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

Scoring The Tinies

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

Two hours had gone by. I’d worked and reworked that meadow at the edge of the little moshav (village) on the slope of mighty Mt. Hermon. Mostly I was seeing blue butterflies and copper butterflies. Most were common and found throughout the northern half of Israel. A few were rare, protected butterflies, they much appreciated and good for pumping the waning adrenaline.

The coppers were a fresh flight. That brought me to thinking that it would be neat if that 2017 morning I might find a mater pair of coppers. Its way uncanny, that there have been times, especially in the HolyLand, when I asked G-d to roll out this or that butterfly for me . . . and I guess, my plea is heard, for sure enough, out it comes. Honest.

Think as you will, just minutes later, this exquisite pair of Copper butterflies, right there, coupled tighter on this tiny, Golan bloom. They seemed indifferent to my Macro- approach. Two lovers, each smaller than my pinkie finger nail, locked together, purposefully. He on the left, she to your right. They were still there a bit later, not having moved much.

I shot dozens of exposures. I wanted alot. What think you? What does this image stoke in your mind?

Jeff

Pithy Quotes & Coppers

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

I wanted these images, wanted them a lot. More than for the obvious reasons: memorable shots on the slope of Mount Hermon, mentioned in the Old Testament, coupled butterflies make for good blog traffic, etc.

I wanted a look like this for it provokes me, and I hoped it would do so for you. The wonderment here is near infinite. The sheer beauty, challenging, even for this blog writer, who usually is able to express.

They are both fresh Copper butterflies, he at your left, she boldly displaying her rich color, pattern and form, they not only in the HolyLand, Israel, but dramatically in a little meadow in the uppermost Golan. Hey, in my lifetime, their ancestors were in the middle of a fierce war zone, not just one time in your lifetime, but several times in the 20th century. They are just a handful of miles or so from Syrian troops, Russian ‘advisors,’ Hezbollah legions (terrorists), Iranian regular and irregular (terrorists) soldiers, Syrian ‘Rebels,’ North Korean ‘Advisors,’ U.S. personnel . . . All that and these Coppers fly undaunted.

Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Roger Tor Peterson, Robert Michael Pyle and Johnny Cash would all have coined poignant and forever beloved thoughts, on seeing this. I have no doubt.

Me? I am not known for shared book worthy thoughts of great moment. I am known for suggesting, and this image suggests the bottomless beauty and great substance of G-d’s incredible creations.

Jeff