Erato At The NBC (Mission, Texas)

Erato heliconian butterfly (Dorsal view) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

A beautiful day at the National Butterfly Center (NBC) in Mission, Texas. The extensive perennials beds of the NBC’s gardens and trails were just loaded with butterflies! Most of them, new to me. Battle stations!! The few other people there, that last week in December, 2017 were skilled butterfly folks.

Someone told us, excitedly, that an Erato Heliconian butterfly had been spotted at the head of a nearby trail, in a sunken trench like crevice that runs about 300 feet. Judging from the electricity that that news! dished up, I sped there too, wondering ( I have severe hearing loss in one ear) who would name a butterfly an “Erotic” anything. LOL.

We got there, and two wonderful men showed us where it was. OMG! It was stunning.The black was jet black. The yellow was bright yellow. The red? My red. Lipstick red, the red that always caught my attention back when.

This was a very fresh, screamingly exquisite butterfly. It rested there, for many minutes. It tolerated my robotic approach and remained in pose as I shot away. The lighting was not ideal, subdued. It remained in place as several others photographed it, most with telephoto lenses. It remained there more, and I left, not expecting to see that magnificent butterfly ever again.

I returned some 15 or so minutes later. All of its admirers have gone. I made yet another slow, robotic approach. Good. It remained in place. After some moments, it flew. I watched it my Erato as it flew straight, away along the trail that forms the bottom of the trench. I watched my Erato fly some 150′ in a straight trajectory, no rising and descending (like Monarchs and Zebra heliconians). No twisting and turning( like Satyrs). I was transfixed! Those red bands remained in full sight all of the time. Never did they not reveal.

My conclusion? This Erato heliconian must be toxic. Oh, it’s gotta be. ?. Those red bands surely advise all potent predators, ‘See my red. bands? I am one toxic Erato..’

I left that low-lying trail, heavily in shade, warmly appreciative of this eye opener, product of the D-signer.


The Queen

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

Great News! My images shot in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas are now safely set in my Media Library, and ready to be shared. Six days of introduction after introduction to new, and often rare butterflies.

The last week of 2017 and just miles from the Mexican border, this fine Queen butterfly was one of hundreds that I saw over those 6 days. Something like their closely related Monarch butterflies, Queens prove much more difficult to approach and photograph. They are very aware, skittish and frustrate, for as you settle in for a good one of a fresh Queen, it will leave as you are preparing to set in on your knee for the Macro- capture.

Most of the people that I saw those days seemed oblivious to the Queens. Me? I’d seen them before, but very rarely, and seeing platoons of them was yes, something to behold.

It was work, I tell you, constantly reminding yourself that these are Queens, not Monarchs.

This one on mistflower in the gardens of the National Butterfly Center, Mission Texas. Flight to San Antonio. Four (4) hour drive to McAllen, where we stayed, and those 6 days of beautiful butterflies. Rare ones came out to great me.

And yes, those Queens!


Hairstreaks Teach . . . Respect

Gray Hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 9/21/06

They’ve been good to me, these Yeats have. Hairstreaks? So, so many. Striped hairstreak was my first, seen in Rector, Pennsylvania at Powdermill Reserve (University of Pittsburgh aviary research station). Grays, Banded, Coral, White ‘M,’ Red-banded and Acadian. That’s what I met by the end of 2016.

2017 nicely expanded my Hairstreak list: Edwards hairstreak (Ohio), Clytie Ministreak (National Butterfly Center, Mission, Texas), Tropical Greenstreak (‘The Wall,’ Mission, Texas),Juniper hairstreak (Panola Mountain State Park, Georgia), Dusky-blue Groundstreak (National Butterfly Center) and Gold-bordered hairstreak (‘The Wall).

This 2018 is young still. As able, Oh, how I look forward to combing Ohio, Texas, Georgia and Nevada for hairstreaks and more. Dave enable me to reach out to the Georgia DNR’s folks, and they gave me a strong lead for finding Hessel’s hairstreaks in April. I wish.

That long said, I had to stop and well, admire this image of mine of a very shmeksy! and fresh Gray hairstreak. Now that I am in the big leagues of hairstreak chasers, what’s a fresh, gorgeous Gray mean to . . . me?

Truth be told, more than you’d like, hairstreaks found are not fresh, sporting wings with heavy scale loss (cause dulling of color). So down in the Rio Grande Valley, late December 2017, folks came speeding over when a rare hairstreak was found at ‘The Wall.’ I was there early, and some of them were rare, for sure, but long in the tooth, that is, kind of -worn looking.

Grays, like ours here, are usually seen in find color, fresh, perky and just pookies! They pose, prance on a flowerhead, and just demand that I shoot my Fuji Velvia, not hold back.

Rare, uncommon, OMG! hairstreaks excite, but an excellent Gray hairstreak still demands stop, look and shoot.


The 1,000th Gulf Frit

Gulf fritillary butterfly on Tithonia, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Kathleen, GA

Several hundred. That’s about how many Gulf fritillaries I saw in 2017. The same could be said for 2016 and for 2015. I go all the way back to about 1997, when I saw my first Gulf. I’m in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory smack in the middle of Schenley Park, one of Pittsburgh’s huge city parks. I see it nectaring on one the cultivars, they massed in sizable beds. That was about 21 years ago. ? ? ?

Jeffrey Glassberg has photos of Gulf’s on the front cover and on the back cover of his hot-selling A Swift Guide To Butterflies of North America. Does that not underline how attention getting they are?

This year treat me to at least my 1,000th Gulft fritillary. I have a number of nice images stored in my slide cabinet. Am I finished with Gulfs?

I know that’s a “No.” When a Gulf fritillary flies in, my peripheral vision does a 1/500 of a second scan of its freshness, coloration, wing condition and general vigor. That’s the juice of this wingedbeauty post. Yes, I have some Fine Gulf images . . . but, I am motivated, motivated to improve on them, with a fresher Gulf, sporting knockout white spots on the upper forewings, an almost explosive orange hue, silver spots on the lower hindwing reflecting mega photons of sunlight, a handsome head, sporty antennae and all that in good pose on a likable flowerhead.

So as not to embarrass other butterfly species, I can’t say that I go so readily to ‘battle stations ‘ when most butterflies enter my periphery.

This is a stunning beast, the Gulf fritillary. How do you find them? By visiting a good garden nursery, setting passionflowers into your garden, and some weeks later: Your first Gulf! If she is kind enough to lay eggs on your passion vine, Whoopee!

Kathleen, Georgia, at Mike’s amazing lot.