What Do You Want?

Copper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

A friend and butterfly photographer suggested today that I consider revamping my blog goals, and begin chronicling where and when you and I see butterflies, west of the Mississippi River. She pointed out that audiences change and people seek new formats and new sharing.

I chewed on that for some time after. The suggestion went on to ask me to think about becoming more involved with butterfly groups and their web sites. And more. Provocative stuff that. True enough that when we began wingedbeauty.com, we had fewer than 30 “Followers” and we now boast several hundred. I do sometimes recall some early followers, who no longer come and see what we share. Many of the newer followers do not seek to interact or pursue discussion with me, their visits are shorter and I’m not so sure I know what that means.

So, what do you want here? I can tell you that I responded to her at length, with some of my early and ongoing goals. I started photographing butterflies seriously, some 25 years ago. From that time forward, my primary goals were to score and share images of butterflies that were more pleasing to the eye than the photos in the best of the butterfly field guides. I am pleased that I have realized that goal, many times.

I wanted to bring photos of butterflies to people who might not otherwise ever see them, and I really really wanted my captures to look just like the butterflies do in real time, in the field. I spend hundreds of hours each year in wild habitat, and my eyes know what they looked like when I found them. That is the primary reason that I shoot film, Fuji Velvia slide film, ASAS 50 mostly. The color is so true.

My most critical goal is to remind. Remind y’all that the beauty of a fresh butterfly, like this one, met in a meadow bordering the Neve Ativ village, on the slope of mighty Mt. Hermon in the Israeli Golan, far exceeds the best craftsmanship ever to come out of the workshops of Cartier, Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels . . .

G-d fashions these winged beauties, and H-s work is exquisite.

So, then, what do you want when you pay us your visit?

Jeff

Shooting Coppers

Lycaena Thersamon Butterfly Nectaring photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

No, not those coppers back in New York, Jersey, Boston or Chicago. These Coppers, Lycaena Thersamon, fly in Israel. This one is probably the most common Copper in that Part of the HolyLand.

She was in a field, surrounding a village on the slope of Mt. Hermon. There were dozens of them those mornings in March, and she was one of the most stunning of them all.

I have a fondness for Copper butterflies. I’m especially taken by that rich burnt copper hue, and how it plays against the black spots and wing margins.

Israel has 4 HolyLand Coppers, I’ve seen 2 of them. I’d love to return to the peak of Mt. Hermon and find the other 2, they rare and ‘Protected.’ That will have to wait, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) are up there on the top of Mt. Hermon, and have been there for the last handful or so of years, protecting Israel from the carnage that has been going on on the other side, the Syrian side of this 7,000 foot tall mountain.

Jeff

No One Forgets A Bog

Barbara Ann photographed by Jeff Zablow near Allenberg Bog, NY

You have never been in an acid bog. Only 0.03% of us have set foot in these surreal places. Why have so few visited such a sphagnum moss bog? Most of them have been destroyed in the last 200 years. Those that remain are few, far from where we live, and their owners include many organizations that fiercely protect them, by keeping their existence mostly secret, and by not encouraging us to visit them.

Barbara Ann is seen here in Allenberg Bog, a remote sphagnum moss (acid) bog in very western New York. Owned by the Buffalo Audubon Society, it remains very difficult to reach, hidden at the end of an. obscure, poorly marked and challenging trail. Owners of acid bogs own them for good reason: they want to protect them for perpetuity, especially from those who destroy, collect specimens without permission and litter.

Such bogs are heavily acidified over thousands of years, and feature flora and fauna that seek such an extraordinary environment: pitcher plants, cranberry plants, sun dew, Bog Fritillary butterflies and Bog Copper butterflies.

Each step you take in a bog requires that you work, work hard to extricate your boots so you can take the next step, and again sink down 2″ – 4″ in the standing bog water. You usually sink no further, for the ageless sphagnum ‘mat’ just below the surface usually  supports you. One time, at this very same Allenberg Bog, we got a scare, as I crouched to photograph a Bog Copper butterfly, and I began to sink, slowly, but down, down, down!! I will never go to such a bog alone, again, and I will not enter such a bog without a partner and a rope!

Know this, you experience a very calming sensation there, as if you have peacefully reached an interplanetary body, covered with strange plants and strange wildlife. Those thousands of steps you take, each a struggle with the bog’s pull on you, leave your calves exhausted . . . but the butterflies you see there, you’ve never seen before, and likely, will never see them again.

Try to go to an acid bog one day, and really try to get someone like Barbara Ann to go too. Knowledgeable, patient and experienced.

Jeff

The Honor Roll

Dorsal View of Bog Copper Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

I will never forget the thoughtfulness and generosity of those who have invited me to special, sometimes hidden habitat to see and photograph butterflies. Those of you who visit this blog, winged beauty.com are occasionally reminded that you are seeing what only 1 in 126,598 ever get to see. That so pleases me, and helps to drive me forward.

Barbara Ann guided me to this Bog Copper butterfly and a fresh Ringlet butterfly. Rose and Jerry to a bunch of new ones, including the Creole Pearly-Eye, Southern Pearly-Eye and Silvery Checkerspot. Nancy and John to a whole slew of butterflies, the Little Metalmark, Eastern Pygmy Blue, Saltmarsh Skipper, Great Southern White in Georgia and Texas’ Red Rim, Erato Heliconian, Mexican Bluewing, Malachite and at least 18 more lifers. Mike led me to Zebra Heliconians and my first brawl with fire ants. Virginia’s Briar Patch Habitat the fabled Southern version of Viceroy butterflies and Giant Giant Swallowtails. Angela kept the ball rolling with Northern Metalmark butterflies and Edward’s Hairstreaks. Phil straight to that long awaited Gemmed Satyr and Juniper Hairstreak.

These unsung heroes gave us much to cheer. Thank G-d for them, for the big ‘names’ in butterfly conservation and butterfly search remain woefully silent, even these 23 years, plus or minus.

I am thinking in this edgy way, for with 2019 almost upon us, I am frequently daydreaming (again) of butterflies I’d so like to find and greet. I’m working on Mitchell’s Satyrs in Alabama. I’m now booked to return (Yay!!!) to the Lower Rio Grande Valley to explore the National Butterfly Center again (Double Yay!!!), awaiting Angela’s next shout-out for Ohio or the Bruce Peninsula or . . . Friends here in Georgia continue to ask, ‘Have you been to . . . ?’ Washington State happily offers a new friend, who’s familiar with all those northwestern USA butterflies, none of whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

Ask me how much I want to see the Very Very rare continental USA ones? Hermes Copper? Mariposa Copper? King’s Hairstreak? Any of the Alpines? Zilpa Longtail? The Giant Skippers?

Always dreaming . . .

Jeff

Sweet HolyLand Copper

Lycaena Phlaes Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

Almost 4 hours on that wonderful meadow in the full Israeli sun. It was me and lots of blues and copper butterflies, within sight of Mt. Hermon, just at the perimeter of the little village of Neve Ativ. We’re on the slope of the mighty mountain. Many battles were fought here, and now peace reigns, and there are so many Lycaenidae butterflies at hand, that I am careful picking and choosing which to expend film for.

This tiny copper butterfly, Lycaena phlaeas timeus charmed me, and I returned the favor, shooting away, and scoring this sweet capture. Among the bounty I shot that day, reward for sure for driving up the steep, narrow, winding road to get to Neve Aviv. I remember thinking, what would happen if I round the next sharp curve, and suddenly an 18-wheeler is coming the other way! Yes Ma’am that’s exactly what happened next. Don’t like such, and there I was, thankfully on the inside lane, nearly scraping the mountain outcrop to my right!!

The only thing missing that morning, or the other mornings, was Y-O-U.

Jeff