Red’s Unscheduled Stops

Red Admiral butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.comForget making an appointment to meet a Red Admiral butterfly. They just never show up! It’s futile to think that if you at a certain garden or trail, at a certain time, that you’ll meet up. Does not happen.

This is the butterfly of Unscheduled Stops. Seemingly no itinerary, they make fly in and nectar briefly, ‘though most of the time they disregard your blooms, and if do they show, they land on your garden walk, inspect that all  is as it should be, and are soon gone.

When they do make an appearance, experienced butterfly lovers recognize that immediately, what with those bright reddish-orange stripes crossing each forewing. There’s nothing like  them.

Me? Their name, Vanessa has always transfixed me. Vanessa, such a mystical name. Then my mind goes to that actress whom I have no patience for, Vanessa Redgrave, whose politics leave a bad taste in my mouth. Why did she have to get such an otherwise wild name?

I’ve not seen many Red Admirals this 2017. The last one I saw was in Lynx Prairie Preserve, in Adams County, Ohio. Of course I saw it for moments, as it  promptly left, as is their habit, leaving you abruptly, wondering, “What’s the rush?”

Jeff

Oh Canada!

White Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Toronto, Canada, International. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

It’s been far too long since I’ve seen these beauties! This White Admiral Butterfly wowed! me in that amazing park in the middle of Toronto, Canada. I was there visiting a new friend, and when we went to that mid-sized city park, I saw this tiny path off of the main walk, dropped off into it, and entered a Shanghrai Lai. A pocket meadow filled with common milkweed and other blooms. Wowza! On them were more mourning cloaks then I had ever seen before, as well as other fresh butterflies.

Then this flash of sharp white, and my first ever White Admiral ( Limenitis anthemis a. ). Happy was I to add this to my life List.

These last 3 years have finally, finally brought me new friends, in diverse places, who actually answer my tentative: ‘What’s it like to seek butterflies where you are?’ with “What’s  it like? Why don’t you get your bahookee (hope that’s a civil word) over here and see for yourself!” That’s how I’ve gotten to shoot out Georgia, Ohio and Maryland.

Canada has many butterflies that I have never yet seen, or have seen once, worn and bird struck . . . but no one yet to show me a trail here, a meadow there, a swamp, rocky outcrop, fen or bog ( I hear tell that they have many bogs ).

So I wait. Oh Canada!!!

Jeff

Red Admiral and The Conundrum?

Red Admiral butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

2016 will soon close the month of June. After trips to Israel, Georgia, Maryland and western New York state we settled in to consider what we have seen, and Why? Needing more field time to further our observations, I went to my favorite trail, Nichol Road in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Three mornings spent on Nichol road trail and the adjoining Doak field (meadow of 100 acres +/-) and the conundrum grew.

Six rolls of film (Fuji Velvia slide, ASA 50 and 100) were shot. The average number of rolls of film shot during 3 mornings in the field, between 1998 and 2013, on sunny mornings without wind, would have been 14 to 18. Yes, I am more discerning now, with a solid library of images going back to the mid 1990’s. No, the exposed film product was not because the butterflies I saw were worn, or bird-struck. Most of what I saw was fresh and 100% intact. The single Wood Nymph I met today was especially fresh and beautiful (though not one exposure of that nervous Lep).

When was I out? The mornings of June 22, 24 and 26. Many butterflies I expected to see did not greet me (American coppers, numerous Wood nymphs, Pearl crescents, Duskywings, Skippers (only saw 3 species across 3 mornings), Sulphurs, Ladies, Hairstreaks, Azures, Eastern tailed blues. The only butterfly I saw much of is one that I rarely see, ever, the Northern pearly-eye. I beg your pardon! That tickled my thinking, that 2016 has begun as a footnote year here in this part of the northeast.

The botany? Here were numerous clues. Butterfly weed? Absent. Common milkweed? Scarce and what was there, diminutive. Teasel? Few. Joe Pye weed? Difficult to find. Bergamot, the bergamot that bedazzled me in 2014? Absent. What I did find was a goodly number of a beautiful wildflower, white Beardtongue (Penstemon). Nichol road trail also had an alarming number of Garlic mustard along much of its length.

2016 then is, is certainly a conundrum. The meadows, forests, trail edges and disturbed ground are covered with lush green botany, but populations of butterflies, bees, darners and others are way down. What triggered this stream of consciousness? There was a certain Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), as beautiful as this one, that stayed with me on Nichol road trail this morning, posing patiently, moving as I moved, returning again later, and again, and I wondered was it a female, and I slipped into a wee bit of melancholia, sometimes triggered by butterflies since that day in 2008 . . . .

Closing thought? 2016 on its way to being: a Conundrum.

Jeff

 

The Official Memorial Day Butterfly . . . My Vote?

ZablowButt_First60-26_Lrge

Today is Memorial (Decoration) Day 2016. Many of the interactions I’m seeing are very touching and some are tinged with downright sadness. Many have lost loved ones, who fought with their own blood and life to keep us free. They taught us that in PS 244 in Brooklyn. It stuck. My Dad served in WWII. I served in a 155mm artillery unit in the NYARNG.

As my thoughts circle the gravity of this Day, I remember something I often concentrate on when I’m shooting in the field. I remember several times a year that I want to get a better shot of the underside (ventral) of the wings of Red Admiral butterflies. Opps have been elusive, but I am wired to be on the lookout for more and better.

Why? Because that Red, White and Blue that you see here reminds me of our American flag, which I have alway admired. Red Admirals are fast and wary, and I keep seeking to best this image, which must do . . . for now.

Jeff

NB, This one was nectaring with 100% concentration on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). This year I have about 40 of those Monarch hostplants in my own garden. It’s easy, and it’s so giving, to butterflies, moths, flies, bees . . . and more.