A Private Room In Tiffany’s

Malachite Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

That’s what this meeting this Malachite Butterfly felt like. We were in the National Butterfly Center (NBC) in Mission, Texas. There were few people there that morning, Christmas week, 2017. We were on a trail, and someone approached and told us that there was a Malachite, resting on a lower trail, in good shade. The three of us quickly found it, and I was stunned by its beauty. Stunned. A few others came shortly after, and at least 2 people, frequent visitors to the NBC, said that it was the freshest one they’d ever seen. Big smile, for that!

I view this image once again, and I think, seeing this Malachite, spectacular as it is, is akin to us entering Tiffany’s flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue with the CEO of Tiffany’s rushing to the front of the huge store to meet us, and we are escorted to a posh private viewing room, and she proudly shows us their finest baubles, brought from their solid safe, she awaiting our approval after each broach, ring, necklace, pin, bracelet is reviewed. In the 1980’s I experienced much success, and this, earlier in my life, would not have been impossible.

That’s how moved I was by the Malachite, it more beautiful than anything that the House of Cartier had ever attempted to fashion.

Would that Barbara Ann, Nancy, Kelly, Phil, Laura, Virginia, Deepthi, Cathy, Leslie, Jim, Beth, Kenne, Sandra or you, were there . . . Jeff

On Pigeon Mountain

Pink Wildflowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at Pigeon Mountain, GA

Last year’s trip to the north Georgia mountains led us to David, a native of that beautiful region. David led us to Pigeon mountain, and its pair of pristine meadows.

The #1 goal was to find and shoot Diana Fritillary butterflies. All was seemingly perfect: A mountain meadow, full of nectaring blooms, sunny, windless weather, and all the hikers that we saw stayed below those meadows, leaving us to ourselves and our search.

Dianas? Nope. I’ve still not seen my first. Giants? Huge Giant Swallowtails, usually seen in groups of 3 or 4. Memories? Wonderful ones, on a mountain in north Georgia.

Still to be done? Need to get an ID on these nice wildflowers, growing in those Pigeon mountain meadows, along the perimeter tree line.

Ellen? Virginia? Rose? Barbara Ann? Angela? Jeff?

Jeff

“Zebra Swallowtail!”

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly and Edwards Hairstreak on Butterflyweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

You’re out seeking butterflies, and one of you shouts, “Zebra Swallowtail!” All stop what they were doing and respond, “Where?” Comes the question, Why? Why do seasoned butterfly seekers and those new to the search, become so excited when a Zebra is spotted?

They are scarce, rarely seen butterflies. They fly in with grace and beauty and they are surely coming to flowers that are pumping nectar. During this 2019 a typical day might score 2 Monarchs, 3 Pearl Crescents, 1 Pipevine Swallowtail, several Duskywings, an Eastern Comma, 4 Tiger Swallowtails and 1 Red-Spotted Purple. Zebra Swallowtail on that ‘typical day?’ No, not a one.

Rewarded with a look at such a beaut as this one, resplendent in its whites, black, red and blue, you feel special, fortunate to see what few see, a magnificent American butterfly, one of our most eye-pleasing.

This one was shot in Lynx Prairie Reserve, Adams County, Ohio. It’s on Butterflyweed, a milkweed, native to the USA. Also enjoying the milkweed nectar there is an Edwards Hairstreak butterfly, it too is a reason to feel good. Seeing both of these uncommon butterflies, reason enough to travel to Lynx Prairie in late June.

Jeff

Big Bend WMA Results Are In

Georgia Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

This my first meet-up with a Georgia Satyr butterfly. NABA’s Spring/Summer 2015 issue of American Butterflies featured an article, Definitive Destination: Big Bend WMA, Florida. It riveted me, and the very next year, in late August 2016 I drove down to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. It was a super 5 days.

My images taken there were mostly good, but my Georgia Satyr shots disappointed me. They prefer to be inches off of the ground, requiring that you get down, down to their level. Sure you get down, robotically, and when you nearly reach their life space . . . they’ve flown. Several remained still in the early morning. That was good too, but the humidity was oppressive, the sweat cascaded down over my headband, washing my eyes in salt, every shot required that you first made sure that ‘bad’ snakes were not within your circle of activity, and the ‘No-See-Ums’ came divebombing in squadrons.

This shot here was the best I got. Slightly embarrassed, I shared it back then.

We got back last week from an April 2019 revisit to Big Bend’s Spring Creek Unit, and the lightly visited Old Grade tram (trail) delivered again. This time the very sameNo-See-Ums (sandflies) were worse than 2016, but we did spot 15 Georgia’s. My goal was to score a better image than this one.

The Fuji Velvia slides are back from Dwayne’s Photo, and Yes Ma’am, one of them made me smile. As soon as I can get them back from Rewind Memories in Pittsburgh, we’ll be sharing that one. If the scan does the slide justice, it’s color will be rich, it’ll have a pretty decent eye capture, and y’all (Did I spell that correctly, Virginia?) will see what a Georgia Satyr really looks likes, on a sunny late April morning in the Florida Panhandle.

Jeff

The Monarch Understudy

Viceroy butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

I have always recoiled when I hear that Viceroy butterflies ‘mimic’ Monarch butterflies. It’s true that Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed leaves, and the glycosides that are highly concentrated in the milkweed remain inert (unchanged) in the Monarch caterpillars, and the Monarch butterflies that eclose from Monarch chrysalises are fully stocked with those very same, disgustingly bitter glycosides. We are taught that this adaptation of the Monarchs provides them with excellent protection from predators.

It may or it may not be true that selection has caused the Viceroy butterfly to closely resemble Monarchs. Either way, birds learn early that this look signals, “Leave alone, don’t even try to eat!” Experience has convinced that Viceroys like this one, show zero wing damage from birds (bird-struck), because the birds’ mommies taught them early, avoid that sort of butterfly, or retch uncontrollably should you forget that lesson!

That band of black, across the middle of the hindwing of this Viceroy, enables you to ID as a Viceroy. Time in the field also teaches, Monarchs fly high, with elegant wing strokes, while Viceroys fly more like jet fighters, fast and with much diving and soaring, yet always some 8 feet or so above the ground. Monarchs Love to nectar on flowers, Viceroys rarely are seen upon flowers.

Viceroy butterflies do not treat us with one of our biggest life mysteries, that is, How do Monarch butterflies, that have never been to central Mexico, fly from Maine, New York and Ohio, thousands of miles, to the mountains of central Mexico??

Viceroys have their own charm. They are less commonly seen than Monarchs. They prefer to be close to their hostplants, Willow trees and shrubs, which puts them in the neighborhood of wetlands (marshes, swamps, ponds & lakes, and wet meadows (fens)). That fascinating habitat includes cattails, red-wing blackbirds, Baltimore checkerspot butterflies, aquatic turtles, muskrat and beaver, birders seeking sightings of egrets, herons, rails, storks and ducks. Poetic places that when found, protected from billionaires and developers, tickle our imagination and treat our eyes. It also puts Viceroys, here in the Southern USA, at home with alligators, as we saw in Laura’s Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge (Georgia) and in Neel’s St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (Florida).

This Viceroy here, seen in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in my Eatonton, Georgia, affirms what some Butterfly field guide authors share, that the southeastern Viceroys are especially handsome, decked out in the stronger, more vivid oranges, black and white.

Understudy, the Viceroy? Nope. An authentic American Idol, no doubt about it.

Jeff