Why Do More And More People Seek Butterflies?

People viewing Gold-Bordered hairstreak butterfly at “The Wall,” photographed by Jeff Zablow in Mission, TX

The number of people who seek butterflies in the USA is growing. Some have made bold changes in their gardens, uprooting the tired traditional shrubs that can be traced back to Asia, and replacing them with butterfly hostplants and plants that produce the nectar beloved by butterflies. Others have begun to look for butterflies here and there, and have began participating in local annual counts. Many remain on the lookout for speakers at their local Audubon Centers or Native Plant Societies.

The joys and thrills of nurturing have caused thousands to collect caterpillars in their gardens, and raise them in protected enclosures . . . that to avoid heavy losses to predators and disease.

This group had sped to the “Wall” at the entrance to the Retama Village development community, when the call went out (on their cell network) . . . that a rare Tropical Greenstreak butterfly was seen in those tall shrubs, and was still! there, nectaring methodically. Many of these folks retired or relocated to this Lower Rio Grande part of Texas, just to be near friends who also pursue butterflies, and they move there to ogle the great variety of rare butterflies than fly up from Mexico.

Why are the numbers of butterfly enthusiasts swelling?

My thinking?

  • Butterflies appeal to our desire to protect and nurture. They are tiny, delicate and vulnerable. So many want to help them, benefit from the satisfaction of enabling their ongoing survival
  • Butterflies are compellingly beautiful. Unlike Tiffany’s, Cartier, the riches of Christie’s & Sotheby’s, butterflies are within reach, not subject to the barrier’s that money throws up
  • So many of us have known butterflies all our lives, in our neighborhood, nearby undeveloped land and in our literature.
  • We know that butterflies, many species of them are being seen in reduced numbers annually. Some, like the Monarch are thought to be at great risk. We worry that we may be the last generation to . . .
  • Birders have been searching for birds for many years now, many have almost ‘seen them all,’ and butterflies’ convert’ them, draw those birders, presenting new opportunities to open up a whole new world of fliers.
  • There is a sublime appeal in this butterfly pastime. Monied or near broke, butterfliers don’t need fancy hotels, tony restaurants are not needed either, dress is relatively inexpensive, as are binoculars and cameras.
  • Those who want to spend money wantonly, can find butterfly seeking tours to Costa Rica, Brazil . . . well to many corners of the world
  • For those who don’t go boating, golf, and have tired of sitting on this or that international beach, butterfly hunting is a whole new pursuit, and an active one at that.
  • There’s a sense of newness here, and a Big factor is, You never know what you might see, as these folks demonstrate in Mission, Texas. For sure you might see one not seen for 10 years, now that’s a rush.

I pause at this punchlist, noting that I could have gone on, again sharing my experiences at Pre-Sale Exhibitions at New York City auction galleries. That’s what launched me. Frieda A”H would try on multi-million dollars rings, broaches, necklaces, bracelets, just a foot or two away from me, that in the 1980’s. I have never seen Magnificent Jewelry  more beautiful than a Monarch or a Malachite or that fresh Common Mestra that flew just before I could cop my first exposure! A fresh Mourning Cloak sends me into a near swoon, Cathy, Kenne, Barbara Ann, Patti, Virginia, Marcie, Beth, Jim, Angela, Ian, Sylbie, Deepthi, Ginny, Laura, Peggy, Susan, Leslie, Laurence and . . .

Jeff

Edwards Hairstreak Etiquette

Edwards Hairstreak Butterfly on Leaf photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie, OH

My first ever introduction to a Hairstreak was that Striped Hairstreak at the Powdermill Refuge in Rector, Pennsylvania. All Stripes I’ve see since mirrored that first one. They stand motionless on a leaf, and allow many exposures.

Gray Hairstreaks are almost as cooperative. Grays permit me say 8 or more exposures, then vamoose!

Coral Hairstreaks, they so difficult to find, and that thing about how they often skip a whole year, waiting. When I have found Corals, they must be approached carefully. That one last year at Kamamama Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio was more cooperative, though it did make me scramble, with its version of tag!

The 2 Banded Hairstreaks I’ve enjoyed seeing did pose, but for ever so briefly, and then, gone.

The Acadian Hairstreaks I saw in Toronto were nectaring furiously on Common milkweed, and I had to move as quickly as they did on those huge flowerhead.

The very rare Tropical Greenstreak that we saw in the last week of December 2017, at the National Butterfly Center (NBC) was a study in passive movement. Those 2 nectared very slowly, and often took breaks, posing sweetly for the crowd that formed, when the cell network shared where they were.

White M Hairstreaks? I see one maybe every 4 years, maybe. They are spotted, you realize, OMG! is that a White M? Yes! You make cautious approach, cop maybe 3 exposures, and off they go, deeper into the tall growth meadow . . . gone!

Now this Edwards. It was one of several dozen, all fresh, nectaring in that Lynx Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio. They were a joy to shoot. They nectared slowly on mostly luxurious Butterflyweed. Their periods of rest were many, and as here, they nicely enable many, many exposures, as they offered their ‘best side,’ just 12 inches or so above the ground.

Edwards’ etiquette? To be copied and emulated, for sure.

Jeff

Macro- Shooters Wait Your Turn?

Tropical Greenstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at 'The Wall,' Mission, TX

While we were at the “Wall” (the entrance to the Retama Village walled development in Mission, Texas) the word went out, “Tropical Greenstreak!” A cell network exists, and the cars began arriving, more and more cars pulled up on the grass. This is a ‘stray’ to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Hundreds of folks have moved here from different parts of the U.S. Fortunate to retire healthy, they chose to resettle here, and enjoy the squadrons of common, rare, and very rare butterflies that show up here.

A squad of enthusiasts surrounded the bushes that this tiny Gossamerwing chose to nectar on. They all formed a semicircle, most some 10 feet from our star here. All were using long lenses. Uh oh! Jeff shoots . . . Macro-. It got interesting. I cannot focus on this beauty from 10 feet away., Macro-, for such a tiny, tiny butterfly can produced images 1:1 . . . as long as you are no farther than say 24″ (inches) from this Tropical green streak.

So, the kid from Brooklyn went low, and kind of duck walked under the enthusiasts, and approached, too low to block their cameras. I asked G-d the whole time, please don’t let this gem fly because of me!! Sure many of you have seen me in photos shared here on wingedbeauty.com. I’m in my majority, it’s true. But like many guys, I think young, and truth be told, the scrapper of a street kid is still to be found within.

I sensed that the small crowd behind me was, how can I say, “upset.” Me, I was as careful as if I was trying to snatch raw wildebeest from a napping lioness. This hairstreak did not flee, and continued off and on to nectar.

I stepped back as carefully as I had gone in, low and robotic. I stuck around there for many minutes, the crowd continued to change as some came and so I went. I went in again, for with film, you never know what you reap. Again my old street sense told me that the folks behind me were the other side of upset with me. Macro- folks are just not what the locals have much patience with. I shot-out again, and once again backed away, low and pleased.

Later I asked someone who had been there, what the folks were thinking, when Boy Brooklyn made his approaches? “Selfish” is what they were thinking (sharing?). That bit, because I don’t ever want to be thought of that way.

Why did I do what I did? 1) I had to if I wanted to see this butterfly (I don’t carry binos, too much weight, bulk). 2) Our audience here grows, steadily. I want You to see and examine and admire these butterflies, and to do that, Jeff went in low and straight, and if this sweetie had been a lioness, I’d for sure have a good 18% chance of surviving for another day.

Brooklyn stokes the anger of the Retama vigilantes.

Jeff

The Siren’s Call (Hairstreak Version)

Edwards Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie, OH

Angela urged us to join them in western Ohio, June 2017. She repeated that Adams County was full of surprises. I liked that idea, visiting Adams County, the southernmost Ohio, with Kentucky just miles away.

After 2 days in the Dayton, Ohio area, I knew Angela knew good places, with good stuff. Give an example? That’s how I saw my first Showy Lady Slipper Orchids. It took about a lifetime, but yes, they were extraordinary.

Hours south of Dayton, we were in Lynx Prairie Preserve, Adams County, Ohio. Battle stations!! So so much new, beautiful and never seen before.

A fresh flight of hairstreak butterflies was all about. I saw this one, shown here, my first Edwards Hairstreaks. Fresh Edwards Hairstreaks. They, not quick to flee on your approach. Sporting my new Canon Macro- 100mm/2.8 IS lens, I approached, shot and OMG! they are bejeweled. I robotically move closer, shot. Each time I look into my camera, the hindwing ventral (underside) markings stunned with their beauty.

It was the siren’s call to me, move in, be amazed, move in some more, and revel, Yep, revel. You get quiet, respectful. This time the siren’s call rewarded.

Jeff, still smiling, after Edwards, Northern Metalmarks, Coral Hairstreaks, Monarchs,That mystery Fritillary, Great Spangled Fritillaries . . .  and the first time I ever saw Coneflower and Indian Paintbrush happily at home, in the land they belong in.

Jeff

Gold – Up To 1/180,000

Gold-bordered Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at The Wall, Mission, TX

My extensive research indicates that only one out of 180,000 Americans have ever even seen this one, the Gold-Bordered Hairstreak. For Brazilians, the French, Rumanians and Thais, the numbers decline precipitiously. The same is true for Sri Lankans, Guatemalans and North Koreans, that is the viewer numbers plunge to near one in 8.5 million.

I was thinking about this, as I recalled how men and women sped to the “Wall” entrance Retama Village, in Mission, Texas, when the text blast went out, super rare Gold-Bordered at “The Wall.” Folks expert in the butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley actually jumped in their cars to insure that they got a look at this Mexican native, in the United States.

What is it that made me fly to Texas to see new and rare? What drives retired doctors, physicists, CPA’s, RN’s, teachers and officers in blue to dash over to catch a glimpse of a rare butterfly.

That most are esthetes, does that explain it? Yes? No?

Jeff