Variegated Fritillary Butterfly in . . . October . . . Seen in . . . ?

Variegated fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Black Water National Wildlife Refuge, MD. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at
This here 2016 has produced many surprises for me. In Georgia, in Maryland, in western New York, in Israel and in My Own Pennsylvania.

Count the biggest surprises, the absence of butterflies I’ve seen here in western Pennsylvania, countered by the wild abundance of butterflies in Georgia.

Elevated we were, sun bright and friendly, as we reached the front fence of our garden. 10/5/16 should not merit a close look at the bed of giant zinnias. It’s too late here for most butterflies, No? On Friday I did see a worn Monarch female at these same zinnias, and yesterday I marveled at a fresh (fresh!) female Gray hairstreak.

So we stopped, and Huh? Do I see what I see? A Variegated fritillary butterfly, just like this one (at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, Maryland). A female I think. Methodically working one zinnia bloom head, and the next and the next. Cech and Tudor’s Butterflies of the East Coast‘s range map shares that in my state they are ‘scarce/seasonal range.’ They report that there is evidence of limited overwintering, probably as adults.

Will her days end in Pennsylvania, USA, as the days grow colder? Will she find a crevice in a local park tree, and endure our zero degree winter days?

Finally, I just returned from Georgia, and saw many Variegated frits in the Butterflies & Blooms Habitat in Eatonton. Oh, are they difficult to photograph! My 52 rolls of slides just arrived today, courtesy of FedEx. Who knows if I will have a single Variegated image that qualifies as a  . . . keeper.

But just an hour ago, on my own October surprise giant zinnias, there was this southeastern winged beauty, though Petra truth be told, paid no attention.


Regal Fritillaries Mating

Mating Regal Fritillary Butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

What has disappeared from 99.6% of their original range? They have. Regal Fritillary Butterflies no longer are found in the 16 east coast U.S. states, with the exception of one colony in Pennsylvania and a semi-secret colony in Virginia. Gone from their grasslands, gone from their wet swales and gone from their boggy wetlands. Gone.

Last year I jumped at the opportunity to visit the Pennsylvania colony, not too far from the state capitol, Harrisburg. I have posted images from that day on wingedbeauty. They have generated solid traffic, for many know how rare Speyeria idalia is. Unable to skip work or responsibilities, so many of us can’t visit endangered butterflies, time does not allow.

I went in June 2015. Wanted to see them for more than 14 years. I went to this military reservation, Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, joined the huge group (130 guests!), and, and, it was wonderful. Just wonderful. Regals flew here, and there, and there, and here. The grassland (meadow!) was huge, and the large group began to break up, until I was alone with another guest, and a naturalist on the Post’s wildlife management staff.

Here is an image I was thrilled to capture. A male and female mating, coupled together in silent, motionless bond. Their ventral white spots shone. I shot away, Happy boy! was I, almost alone with Regals, beautiful butterflies whose ancestors flew from Maine to North Carolina, and are now counted as the rarest of the rare.

Blessed was I to go, to see, and as here, to share poignant evidence that we are not doing the best we can, with what we have been given. Native Americans? Their lands? Heck, the entire land mass that is the United States. Regal fritillary butterflies? Down to 0.4% of their native habitat.

I share a coupled pair of Regal fritillary butterflies with you. Will your grandchildren be able to go see them, and share their images of Regals?


Regal Fritillary – My Proprietary Image

Regal Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

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?


Back to Phoebe!

Melitaea Phoebe butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

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.