All those Spots, Cells, Dashes and Lines– Strymon melinus!

Gray Hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 9/21/06

Me too. I simply, almost, cannot wait to get out into the field again, and find and photograph butterflies. That last trip, December 21 through December 28th, left me almost, speechless. The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Texas!

Butterflies, one new one after another. From those common to that area (all new to me) to those hardly ever seen there (also new to me), it was all that I had been reading and hearing about for these last decades. When? Well they are now at Rewind Memories in Pittsburgh, and Katie is scanning them for me, and soon, we will together amaze over Tropical leafwings, Erato heliconians, Red-rimmeds, Tropical green streaks, Mexican fritillaries and Malachites.

This is the time for us to reflect. Studying this Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), I concentrated on a push me – pull you of photographing butterflies. I have seen many, many Grays in these last, What?, 25 years. Each and every time I see one of these solitary butterflies, you would think that I’d not take the 2 seconds to stop and have a look. Don’t I already have a fine library of them in my Neumade slide cabinet? I do. Happily I do.

Then why do I linger longer when I come across a Gray? It came to me immediately. I want to find one whose large orange spots are yet larger, whose rear wing post median lines are even redder, blacker and whiter than this beauts! Whose modest blue field, near the tiny tails, is ever blue. I want one whose ventral wing surface is that true gray, say every grayer than this one.

When we found that breathtaking Malachite at the National Butterfly Center, just weeks ago, several folks with extensive experience with this very large, very green butterfly shared that this one was perhaps the most beautiful one they’d ever seen. The green, which I will soon share, was I Love That Green green. Should I ever see another Malachite, I will be all eyes, Is this one more striking than the Malachite of the winter of ’17?

Ever more handsome Giant swallowtails, Pipevine swallowtails with that dreamy blue iridescence, Red-spotted purples with shocking red spots and another brand of iridescence, Zebras heliconians that put African zebras to shame, Eastern pygmy blues that make the back numbing job of photographing them lead to a bonanza! Long-tailed skippers with the Most exquisite blue-green since that trip we made to the Isle of Capri.

I Love this one of Strymon melinus, met in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania. When our paths cross, know though that I’m out to grab a very good image of this year’s model, with subtle refinements and improvements. Yep.



From Texas to Mount Meron Israel

Blue spotted hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron

Eight days in Texas, Mission, Texas. What a cavalcade of butterflies greeted me at the National Butterfly Center! At Bensten State Park and at the nearby, much celebrated ‘Wall.’ Imagine, December 21st through December 27th, and yet, we were seeing so, so many butterflies. One of those days saw the thermometer rise to 80F?

I can’t tell you how many different Hairstreaks we saw, I saw. Many fled before I could grab an image. So many of those AWOL hairstreaks were rare, and all were new to me. I did cache some really special exposures, among them Gold-bordered hairstreak and Tropical greenstreak. Very soon, I will have those scanned, and want you to see them when I do. I fly to Southern Texas, in the last week of December, and am greeted with gorgeous, rare Hairstreaks. Neat, Huh?

All that led me to thinking of HolyLand hairstreaks. This beaut, found on Mt. Meron, in the Upper Galilee, is Strymonidia spini melantho. She, as some hairstreaks do, ‘posed’ for me, as she methodically nectared.

It just reminds me how Thankful I am that, me and my Macro- (100mm/2.8) Canon lens have made so many successful approaches, and enjoyed as many good-enough hairstreak images, as we have scored.


Zebra, Lynx & Edwards With Weed

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly and Edwards Hairstreak on Butterflyweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

I was still kind of stunned to be in prairie . . . in Ohio! Somehow, through good fortune and the wisdom of folks who fought to protect Lynx Prairie Preserve, this very, very unique eastern prairie has been preserved, for all to enjoy. Fortunately, most don’t visit there; they are lost to the allure of asphalt, brick, concrete, steel, neon and such. Me? I grew up with that stuff, asphalt, concrete, brick. Following Angela, Joe, Barbara Ann and Janet into  a prairie? Words can’t be summoned to properly describe how happy I was to finally see my, my prairie.

I’m telling you it was lush. June 2017, and an open prairie full of wildflowers. Full too with butterflies! My beat. Butterflies.

Here, very healthy Butterflyweed is deep in that comely shade of orangish-red, and must surely be pumping sugary nectar like a micro-gusher. In came this Zebra swallowtail butterfly, joining an Oh! so fine Edward Hairstreak, all on the Lynx. They are doing weed as is appropriate.


Edward Hairstreak at Lynx

Edwards Hairstreak photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

What makes you go all gaga? OK. That’s you. Me, it’s meeting a new butterfly for the very first time. All stops. Everything around me slips back into the margins of my existence. My eyes are US Airforce locked on this brand new, gossamer-winged wonder.

These words are about the best I can do at to the moment. It’s this rapture that I think, to respond to those who ask why I pursue and photograph butterflies as I do. Family, friends and most acquaintances avoid the subject, even when it’d be natural to mention it. They, I believe, can’t wrap their heads around the Why? of it. Collect antique cars? Sure, they get that. Raise mushrooms, unique one, OK, a bit out there, but you can eat some of them, no? Restore collectible old boats and cars? No doubt about that. Magazines Love to find and write of such men (isn’t it always men?) and, you can $ell them easily, once you tire of a particular one. But search for and attempt to score superior images of butterflies? Well, I guess that it gives you . . .

It sure does. I’ve grown up on the street of NYC, earned my BS, served in the NYARNG (and after OCS, commanded men in uniform), taught in Big NYC high schools, served as a Dean (for misbehavior, like guns, knives, gangs, fights), had a taste of NYNY real estate, and often carried cold steel folded nicely in my pants pocket. I’ve seen and I’ve done. I savor life, beauty, botany and animals, especially butterflies. Me.

When Angela and Joe and Barbara Ann and Jeff entered Lynx Prairie Preserve, the prairie set all my sensory systems abuzz! What were those tiny butterflies that were active at the abundant butterflyweed? This very same Edwards Hairstreak butterfly. A good sized flight of Satyrium edwardsii. Tiny, fresh and just delicious to these eyes. Right where they should be, nectaring in a bonafide prairie, close by the oaks that serve as their hostplants. I can’t quantify how Happy!! I was that morning. Happy Jeff, Thankful that I met these wonderful, patient, giving friends, and Thankful for the opportunity to meet this Sweet! Sweet! gift from G-d.

How many understand this here Jeff. Well, not a whole lot. Treasure those who do. I think.