Coupled Great Spangled Fritillaries

Coupled Great Spangled Fritillary Butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow at Kamama Prairie Reserve, Ohio

Amidst the  excitement of dozens of Northern Metalmark butterflies, Monarchs, Edwards Hairstreaks, Coral Hairstreaks and Great Spangled Fritillaries, Kamama Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio dished up this thriller!

A pair of Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies, enthralled in tight embrace. Thousands of hours in the field, for me, and perhaps the 3rd time I’ve seen such a sight. They flew on my initial approach, locked in their kind of embace, and flew again on my next approach. Came my  persistent 3rd crouch, they kind of gave up, and tolerated my bad manners.

Large fritillaries, in a verdant prairie habitat, greener than green, they both looking fine, and robustly completing their respective missions.

A morning to remember in a very southern Ohio prairie. A moving experience for me, embedded in the lush life pool poured by the Creator.


Hunting Fritillaries in the HolyLand

Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Iron Falls, Metullah, Israel

Way, way up at the northern edge of the Galilee, I stood there looking at Lebanon. Hostile now, with the historic Lebanese at the mercy of the deeply entrenched Hezbollah hordes. Sad that, looking at a once peaceful, prosperous country overrun with terrorists, who boast, get this, that they have “100,000 rockets.” The boast of modern barbaric.

Yes, it was sunny and beautiful, and the war toys of those primitives remained in their storehouses. Good. I was in Metullah to see rare fritillary butterflies. Saw none in Metullah, and left there to visit Iron Falls, a park just outside the town.

Drove the few minutes to Iron Falls. Parked and worked the trails and agricultural field edges. I can’t say that I saw much to get excited about. The falls were spectacular, and it is amazing to see real water falls in the arid Middle East. Mt. Hermon did still have some snow cover, and the Galilee and Golan were awash in the product of the slow melt on Hermon.

4% discouraged, I headed to my Hertz rental car in the parking lot. Stopping at park benches that surround the lot, I took out one of my beloved Coca Loca bars, and 2 bites in, What!! I watched a sizable butterfly fly toward the picnic tables and descend down to the ground near me. Battlestations! A fritillary. Which one? One of the rare, protected species of frits? Would this day’s jaunt be a home run and a major success?

I slowly left my bench, protected my Coca Loca’s last couple of bites, and robotically approached the fritillary. It stayed at its spot. I carefully went knee down. The butterfly tolerated that. I shot Fuji ASA 50 slide film exposure after exposure. Some 13 or so exposures later, my heroic fritillary butterfly took off, as a rocket, and was gone.

Is this one of the protected, rare fritillaries found only in the northern Galilee and Golan? I am working to determine that!


Setting the Table for the Kids

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

Our great grandkids? The awful news that washes over our radios, televisions, iPhones and well, some time ago, our newspapers, does every once in a while trigger thoughts of How’re We Doing? Here in the USA, there in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, that tiny miscreant, North Korea? Some of us bite the bait, so to speak, and get caught up in a media malaise.

Wonderfully, those who come visit here, come to see, are the folks who largely deny that unpleasant ‘blanket’ of melancholy to settle over our heads. We look for beauty, wonder, awe, excitement, the thrill of the discovery, and the bounty of the Cr-ator.

We regrettably do have concerns. One that heads the list for me, and  perhaps for you, is what will we be providing for our grandchildren and great grandchildren? I’m now reading Travels of William Bartram, edited by Mark Van Doren . . . ‘an unabridged edition of this classic with all 13 original illustrations’ (Dover Publications, NY 1955, first published in 1928). It is the full account of British botanist Bartram, as he scoured Florida and Georgia, shortly after America’s Independence, seeking useful botany. It is Amazing! 99.899% of America was undeveloped then, and the natural landscape was Rich in life, all kinds of life.

Now, when I walk through Frick Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and search its 900 +/- acres, I cannot escape the reality, that more than 70% of the botany that I see is . . . alien. And the fauna? Where is that carrier pigeon, the cougar, rattlesnakes, and that brings us here, to this view of a pair of mating Regal Fritillary butterflies. They used to fly in Frick. They used to fly from southern Maine to the Florida Panhandle ( corrections would be more than welcome ). Gone from the states that stack themselves Maine to the north and Florida to the south. Fact is, this huge meadow in central Pennsylvania is the only place that they still can be found. Omg! Only a few hundred Regals, in those what, 15 states?

So, we share this graceful, important image, of sheer fragility. What table are we Americans setting for our grandkids and great grandkids, as we continue the rush to build, develop, and bulldoze?




The Middle Class Butterfly

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14

We saw dozens and dozens of Great Spangled Fritillaries last week in Adams County, Ohio. Just miles north of the Ohio/Kentucky border, they were just super! to watch. Butterflyweed was in full bloom, as were Black eyed susan, common milkweed, clover and just a menu of other native wildflowers. The vast majority of Great spangleds were totally fresh, few bird struck. Why, I asked of my new friends, were so few of these large frits bird struck? Largely because those open prairies were way too risky for birds to enter, what with so much open space, and the ever present danger of raptors, waiting along the treeline for hapless birds.

See, I noticed that my fellow hikers, determined to see orchids, wildflowers, butterflies and mushrooms took little note of this flight of Great spangleds. They went almost unnoticed. Several times over those 3 days I  mulled over this. Especially gorgeous Great spangled fritillaries were mostly invisible to my trail companions. They, like this instant one, treated the eyes, and really encouraged, for they were many, they were Fine! and that’s a good omen for this county, this part of Ohio.

It struck me then, that like red-spotted purple butterflies, and pearl crescents, and eastern-tailed blue butterflies, great spangled fritillaries were the ‘middle class’ of the eastern U.S. butterflies. That is, they largely get little attention and usually go unnoticed. We move right by them, not even breaking stride. We heed them not, and we don’t register that our hike past them will upset them and send them aloft.

Like us, they are beautiful, and at the same time, no light, no action, no cameras, no media, well just about like us, awake, get going, eat, work, and return to roost at the end of the day, with nary a compliment, and surely no  one to tell  us how good we look, how much we are appreciated, or how much our presence makes a whole lot of difference. ID one nearby as an Aphrodite Fritillary, and all come running, running past Great Spangled, as if the didn’t exist.

Great Spangled Fritillaries, the middle class butterfly.