Which One For 2021?

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

That’s what we love about butterflies, each year brings its own surprises and disappointments. Butterflies you looked forward to seeing in any given year sometimes don’t show up, and each year butterflies you have given up thinking about visit and bring a smile.

This year, just 6 months in our new home, in North Macon, Georgia, we aggressively planted perrenials, trees and shrubs in our back garden. The list is fun for us to recall: Hackberry trees, Swamp milkweed, Linden trees, Bear oak trees, Passionflower, Coneflower, Oak trees (post oak), Hercules Club bushes/trees, Liatris, Brickellia ( rare, rare), Hickory trees (Pignut, Shagbark, Nutmeg (rare, rare), Cardinal flower, Cosmos, Hibiscus, Iris (Blue flag), Spicebush, Crocosmia (Lucifer), Joe Pye, Ironweed, Lobelia, Basil, Black & Blue salvia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Asters (Several Varieties), Buttonbush, Turtlehead, Atlantic White Cedar, Sassafras,  . . .  and more. Really, more.

The payoff for all the work that we did? Excellent butterfly visits and fulfilling caterpillar numbers. The Big Surprise? This 2020 season brought lots of Zebra Heliconian butterflies to our 800 Garden. Lots. Heliconius charithonia flies with the flight of a ballerina, and just stops you in your tracks, you watching that graceful flight with awe, me thinking where are we in the Amazon or in tropical Africa? Then I smile, thankful that no, we are here in Georgia, and this butterfly is real and inspiring.

So for us, 2020 brought Zebra Longwings. What butterflies will be plentiful in 2021? Ma’am, I have no idea.

Which butterflies would you like to see more of in 2021?

(This one was seen in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia).

Jeff

We Gave Up Waiting . . . So We Ask Once Again – Erato Hypothesizing

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

We recently posted this image, of a very rare butterfly seen in the National Butterfly Center (NBC) in Mission, Texas. Seeing this Erato Heliconian butterfly was a Rush! for me, its stark beauty adding to the excitement. It hung around this gully-like area for more than 30 minutes, resting. It did change when it rested, but it did not leave the area you see here.

Several folks saw it, then then left to investigate other places in the NBC. Me? I returned to again enjoy this special treat. Soon after I returned to watch it, the Erato began to fly, and alone, with no one else there, I watched it fly away. How did it fly? It flew in a straight line, some 4-5 feet above the gully path. You could not miss it. All the time it flew those what? 180 feet, those bright red patches shone. There was never a moment when the red could not be seen.

That interested me alot. When cop cars speed to an accident or to a call, their flashing lights shine all the time, can be seen all the time. Same for fire engines, as well as for airplanes taxiing on a runaway. When my wife, late in the 9th month told me that suddenly her contraction were 1-2 minutes apart, that our 4th was coming, coming, I remember speeding through red lights, with our flashing emergency lights going, non-stop.

In that recent post, I urged all to consider this query, and share what they thought. Why did the Erato Heliconian butterfly flash its siren reds 100% of the time it flew?

Pyle, Pavulaan, Kaufman, Lehman, Zirlin, Cech, Tudor, Rickard, Linch, Delestrez, Glassberg, Childs . . . My shout out earned no hypothesis from any, be they expert or enthusiast.

So, again I ask, why do you think those big, bright red patches on the dorsal (upper) wing surface show 100% of the time that the Erato flies?

Jeff . . . Waits

26 Months of Waiting For the USA’s Butterfly Cogniscenti Is Enough, No?

Erato heliconian butterfly (Dorsal view) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

On March 22, 2018 we posted this image, the post’s title was Erato Heliconian at the National Butterfly Center in Mission Texas. There we described, with much gusto! my excitement when I met this rare butterfly.

I told of how I watched the Erato fly away, fly in a straight line, as a projectile might, not rising or descending, for what I gauge was no less than 150 feet or more beyond where I stood. I saw something that triggered my knowledge of butterfly flight.

That Erato’s bright red flashes were visible 100% of the time I observed it fly. It was as if the Erato had ultra bright red lights on its wings. My conclusion was that that non-stop display of bright, rich red must be an adaptation that broadcast to predators: Stay away, for I am highly toxic. To this day I am told that I walk with a certain how do you call it, going way back to my growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, that a message that it’s best to leave this kid alone, and enjoy your . . . teeth for another day. It worked for me, and I suspected it works for this Erato Heliconian butterfly.

I posed this question to all, and 26 months later, I can admit that I’m beyond disappointed at the leaders of NABA, the Xerces, The Audubon folks. Hey, the USA has what, 3 blogs or so that chronicle our butterflies, wingedbeauty.com is probably the longest published, some 10 years now I think.

We all want to conserve our Butterflies, expand habitat, protect vital habitat, and increase the home planting of hostplants by a gazillion percent. Why don’t those who profess to be at the forefront of this good work have the . . . (I need a good word) . . . to support any and all who seek to also do so.

Yes, I no longer am a member of Xerces and now am no longer making good-sized contributions to the North American Butterfly Association. Such clubbiness is often counter-productive.

Jeff

NB, I continue to await your opinions . . .

Neither Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Clinton, Regan or Trump . . . but I did Meet . . .

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Sometimes I dwell on an absence that gives me pause. I have never met an American President of the United States. Who’d I have wanted to meet and chat with? Presidents Nixon, Kennedy, Regan and Trump. As my life progressed, I reached new benchmarks, and I would’ve like to meet these Presidents, all of whom had fascinating, broad and rich life experience. Hero worship? Nah. I met Mafia guys in my life, they too accomplished much, but not anywhere near what those Presidents did.

I comfortably equate those thoughts with the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment that I experienced when after that flight from Atlanta to San Antonio, Texas, and the 4-hour drive with Nancy and John we arrived in Alamo, Texas, for our 5-day trip to find new and rare butterflies.

Shown here is a very, very rare butterfly, magnificently beautiful and elegant, that we met and I observed at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, for a total of more than 30 minutes. A fresh, vividly colored Erato Heliconian butterfly. I must be one of the very few Americans who have watched an Erato fly more than 70 feet away, remarkably showing those broad, rich red markings all, all of that flight. My own theory? They must be toxic to predators, for why else would it be that they accented those prominent reds, each and every second of their flight? Aren’t they to warn predators . . . to stay away.

Here’s the Erato while it was resting, some time during those magical 30 minutes.

Not Robert F. Kennedy, Nancy Regan, Donald Trump or Jacqueline Kennedy, but I did meet this Erato Heliconian butterfly, and am grateful for that. Seriously.

Jeff

Light Deprived Amazing Photo

Ventral view of Erato Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

I cherish those occasional 1 in 5 million (1/5,000,000) moments when you are intent on finding and photographing rare butterflies. Not all, in fact many/most end in frustration.

This is such here. He’s an Erato Heliconian butterfly discovered in a heavily shaded glade in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Images of the ventral side of an Erato are few, and I cringe a tad when I view this one. I don’t Photoshop my work, so this will remain as you see it. There are soooo few such, making this image, the result of a failed in the camera light meter, even more disappointing.

The flight from Atlanta to San Antonio, Texas, and the 4 hours drive to Alamo, Texas took some effort and expen$e. Missing this amazing opportunity? You tell me.

Jeff