Butterflies have so enriched my life, so bolstered me when I needed reassurance that I was who I wanted to be. Frieda’s Passing A”H, betrayal in business, enduring many life threatening situations, serving as an artillery officer when ‘Nam got boiling hot, raising children of much accomplishment . . . so much happened, and these last decades found a way to continue to be me, the street kid from Brooklyn whom few have understood, truth be told. It’s difficult to bring folks to understand who you are, isn’t it?
Searching for butterflies is a joy for me, and, when I find very rare butterflies, on difficult to work mountain tops, that joy is sweet, so very sweet. That’s how it was when I met this fritillary butterfly. I was on the peak of Mt. Hermon, a biblical mountaintop at the very northern border of Israel.
I went there knowing that more than 12 butterflies were found only on Mt. Hermon. I knew that fritillaries were among those preciously rare butterfly species. When Eran and I found this fresh Melitaea Persia montium, I was so so so excited. I just knew that we’d found a butterfly that few had ever seen, it flying only on the peak of this 7,000 foot mountain.
The late morning heat was burning (at least 93 in full Middle Eastern sun, the Hermon peak with desert like humidity), other butterflies had been very difficult to approach, that land mine that Eran found, in an area I was heading toward and the realization, gnawing in my mind, that this could be my one and only trip here for a long time (lifetime?) . . . all caused me to SOOOO plead with G-d that this OMG! butterfly enable/allow me to score images of it.
Today? I checked again and Google continues to include this image, when you or any of the world’s 6.9 Billion folks Google M. Persia Montium. That lites my fire. Yes it does.
I thought and thought and thought about what it is that I’m seeking to do with butterflies? I fashioned a goal, among a handful of other goals.
I decided. I wanted, want to score images as good as or better than those found in the most heavily used butterfly field guides. No, I never intended to have a Big Year, and rush around the United States, finding nearly all of the butterflies native. I do continue to work to get images, images better and better than those that I now have in our Media Library, and those stored in my slide cabinets.
A male Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly, shot in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. I am very pleased with this image. It is not Photoshopped, I never do such. It was shot with Fuji Velvia ASA 50 film.
As always, I urge you to provide us your Feedback. You are interested in butterflies, for you’re here. What does this one do for you?
I was working that long neglected field in Israel, the HolyLand. Mishmarot, a one-time Kibbutz north of Tel-Aviv, and 10 minutes east of the Mediterranean Sea. I knew that in the coming years, homes would be built right here, but for now, it was a moderately ‘disturbed’ field, and wildflowers had nearly reclaimed it.
My daughter’s house, where I was staying, was just a 5 minutes walk away, enabling me to get to this field early, well before the very hot Middle Eastern sun would be overhead. When I began working the edge of the field, what did I see?
There, resting on a dried flowerstalk, was a fresh, colorful Melitaea Phoebe butterfly. I’ve seen many of them before, nearly all when they were worn, with substantial scale (color) loss. This one had recently eclosed and retained all of its scales. Would it tolerate my slow, robotic, slow approach. I shoot Macro- requiring that I carefully descend to rest on the kneepad on my left knee, and slower than slowly bring my lens up to shoot.
I did my best, and thankfully this fritillary of the Middle East remained in place! What a Thrill! How energized I was, knowing that the 35- or so exposures that I got would probably include a good image!
Years and years went by before this day. The day I finally, after much effort on my part to see them, finally met them. Where was this? Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, not far from the capitol of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. NABA totally rebuffed my requests, then the Ft. Indiantown Gap Reservation’s annual June limited access program let me meet them. Yes, I’m still displeased that I had to wait so long . . .
I’m still puzzled, though. 200 years ago, Regal Fritillary Butterflies still flew within walking distance of my childhood home in Brooklyn, New York City. Today, they no longer can be found in 99.999% of their former range east of the U.S.’s Mississippi River. They fly only here where you see this one, and I’m told, on another military reservation in that state of Virginia.
They prefer rich meadows, full of the Butterflyweed you see here, and Common Milkweed. What bothers me is the total absence of any explanation for their disappearance from their historical ranges. Our cell phones amaze, our computers are incredibly advanced, our car and planes would not be believed by folks just 20 years ago. Our universities all have incredibly advanced research capability and our organizations, like the aforementioned National Butterfly Association and Xerces and the National Audubon Society, etc. urge their membership to do more and more.
Why has no one offered an explanaton for the disappearance of the Regal Fritillary butterfly from my old East Flatbush neighborhood? From the entire state of New York? New Jersey? Maryland? Virginia? West Virginia? North Carolina? South Carolina? Tennessee? Georgia, my home now? Why?
A response of a single word,’Development’ isn’t enough, anymore.
Many of us know the beauty of a fresh Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly. When I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I’d go to Nichol Field, their 100+ acre meadow. On those summer mornings I’d often see dozens of Great Spangled Fritillaries, in that amazing meadow. I’d sometimes see Ranger Patrick Adams those mornings, and I’d congratulate him on nurturing such a glorious meadow at Raccoon Creek State Park.
Every once in a while, when I would wade into the chest high grass there, I’d spy a smaller, different Fritillary butterfly. It flew in an almost awkward manner, flew low, and I’d become electrified! A Meadow Fritillary butterfly! Here’s one that cooperated, stopping to nectar while I shot away.
Seeing a Meadow Fritillary was exciting, for others were bemoaning the increasing absence of Meadow Frits. Jeffrey Glassberg in A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America noted an “expanding range in some areas while disappearing from others.” He sure was correct, for they seem to have become much less common in western Pennsylvania.