Singing Auld Lang Syne

Striped hairstreak butterfly photographed at Powdermill Refuge, PA

Here’s one I’ve not seen for more than 20 years. We met in the butterfly garden at the Powdermill refuge in Rector, Pennsylvania. This field station of the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History, established for the study and conservation of birds, was just 1 hour and 25 minutes from my home in Pittsburgh.

These sylvan 2,000+ acres were home to a host of threatened species, including that Eastern Timber Rattlesnake that I met up with there. It was under a tree, in the shade, that 90F+ morning. I see it there, and now when I look back these years later, Frieda A”H was right (again). How did I get those closeup images of the rattler, when I should have know the risk that a father of 4, and husband, works to get closer and closer and closer to . . . ?

This “R-U” rare to uncommon (Glassberg, A Swift Guide to Butterflies) hairstreak was doing what most hairstreaks do, resting on a leaf, being very territorial, when I spotted it. It didn’t take more than a nanosecond for me to realize that this was a new one for me, and I shot away. As Stripeds do, it met my slow, robotic movement with no alarm, and I shot away. What a stunning butterfly!

Its been decades since, and I’ve not met another . . . I think. Their range is said to be Maine to northern Florida, the Atlantic coast to west of the Dakotas, but rare, Oh so rare.

Jeff

Do Butterflies Commute?

Today’s special visitor was a very big Black Form Female Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. We posted some pics on Facebook. I commented that there’s a good chance that she came from Virginia’s Briar Patch Habitat, just one miles from our natives garden. Came to partake of our Bottlebrush Buckeye bush, now in splendid full bloom. It may well be that the super fresh Giant Swallowtail also flew to us from the Briar Patch.

Virginia C Linch posted a Comment to my Facebook post, and it got me to thinking.

If butterflies are especially attuned to aromatic emissions from active flowers, what is the working range that their sensory organs can effectively track? In other words, did our 2 extraordinary butterflies follow aromatics from our 303 Garden to the vicinity of the Briar Patch Garden? Is that how they came to visit us, following a trail of aromatic hydrocarbons?? Curt, Phil, Virginia, Ken, Bob, NABA friends, Holli, Rose, Nancy & John, Dave, Dave W, Bill, Deepthi?

The accompanying photo? Me at the Habitat, working to score a Skipper image.

Jeff

Pyle, Berthet, Lawson, Childs . . . and Zablow?

Edwards Hairstreak photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

Over these decades, every so often, the Media announces the discovery (!^!!#**!) of a heretofore unknown animal. Like you I drop what I’m about to do online, and quickly open the news dispatch, to read of the new OMG! mammal, reptile, fish. I’ve given up on Sasquatch, that Loch Ness thing, the Dodo bird and especially sadly, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. We’ve way too much populated Earth, and there’s not much territory that has not be trekked over. The African Veldt of my youth is now full of people, full of guides to show you whatever you want, and it seems has been compartmentalized into people place and game reserves.

The loss of the Ivory Billed bit! I took it personally. How could we/they not protect their huge, dense forest stands?

Butterflies? There are some who seek little explored, dense pristine habitat to find rare and they dream, undiscovered butterflies. Pyle’s Big Year, wonderfully described in his book Mariposa Road, Berhtet’s recent explorations, Ian Lawson’s wide travels as well as Child’s, often cause me to question my own reluctance to hit the road, by the hundreds and thousands of miles?

Just recently, I came to a resolution. I will resist the siren’s song of the road, and the airport terminals that I so dislike. One more airport men’s room and I will lose it. One more full body frisk, with me struggling to keep my served my country, OCS completion, ready to go riot control platoon leader in Brooklyn in the late ’60’s, with mouth SHUT.

I will make few long journeys, with the exception of searching the Negev, Galilee & Golan regions of the HolyLand (Israel). I will get my VAVAVAVOOM with the butterflies of our beautiful USA and Canada. No way I’m going to be kidnapped by Shining Path or whatever. That too, that the $$’s lecture.

This Edward’s Hairstreak was one of a fresh flight of 50 or more that marked my first Edward’s ever!!!  Lynx Prairie Reserve, Adams County, Ohio. That was bonkers! exciting, and was just a 6-hours drive from Pittsburgh. Newly discovered butterflies may well exist, but I’m not to travel deep into Cuba or enjoy the unexpected company of latter-day headhunters in Borneo.

Anyone who wants to chat about trips in 2020, I’m all ears. No Uzbekistan. No Honduras. No Mongolia. No Myanmar. Please.

Jeff

American Icons?

Great Spangle Fritillary Butterfly on Coneflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

I think so. When I first visited Adams County, Ohio, Lynx Prairie Reserve treated me to my first wild Coneflower. To that point, a rich lifetime, I had presumed that coneflowers were non-native cultivars. How thrilled I was that morning, to learn that they are 100% American!

Perched on this coneflower, this Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly is another American icon. Glassberg’s Swift Guide to Butterflies has them present in almost all continental US states, except for Arizona, Texas, Mississippi and Florida. This big butterfly is born & bred USA.

This then is an American iconic view, Great Spangled Fritillary perched on Coneflower. I must add that Ohio, where these were seen, has been the most welcoming, giving, sharing of the 48 U.S. states, for I’ve enjoyed more self-less butterfliers and orchid seeking and wildflower lovers there than in any other state I’ve visited. Thanks Angela, Deb, Dave, Flower, Joe and others.

Jeff

MIA? Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies?

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

I’ll reluctantly join the growing chorus? Where are our beloved Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies? Many, most or all of you have shared that they are absent. So many of us proudly share that our perennial gardens are now in full bloom, rich with nectar producing flowers. Flowers that normally draw these large, colorful swallowtails.

At this time year after year we enjoyed seeing shots of Tiger caterpillars, chrysalises and newly eclosed male and female Tigers.

My own garden is beginning its 3rd full year, and the Tithonia (Mexican Sunflowers) are reaching 4′-5′ and opening flower. Our 3 species of Hibiscus are busters, our giant Zinnias hale, day lilies still spending new flowers,  Black-Eyed Susans strong, Obedient Plant throwing out hundreds of flowers, Cardinal Flower the deepest of red blooms, Coneflower by the dozens of blooms, Cosmos many and I’ve only seen a single Tiger Swallowtail, back in April 2019.

They’re always our dependables, like Commas on trails, Carolina Satyrs in Southern perennial beds, Silver Spotted Skippers at trails edge where wildflowers abound.

Stalwarts, myself included, expect to see them any day now, what with fennel, dill, black cherry, plum and chokecherry all present and accounted for.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail female at Raccoon Creek State Park, 42 minutes west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and 8 hours west of Times Square in New York City.

Jeff