Touched By A Mourning Cloak I Was

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park

Chasing butterflies? I love the search for butterflies that you will appreciate seeing and hearing about. I daydream of shocking discoveries, of finding butterflies that y’all will be excited to see. The most impossible daydreams? Finding a new butterfly, once never seen or photographed before. It’s 2020, and I know that finding a new butterfly, short of trekking through the wilds of Indonesia or Madagascar, is impossible (?).

This Mourning Cloak butterfly reminds me that during these nearly 3 decades of the search, butterflies have touched my heart, left me semi-a mess. Why? That Mourning Cloak that overflew me repeatedly, 30 feet or so above me, and then disappeared, rocked my boat. Why? I couldn’t see it because . . . it landed on my hat!!

Tears flowed. Why tears, doesn’t Jeff always display bravado, macho-man persona, and boast of how he grew up with Them? All true but, this product of the 1950’s had just endured the loss of Frieda A”H, watched her nearly 8-year fight end. That Mourning Cloak sent me into an emotional tailspin. I was convinced that Frieda’s Blessed Memory was embodied in that Spectacular butterfly. When it flew from my hat, up again 30 feet and then flew over me again, I was turned to Brooklyn Jelly.

I’m hoping to return to Pennsylvania again in early November, visit her grave, and search several refuges and state parks for Mourning Cloaks and their cousins, Compton Tortoiseshells and Milbert’s Tortoiseshells. If I do, photos may happen, and those knees may well go spongey again.


Former Artillery Officer Now Assigned To Puddle Duty

What’s it like to revisit moments that you cherished, loved, revered and favored? I know what that’s like, and y’all do too. We’ve been hunting down beauty, infinite beauty for that long, and all the time we knew how Blessed we were. Me? Freed from the high school classroom, freed from those 2nd and 3rd jobs when the kids were in private schools and universities. Past the at times deadly streets of Brooklyn, still carrying long steel, but this time should feral dogs bother.

Released from the 1980’s when real estate in Manhattan brought me substantial material success, such later stolen by something called ‘Partners.’ Extricated so long ago from an early association with ‘Connected’ guys. Outgrown my childhood home, where at times there was  . . . no food. No longer a Dean of Boys in a Queens, New York high school, and see, not once been stuck or shot, not once (Thank Y-u).

Endured those years of Frieda’s battle with Cancer, later, sadly reverting to “caregiver” when she could no longer cook, bake, clean, sew, shop . . . .

Trained as an artillery (cannon) officer, just as Viet Nam was just beginning to heat up. My battalion of NYC cops (“bulls” was more like it) and NYC Sanitation workers were told repeatedly that we’d be getting orders to ship out, but those orders never came. Did G-d have a hand in that too?

Robotically approaching this puddle on Nichol Road Trail in Raccoon Creek State Park (Jenny Jean capably took this image), I hadn’t forgotten have much I loved it all. I so appreciated the chance to find Harvester Butterflies or Mourning Cloaks or Eastern Commas or Northern Pearly-Eyes peacefully imbibing mineral-laced moisture from that little puddle. The possibility that I’d find ’em and photograph ’em, and score a Good Image, so excited me.

From Artillery Officer to High School Dean to Errand Runner for ‘Them’ to Husband of an ‘IGC’ Beauty . . . to sitting at several Ivy League graduation ceremonies to shooting Uber rare butterflies on the peak of Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand. Wow!


“I love to go a-wandering, Along the mountain track, And as I go, I love to sing, My Knapsack On My Back.”

I think that we learned that song in 2nd or 3rd grade, singing it often, in Public School 244 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. It intrigues me, that I remember so many of those grade school songs. It may be because they offered release from the usual, from the nearly every day routine, wake, breakfast, walk to school, lunch, walk home, play ball/games with the many, many children on that E. 58th Street, await my Mother’s called for “Dinner,” followed by homework and bed. Nearly everyday the same. Travel back then was unknown, no one claimed to have gone much beyond that East 58th Street.

This image you see here? Total release from the monotony of my earlier life. No more go to work everyday, no more interaction with those only 15% interested in me and mine. No more emotionless conversations and necessary politenesses.

I am Blessed to be where I am, able to bust-out (my lingo) and visit human-less trails, in the homes of beasts, birds and butterflies, snakes, turtles and a world I am only now learning, the world of botany, it so diverse it astounds me.

“I love to go a-wandering, Along the . . .” Raccoon Creek State Park, Hookstown, Pennsylvania, 7,256 miles from Jerusalem, 9,078 miles from Sri Lanka

Jeff, from Urban Boy to Rural/Wilderness Man (Thank Y-u G-d) and here’s the full Scout Song lyrics:

The Happy Wanderer
I love to go a-wandering, 
Along the mountain track, 
And as I go, I love to sing, 
My knapsack on my back. 
My knapsack on my back.

I love to wander by the stream 
That dances in the sun, 
So joyously it calls to me, 
"Come! Join my happy song!"

I wave my hat to all I meet, 
And they wave back to me, 
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet 
From ev'ry green wood tree.

High overhead, the skylarks wing, 
They never rest at home 
But just like me, they love to sing, 
As o'er the world we roam.

Oh, may I go a-wandering 
Until the day I die! 
Oh, may I always laugh and sing, 
Beneath God's clear blue sky!

Evokes, ‘Oh Beautiful, For Spacious Skies. For Amber Waves of Grain, For Purple Mountains . . . . ‘

Earring Series - Blackswallowtail butterflies coupled, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

This is why I photograph butterflies, alot. There are moments that thrill, as when I find a rare butterfly, resplendent in extraordinary color, and itself fresh, just days out of its chrysalis. Unexpected moments when I come upon a butterfly that I’ve shot before, but those earlier exposures just did not satisfy my quest for ever finer images.

Then there are times like this, at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, in Eatonton, Georgia. There I am witnessing, witnessing beauty that just about takes my breathe away! A fresh pair of Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies, both just hours out of chrysalis, coupled together, motionless. The thoughts that run through my head? Many. Splendor in the Grass. ‘Under the Boardwalk.’ Inexplicably, ‘Oh Beautiful, For Spacious Skies, For Amber Waves Of Grain, For Purple Mountains Majesty Above The Fruited Plain, America, America, G-d Shade H-s Grace On Thee . . . . ‘

We have a Presidential Election here in the U.S.A in a few days, and its been unpleasant and full of vitriolic activity. This Swallowtail look? It relaxes me, and reminds that their job is to nurture, conserve and foster the expansion of our American G-d given riches. That’s the job of the President. So many before have neglected that responsibility. Teddy Roosevelt. Didn’t he model such thinking?


The Bronze Copper Club

Bronze Copper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, Pennsylvania

Few of us have even seen a Bronze Copper (Lycaena hyllus) butterfly. Me? Here’s the only one I’ve been able to photograph. I was working the edge of the Wetland Trail pond in Raccoon Creek State Park (Hookstowns Town, Pennsylvania (45 minutes west of Pittsburgh) and examining the Alder bushes that lined the pond.

Whoa! What’s that? I saw it, knew it was a Copper butterfly, but, it was larger than a tiny American Copper. That wide orange border on the underside of its hindwing is what made my ‘Battlestations’ internal alarm go off. I’d never (Yes, never) seen one before, but I was nurturing years of anticipation of seeing one. I made my Patent Pending Robotic approach, began to shoot away, and away it went. Here is my satisfying image.

Glassberg’s A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America notes that Bronze Coppers are LR-LU (Locally Rare-Locally Uncommon). I can verify the validity of that, for in the ensuing years, I’ve only seen 2 of them, and scored zero images to share.

Those of you who have enjoyed meeting a Bronze Copper, meeting this solitary loner of a butterfly, are verifiably Charter Members of the Bronze Copper Club. You’ve worked wetlands much, and seeing a Bronze, the payoff! Upsetting is the real possibility that this pretty butterfly may be steadily decreasing in numbers and in range.

Which of you are Club members?