Cliffs, Falling Rock, Arroyos & ‘Gators

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Pickerelweed blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

This sure tantalizes, bringing vivid memory of that spectacular spot, with its pickerelweed growing in 4 inches of pond at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, on the Georgia coast. Stationed just away from the pond water, I was impressed with the diversity of butterflies that were visiting. Pickerelweed that must be pumping nectar, no doubt of that. This male Gulf Fritillary butterfly was fresh, complete (not bird struck) and hungry.

What’s the big deal? Harris Neck NW Refuge is loaded with alligators. At the time, the heavy traffic of beautiful butterflies to lush pickerelweed just could not be resisted. Even now, having survived the streets and all the rest, having taken guns from high schoolers back in Ozone Park, roaming the East Village before the East Village became what it’s now today, I sometimes (?) dissuade myself, internally arguing that risks are not as risky as they might be.

Might a 10 foot American alligator be near, just 15 feet from this spot? Isn’t it true that a ‘gator can accelerate, to cross 15 feet of pond’s edge in ‘x’ seconds?

Cliffs that give me the ‘Willies,’ Falling rock field where certain Satyr butterflies frequent, those Arroyos in Arizona and Israel where rain upstream can send a wall of water at you at what, 50 mph? Gators that are probably 5 times stronger than you think they could be?

Men who shoot butterflies are few and far between, and some of them devolve into 14-year-old -boy behavior when they see those certain butterflies, magnificent, exotic and challenging, no?

Jeff

Losing America: A Regal Retrospective

Mating Regal Fritillary Butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

The politicians here in the USA rage at one another. Put a TV or a video camera in front of them, and they fault all that the opposition is doing, no matter what the issue. Americans in this 2019 have become increasingly numb to the babbling of our politicians. We know that we can no longer hope for a lanky, young James Stewart to be elected, and go to Washington, D.C. to raise cane, all to improve life back home and across America.

We know, too, that over these last more than 100 years, all the bluster and speech making has had little effect on the overall quality of life here. Richie and Regina Rich continue to ‘fall in love’ with a pristine oceanfront lot, or a meadow with a sweeping view of a tony mountain or a forested area with high concentrations of Sassafras, Oak, Poplar, Walnut. Developers buy up land that supports amazing wildlife populations, and schools, shopping centers, industrial parks and myriad other uses distort sylvan land that beckons to them.

Regretably, the loss of wildlife continues. Those of us who care, cringe as we see evidence of this. We mostly feel voiceless, impotent, and we lack the powerful leaders who might sound the clarion call, but don’t.

These very rare Regal Fritillary butterflies are fine examples of how we, the esthetes, are losing America. If our elected leaders had noticed or recognized the slow march of death and destruction this last century, Regals would not have disappeared from at least 11 states east of the Mississippi River. Why? Their habitat is prairies and meadows. Prairies and meadows offer developers prime land, minimal expense for tree removal, excellent perc rates, together producing all the elements needed for good profit and few problems.

I found this mated couple of Regal Fritillaries at one the 2 last holdouts in the East, here at Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in central Pennsylvania. There is one other existing population in the eastern USA in Virginia. Both of these small colonies require the protection of the military, for their existence.

The male is seen below, and the larger female above. They are, drop dead gorgeous butterflies, and in our fancy schmancy America, they require the protection of the US Army and Air Force.

Irony, it ’tis, that so many march for ‘climate change’ and when a butterfly population faces imminent loss to development, . . . the sound of silence.

When will this be reckoned with?

Jeff

What Do Fritillary Caterpillars Eat?

Downy Yellow Violet photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Fritillary Butterfly are those Brushfoot butterflies that come in oranges, browns and black. Most of us know and love Gulf frits, Great Spangled frits, Variegates frits, Aphrodite frits, Silver bordered frits, Meadow frits and Regal frits, if you’re east of the Mississippi River.

Now that I’m relocated to Georgia, the fritillary butterflies here mostly deposit their eggs on Passionflower vines, easy to grow Southern garden favorites. Passionflower also attracts other butterflies, including Zebra heliconians.

The most common hostplant for Fritillary butterflies comes as something of a surprise, and are in most gardens. Fritillary butterflies mostly lay their eggs on violets. it still seems incongruous, that their caterpillar hatch on and feed upon these tiny little plants, present in the early Spring, and not so much as 4″ above the soil.

Shown here are Downy Yellow Violets, that I spotted in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Holli and Leslie would surely have me remind you, urge you, to please delay your annual leaf raking of your lawns, until mid-Spring. Why? Because Fritillary caterpillars spend the winter as chrysalises each with a rolled leaf around them, right there in the leaf drop sitting on your lawn. Rake your lawns in October/November, and you may be removing (killing) dozens of Fritillary cats, they, awaiting the onset of Spring weather.

Jeff

 

Silver Spots at the Bog

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly on Swamp Milkweed, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

We spent not one, but two mornings at Allenberg Bog in northwestern New York State. Nary a moment with nothing to do there, for the botany was extraordinary, and those Bog Copper butterflies captivated, and challenged.

Why did the Bog Coppers count as a challenge? They were beyond tiny, flew very closed to the ground, mostly from one Bog Cranberry blossom to another. As you worked to capture a killer of an image, you experienced that bog thing, that your feet were steadily sinking down into the bog. Sinking while you’re readying for a click negates countless captures over 2 sunny mornings. This was a single Bog Copper flight, and each time we sought another Bog Copper, it was always the same, slightly worn. I kept searching, but that very fresh butterfly never did show up.

Some 100 feet from the bog’s open water, wildflowers stood, and these (swamp ?) milkweeds were seeing new butterflies every few minutes. I was pleased when this Great Spangled Fritillary flew in. He was fine looking, and I wanted to capture the sunlight reflecting off of his silver spots. In the field, real-time, the right moment, when he turns and the sunlight bounces off of those spots, pleases your eyes, alot!

I’m hoping to revisit a northeastern sphagnum moss bog this year, one like Allenberg, where you might, if G-d wants you to, see any of 5 or more different fritillaries. See, that excites me. I threw the latter out, hoping that you . . .

Jeff

Why Eatonton Georgia?

"Billy' Butterfly Mobile photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat I, Eatonton, GA

I’m now a Georgian, though each time I’m asked why I moved to Georgia, and especially why I relocated to the Georgia Piedmont (central Georgia, east of Atlanta), I again and again realize that native Georgians don’t fully appreciate the riches that Georgia provides, time and time again.

Steadfast followers of winged beauty.com recall that those several years of driving down to Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton charmed me, much. When I had to decide where to go, after Pittsburgh, the answer was clear, to this sweet little city, Eatonton, with the best wild butterfly habitat east of the Mississippi River.

Eatonton made Virginia and her loyal supporters move the habitat to a bigger, different locale in town. This now begins year two there, having been forced to dig up and replant several hundred native shrubs, perennials, grasses and trees. This they did with nary a complaint, helped by folks from here and there.

I came here for their butterflies. For the genuine friendliness of folks here in Georgia, for the Big savings in almost everything (Krogers is some 20%-25% cheaper than Pittsburgh’s Giant Eagle, real estate taxes are much cheaper, car care is much cheaper (and high quality service), gasoline is 15% cheaper, . . . )

Why Eatonton? This butterfly mobile sings out the answer to this query. Folks care here, they support our country and they Honor those who did so with their sweat, passion and lives. Lieutenant Colonel Billy Maltbie Jr. is the son of a Big Supporter of the Briar Patch Habitat, and this American Hero died, much too young, while serving in South Korea. A friend of the Habitat fabricated these butterfly silhouettes, and Virginia hung this one for this not forgotten Patriot, whose ancestor fought in our own Revolutionary War, to oust the Brits and create the United States of America.

Jeff, Happy as a Duck, in beautiful Eatonton, where service to country is respected and supported.

Jeff