Marcie and the Tawny

Tawny Hackberry butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Marcie’s Facebook shared today was bubbling with excitement! There it was, the first Tawny Emperor butterfly that she ever saw in her active South Carolina garden. She had a beauty of a Tawny, and I made sure to stoke her enthusiasm, or at least hope I did. That led me to remembering Caron’s request last week. She asked that I, having seen her 5 ‘favorite’ images, come back with my 5 favs.

When Marcie offered up her Tawny, I realized that I too had a Tawny Emperor image that I loved, and that might well have been included in Jeff’s 5 favorites images.

This is it. When I saw this other worldly magnificent, it was resting in the weak sun of the early morning, on a trail marker post. I’d never seen one before, and me? I thought this was one of the most beautiful creatures I’d ever seen. I shot away, and maybe some 45 exposures later (film) have forever since loved this one.

It rests, well framed (museum glass) on the wall at the dining room table. I secured hand written calligraphy, done by a well remembered, and widely revered Rabbi. At my urging, in a beautiful Hebrew hand, he wrote a thought taken from the morning prayers, roughly meaning ‘How beautiful are G-d’s creations.’

Found wherever there’s a hackberry trees nearby, from New Hampshire to Florida, from Arizona to Wisconsin, give or take.

When I was flourishing in real estate in the ’80’s, I Loved to shop in upscale men’s stores in NYNY, and my favorites were brown hats, suits and brown shoes.

I have a real fondness for this image. Marcie and Caron evoked that, they did.


8 Out of 6,000 Get to See a Pavon Emperor Butterfly

Pavon Emperor Butterfly on the left and Queen Butterfly on the right photographed by Jeff Zablow at Bensten State Park, Mission, TX

December 2017, and I am finally at Bensten State Park in Mission Texas. Just some two miles or less from the infamous Mexican border. We’d been seeing rare, exquisite butterflies every day now. I am so thankful for this exciting tour of G-d’s Special WingedBeauty Collection.

A busy State Park, perhaps 300 or more people visit on any sunny day. It’s 80F plus in December!.

John has eagle eyes, and motioned for me to look up into a tree off the path. What? What’s that John? A Pavon Emperor Butterfly, seen here in the left margin of this image. She was lazily nectaring on those tree flowers.

Maybe, just maybe one Pavon Emperor is seen there, a month. Some 8 or fewer folks might note it, and stop to stare and gawk.

Jeff, flew some 1,500 miles to see butterflies, and saw one that only 8 of 6,000 might see in a month! Yippee!


Why? Asked A Photographer of Butterflies.

Tawny Hackberry butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Fond? Not strong enough. Really like? Not that either. This image evokes stronger for me, Love. I love this Tawny Emperor butterfly image. Comes the question, why? Why too, in a ‘Media library’ of more than 700 images, do a very few of them earn the ‘Love’ sentiment?

Seek/chase/search/scour habitat for butterflies, and you will be skunked (disappointed) much. It may rain when you reach your destination, or it may be too dry, hot, or devoid of critical hostplants or those very same hostplants may be set in a place that butterflies just don’t go to. It may be too windy, or bad weather may be on its way, and I often wonder if butterflies don’t pre-sense that. All this to understand that when we score a unique image, all of these negatives have not deterred.

Tawny emperors are not common, not usually encountered. The closely related Hackberry emperor is common. This particular Tawny was the first I had ever seen, what friends would call a ‘Lifer.’ That on that morning I shot out at least 40 or more exposures, reminds of how much I wanted to leave there with good stuff. Uncommon butterfly, sweet image = another reason that I ‘Love’ this image.

Aspects of the image? Fresh, fresh individual, with good color capture. Eye-friendly background (green leaves, blurred by the work of my Macro- lens (100mm/2.8 Canon). Near universal fine share of wings, body, head, eyes, antennae. To this add that this Tawny was comfortably sitting on the horizontal member of a wooden trail marker at Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Butterfly perched at a tantalizing angle with reference to that hardwood platform adds to the eye-fascination I have always had for this look.

Personal affinities? I love browns, and this is a study of browns. I have always thought that those 4 wings look way oversize, as if this flier could barely rise from the board (after it decided that more 40+ captures were enough, it shot away at shocking speed, in a direct path, some 5 feet or so off the ground). The near mystical. Had I arrived minutes before, or minutes later, I would Never have met this comely beauty. To that add that Miriam and others whom I admire have generously praised this photo, and well, that pleases me, alot.

A brief discussion of why? from someone who thinks about this, once again, alot.


Jeff’s Believe It Or Not

Hiker with Emperor butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

What a near perfect morning. I was there on Nichol Road Trail at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania (see our New Destinatons feature for more about this superb trail). Got there early, and conditions were perfect: sun, just the right temperature, and recent rains left the little creek flowing, no wind, all just right for butterflies.

The best of all? No hikers or horseback riders on the trail, to jeopardize my good butterfly looks that morning. And the butterflies were diverse, fresh and aloft. Good, very good.

Suddenly, along came 3 people, talking animatedly, walking with bouncy, buoyant gait. Two men and a woman. Well, OK, if I ever see people on this trail, on horseback or not, they almost never do more than say ‘Hi.’ They almost never divert me from my search for butterflies on this wonderful stretch of trail, that has been kind to me since 1995.

They greeted me, and they we’re curious, I guess. What, when, why, where, how. And, they were interesting, very. They were a married couple and a visiting friend. The couple had moved not too long ago from Virginia, to a homestead nearby, and they have established an organic truck farm. The 4 of us were enjoying sharing, and I must say, I decided to relax that little voice in me, telling me to get back to this morning’s burgeoning opportunities. I decided to enjoy these folks, so upbeat, so universal and so interested in all and whatever.

Then it happened! . . . . A Hackberry Emperor butterfly flew in from ? and landed on the woman. You see where he landed. Now the men were clothed as I, fully with long sleeves and long pants. She was dressed to be cool and comfortable in this 85F degree weather.

Now all 3 of my new acquaintances were buzzed by this buster of an Emperor. They wasted not a millionth of a second, insisting I capture this magical moment! I just as fast explained that I was shooting Macro-, and could only get this by a close-up shot. Me? I’m say traditional, they, for sure are Hip! (I managed property in SoHo and the East Village and Chelsea in NYNY = my creds for ID’ing cool folk). They pleaded, that I not hesitate, Get this surreal moment on film!

So I move in, feeling kind of ??? And I shot away. Both were worthy of the camera lens. Sometimes the trail provides real Believe It Or Not Moments. They, pleased, wished me well, and hiked on. I stood there, wondering what to do with the images, if any of them merited saving.