass up to my chin, along would come a bouncy little butterfly, you’d know it was a fritillary butterfly, but it was too small to be a Great Spangled frit and Aphrodite frits are very uncommon there. Boing! It’s a Meadow Fritillary Butterfly. Yay!!! I’d go to that same field sometimes 5 mornings a week, but seeing a Meadow frit? That’d happen maybe once every 3 or 4 years.

Just rewatched the cute movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Reminded of those Meadow Fritillary Butterflies. Each time I saw these tiny beauts, I’d marvel at how other butterflies were often severely birdstruck, but the Meadow Frits were nearly always full in wing, unscathed.

I’d daydream when I saw them, that they were precious broaches at Tiffany’s (been there at times) that’d decided to take wing and fly out those heavy Tiffany revolving doors, and enjoy a brief flight along Fifth Avenue, to the pleasure of the throngs fortunate enough to take notice of them.

Jeff

Spicebush & Vegas

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

What’ve I seen? Well, I’ve seen perhaps some 50 or so Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies, these 24 years of earnestly hunting for butterflies. That makes them a Will of the Wisp butterfly for me, one that you see on say, day 3 of a 4 or 5 day field trip. They fly in silently, elegantly, and by the time you register ‘Spicebush!!,’ he or she has already begun to fly away.

When I saw those 2 of them, here in my New! Georgia Piedmont natives garden, months apart, I mentally bookmarked, ‘Get their hostplants: Spicebush and Sassafras. Glassberg in his field guide Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America shares that they are “U-A.” That is, that finding them can be uncommon or abundant depending on where you are. So mark me down in the “U” end of the spectrum, for I almost never see them.

My sizable natives garden, here in Eatonton, now sports both hostplants, Sassafras and Spicebush, though we are now entering only year 2 for each of them. I did find a lone Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar in October 2018, brought it in to my new ‘cube,’ and it now rests as a chrysalis in the cube on the back porch.

This buster accommodated me at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat right here in Eatonton. What say you of him?

If I queried Las Vegas on the odds of my attracting Spicebush adult butterflies this 2019, I haven’t a hunch as to what they’d come back with.

I so want these winged beauties to visit, and stay a while. Vegas?

Jeff

My First Queen

Queen Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Tank Mountains, AZ. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

That bone-dry arroyo was working just fine for me. I’d found this dry creek bed on an earlier trip to White Tank Mountains Regional Park, just west of Phoenix. I have a vague recollection of a sign posted near the arroyo, something about not entering the arroyo ever, for a flash downpour miles away could prove deadly here. In retrospect, I might have honored the sign, but . . . hours of searching White Tank produced almost nothing. When I drove to a 3-car parking area, and happened on the arroyo, that earlier year, I descended down to its bed, and Bingo! Butterflies, not lots of them, but there were plants in bloom here and there, and I tried waiting at a plant with flowers, and almost every wait yielded, drew butterflies.

This one flew in to these diminutive blooms, and I knew at once, my first ever Queen butterfly. We don’t have them in the places I lived in before (Brooklyn, Queens NY, Long Island NY, Sheffield Mass or Pittsburgh). He was a dashing Queen and I decided on not gambling, not moving in with my Macro- lens, to get the full benefit of those magical 18″ from this large butterfly.

I planted my feet, loved that this was a tall wildflower, and I shot away. This image was captured with Fuji slide film and yes, his color was as rich as you see. That deep blue Arizona sky added to my delight when this slide was returned to me.

The wildflower? I still do not know its name. How do they flower despite many weeks of xeric dry 97F weather? I think they have very deep roots, and take moisture several feet down in the arroyo bed.

My first Queen.

Jeff

The No Respect Butterfly

Red-Spotted Purple butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 8/24/07

Mr. Rodney Dangerfield (RD) would commiserate with this butterfly. Johny Carson would goad him on, and ask Rodney if he [Rodney] felt akin to this butterfly. This would send RD on a 5-minute tear, likening how he and this Red-Spotted Purple butterfly get “no respect.”

I’m not seeing many Red-Spotted Purples here in Georgia, but in early summer they were very, very common back in Pennsylvania. I loved them, and played a little game with myself, challenging JLZ to find an individual with very prominent red spots at the margins of those forewings.

I like them. For 2 decades, they would appear on the trails that I worked, we repeating over and over again the routine: I approach on the trail, they fly up no more than 2 feet up, to a new spot 12 feet up trail. I continue my hiking, reach them, and again they fly up a bit, and take a new spot, again some 12 feet up trail. Trail companions they were, reminding me of my trusty black Russia pup, Petra.

Find a stunner of a Red-Spotted Purple, and you wonder to yourself, Why do some of us search the wilds of Brazil, India, Bolivia or Myanmar, when here in the USA, you may find a Red-Spotted that equals any of the rare stunners in any corner of the world.

Maybe it’s because you almost never see them nectaring atop beautiful wildflowers? Maybe that truism, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt.’ Some really, really want to find aberrant types or like the Lower Rio Grande Valley stalwarts, want to spot and report a butterfly not seen there for what, “10 years!”

They remain, my vote for the No Respect Butterfly, seen as we sail down trails, but infrequently offered the respect and attention they richly deserve.

Jeff