Searching For Rare Botany

Barbara Ann Case, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Meadow in New York

She was methodically searching the grasses and sedges that surrounded the Tamarack Shagnum Moss Bog, looking for rare, hard-to-find plants. Barbara Ann Case (A”H) passed this year, and we’ve lost a naturalist who loves to seek rare and beautiful wildflowers, orchids, ephemerals, ferns and more.

This was at that magical acid bog that we’ve posted about recently, secluded in far western New York, near Frewsburg. Where was I? The bog open water begins just beyond the foreground of this photo. Me? I’m searching too, at the bog pond’s edge, looking for Bog Copper butterflies. Their single flight a year coincides with the appearance of the dwarf Blueberry bushes upon which they will lay their eggs. When the blueberry bushes grow, the Bog Coppers eclose. To ever see them, you must visit a bog like this one, at the correct time, remembering that Bog Coppers fly no more than 3 weeks each year.

The Pitchers plants and Sun Dew plants there fascinate me, they do. The high acidity of the bog, the result of its Sphagnum Moss and other acid-rich botany, insure that the bog continues unspoiled. Few plants and animals can tolerate, nor do they enjoy the extreme acidity.

That same acidity, and its fabled reputation for preserving whatever drops into it, causes your mind to create strange daydreams of what may be down in its depths, preserved in nearly mummified state for what, 500 years? 1,000 years? 2,000 years?

Wow! stuff, and the very same reason that such a bog should not be visited alone, for if G-d Forbid one fell in, and sank down, would it take 250 years for you to be . . . ?

Jeff

Copper Butterfly 10 Minutes From Caeseria

Copper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

This is the genre of thinking that I do when I’m photographing butterflies in Israel, the HolyLand. This Copper butterfly, so beautiful of wing, is the same that the ancient conquerers saw when they traveled to Israel those thousands of years ago. Aaron saw them, Jesus saw them, King David saw them and Jabotinsky saw them. Mishmarot, some 10 minutes from the Mediterranean Sea.

This is the kind of thinking that excites me as I get down to see such a tiny butterfly closely, and realize, those who we revere and celebrate saw what I see!

Wow!

Jeff

Memories of Barbara Ann Case & Allenberg Bog

Barbara Ann Case, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

We lost Barbara Ann Case weeks ago. Her struggles with getting her much needed liver transplant and probably more have left the Jamestown-Freswburg New York region without one of their most gifted naturalists, and surely one of their top native orchid experts.

I’d driven up to Frewsburg in far western New York State several times, to explore Allenberg, Akeley Swamp and other excellent preserves/reserves. She had the eyes of an eagle when it came to spotting and examining wild orchids, ephemerals and wildflowers. Best of all, she shared her knowledge happily, and immediately let me know when she spotted a less than common butterfly here or there.

Seen here are Allenberg Bog, I now understand how much effort she had to expend to make that 3/4 mile hike on primitive trail to reach the Bog. Those several stops to rest evidenced her heroic effort to get to where you see her here, the edge of the ancient sphagnum moss bog, she amidst a sea of native bog blueberry. Me? I was totally ecstatic, closer to the bog open pond, seeing and shooting the very rare Bog Copper butterflies that only live at acid bogs with those tiny blueberry plants, and only fly when the berries are about.

I cannot soon forget how reticent the Buffalo Audubon Society (it’s correct name?) was to give her access to this, their owned Bog. We got lost many times trying to follow the mostly unmarked trail, they probably wanting to discourage visitors to this gem of a bog. Barbara Ann struggling to cover the rough trail, and we getting lost time and time again until we found the bog.

Had the Buffalo folks only known how gifted this woman was, how much she loved this, and how much of a challenge, physical, it was for her to make the hike, ending with me sharing images of this unique place, with those here there and literally everywhere.

Jeff

Female Bog Copper Butterfly

Female Bog Copper butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

This sweet image of a rare cranberry bog butterfly, the Bog Copper was a real rush (translation: major joy) for me. It looked like she’d flown for more than one week, yet her black wing spots remained strong and distinct.

Visiting a true bog is a hard to forget experience. The footing is scary, the thought of you sinking down, way down, is well, concerning. They are usually much north of where you live, and the flora and fauna there evoke the feeling that it is actually 1,000 years ago, and nothing has changed, except . . ., that you are there, in that very bog.

I was there with Barbara Ann Case, not too far from her home in Frewsburg, New York. This was Allenberg Bog, owned by the Niagra Audubon Society. Barbara Ann’s passing continues to upset me. She introduced me to this cranberry bog, and that was typical of her desire to share her knowledge.

Jeff

Elvis?

Coupled Copper Butterflies IV photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

In that sweet meadow on the slope of Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand. Surrounded by billions of these tiny yellow blooms. The Israeli sun has our middle morning at a comfortable 84 Fahrenheit, and I am poised at these Copper butterflies. Lycaena thersamon, he on the left.

They’re near motionless for more than 1/2 of an hour.

Me? I’m shooting away. What am I thinking? Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender:  Love me tender, love me sweet, Never let me go, You have made my life complete, And I love you so . . .

We know that our minds flourish when we are out there, searching . . .

Jeff