Salute to the Red Admiral

Red Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Red Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

I’ve seen them everywhere I traveled to this 2016. Southwestern Pennsylvania, western New York State, northwestern Pennsylvania, the Maryland Shore (mid-shore and lower shore), the Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia, Rock Hawk in Eatonton, Georgia as well as Monroe, Georgia, Athens Georgia and the fabulous islands of the Georgia coast: Skidaway Island, Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island, and in unforgettable Shellman Bluff, Georgia.

If all works out, I look forward to seeing them in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area near Perry, Florida, the Florida Panhandle.

In this year where much of the USA East has a dearth of butterflies, the Red Admiral has joined me, everywhere I went! Preoccupied with the search, it’s . . . Battle Stations!! when the stark beauty of a red admiral flies in. Another battle ensues, your mind knows you have some wonderful images of them in your slide cabinet, but, but, your heart differs, urging, go ahead, it’s spectacular!

Vanessa atalanta thrills above and below. Below, not shown here, flashes that set of colors that trigger adrenaline flow, red, white and blue one against the other. My mind accelerates back to P.S. 244 in Brooklyn, where the installation of patriotism was fixed in my heart.

I kid you not.

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.

A Conversation Stopper . . . On Dry Land

White Admiral Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at State Gamelands #29, NY

The trail from Chapman State Park to State Game Lands #29 offered up few butterflies. That’s until I startled a . . . White Admiral (Limenitis Arthemis). I had not seen one for many years. ‘For may years’ because my field work rarely takes me north of Pittsburgh, and these beauts are most common to our north.

Took the requisite moment to stare, and then began a long, relentless effort to photograph them. White admiral descends onto trail (slightly moist after rain a few days before), I make a robotic approach (necessary for I shoot macro-, and need to ideally be within 2 feet of butterfly) and . . . it flees, fast, into trailside cover. This was repeated over and over, with the 5 or so that were present along about 90 feet of trail. I never gave up and they usually returned within a handful of minutes.

These Limenitis are closely related to Red-spotted Purples and also to Viceroys. They are exquisite, sporting blue, white, black and reddish-orange, all stark and tightly grouped.

Meeting White Admirals on this trail in northwestern Pennsylvania is electrifying, for the next ½ hour, that’s all you think of, not pressures, tensions, bills to pay, family issues, politics, ISIS – all washes out, as you appreciate the artistry of this butterfly.

Jeff