Every quality butterfly field guide for the United States includes images of Speyeria idalia, the Regal fritillary butterfly. Some guides used their own images. Some sought permission from photographers and then credited photos. Years passed by, and Jeffrey wanted to meet this rare of rare butterflies, and capture good images of them, males and females.
I learned that their site would be open for 4 days in June 2015. I immediately made a reservation, and weeks later there I was at Fort Indiantown Gap military reservation in Lebanon county, Pennsylvania. If you’re planning on driving, it’s just east of our state capitol in Harrisburg.
And I am tickled pink that I did! Hundreds of years ago they flew within ½ miles of my East Flatbush street in Brooklyn. Not anymore, though. Regal Frits are gone from New York, gone from Massachusetts , gone from Virginia, and gone from West Virginia! Why? you ask? I do not know the answer to that.
The day I went rain was predicted, and instead I got a full day of sun. It was a day that I met, and approached the Regals. They allowed approach when they were sipping nectar on Butterfly weed. Sometimes they permitted me to come within 24 inches of their royal presence. I even followed a mated pair off the trail. You can see that photograph in an earlier post.
My proprietary image is one of the others that I have posted here. It was sunny with no wind. The butterflies were poised and many were fresh. I was thankful to be there, savoring those moments. That was good, very good. That was in 2015. What will we see this year, 2016?
In the Run-up to my flight on February 23rd, let’s share this reminisce. He was perched on this dried twig with the 8:00 A.M. morning sun warming him up. The nights in Israel are cool, and he needed to warm up before he could fly off at a safe speed. In a field at Mishmarot, a field now destined for development, he was a 5 minute walk from my daughter’s home. This butterfly was fresh, proud and self-confident: a buster.
Melitaea phoebe telona is a common Israeli fritillary, and flies over much of Israel from Mt. Hermon south to the Negev. I expect to see Phoebes again. My objectives include field work along the Mediterranean coast near Haifa (butterflies and orchids), in the uppermost Galilee region (right up along the testy border with Lebanon), and in the middle of the Golan region (in and around Yom Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)). Posts of several FB friends have reminded me that I will be in and around many places cherished by Jews as well as places beloved by Christians. With air fares unusually low at the moment, I still could not entice a single FB stalwart to meet me there.
I will be careful, I will not autograph the signs at the Lebanese (Hezbollah) border or the Syrian border. (Syrian regulars, Iranian forces, ISIS, al Queda, Hezbollah, Russians, and ???) I promise.
I could see this Phoebe’s grandkids. Actually I tabbed quite a few butterflies there I’ve not yet met, so there’s lots to get done.
Like her mother, Rachel’s a terrific cook. Hertz will be the rental, and I have my Cocoa Loco bars packed, for field snacks.
I will not be posting until I return in late March. Will be missing the run-up to the RNC/DNC conventions, so I leave that to y’all to get right.
Watching the Jeopardy College Championship Episodes on TV came to mind as I examined this photograph of a Regal fritillary butterfly, taken on June 10, 2015. Jeopardy often asks their contestants questions about British royalty. I’m impressed that when asked, the college kids responded.
In the United States we don’t have our own royalty. We did better than that with George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. We do keep an eye out for British royalty. We missed Princess Di and the young gallivanting princes, as well as her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. As far as we know none who frequent wingedbeauty have ever met royalty, have you?
Reduced to a single site east of the Mississippi River, our Regal fritillary butterflies are so few in number, that these Regals have become our own butterfly royalty. This male here, a hunk, lives with his species mates in a very extensive meadow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, guarded and patrolled by the U.S. Armed Forces.
I met this butterfly and many of his royal entourage at the Fort. As expected, I was thrilled to do so. How many of you have been so fortunate? Thank goodness for this military post, and its role in stopping the extirpation of this gorgeous butterfly.
Occasionally, in conversation with other butterfly fans, we ask, as if we were 7-year olds, Why aren’t more people interested in seeing and conserving butterflies? All of us are capable thinkers, and rarely are we able to respond to that one, to our own satisfaction. Such is life . . .
How many of you have ever seen this super rare butterfly? Regal fritillaries exist east of the Mississippi River because they are protected. Yes, protected by the U.S. armed forces, on a military base. Their prairie/meadow habitat has been so heavily developed, that the only safe haven left is smack dab in the middle of Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reserve, Pennsylvania.
When I heard that I could go there, with the invite of the Army post, I went. Thrilled, I was! to see this butterfly, and many other Regals.
If we, Americans, manage to maintain our heads, and keep this U.S. of A. strong and healthy, we will protect the Regals, our sanity and the home that we’ve worked to build for all of us.
I’m speaking for our butterflies, our neighbors, and our children and grandchildren.