26 Months of Waiting for Our 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 lack of response from the leaders of NABA, the Xerces, The Audubon folks.

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 presence of mind 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

I continue to await your opinions . . .

No Encounters with 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 near the border wall, 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

An Amazing Photo Deprived of Light

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 near the border wall. Images of the ventral side of an Erato are few, and I cringe a tad when I view this one. 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

Notice that Zebra Heliconian Butterfly Color!

Zebra heliconian butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

There’s a goodly number of butterflies that thrill you when you spot them. This happens when they are especially fresh from their chrysalis (hard outer shell formed by the caterpillar), when they are handsome examples of their species, and when the day features crisp, clear air and sports a comfortable temperature.

Which rock me, Jeffrey? Monarchs, Viceroys, Gulfs, Red Admirals, Palametes Swallowtails, Malachites, Milbert’s Tortoiseshells, Giant Swallowtails, Goatweed Leafwings, Erato Heliconians, Silver-spotted Skippers, lots of others and . . . Zebra Heliconians.

Suzanne is correct, I shoot film, Macro-. Why? Because I’ve visited too many museums, art galleries, and top auction galleries to praise images that lack real-time-color. I prefer Fuji Velvia film, ASA 50, the same film used to capture this image.

I’m sitting here with the field guide most sought after now, and truth be told, this wingedbeauty image excites with the very same color that you marvel over when you find a fresh, fresh, fresh Zebra Heliconian butterfly in the field.

Where were we? The National Butterfly Center, in Mission, Texas near the border wall with Mexico.

Jeff

Why Are Zebras Dangerous?

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

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

True enough that Zebra Heliconian (Longwing) butterflies fly with the grace and balance of a top ballerina in the New York City Ballet. I can attest to that. I can also affirm that there’s little difference between the curtain coming up at the start of the ballet and that first moment when you spot a Zebra, as we did here in Kathleen, Georgia.

Their remarkable elegance draws you, and that’s why they are vamps, dangerous butterflies.

During morning hours, Zebras are almost unapproachable. They usually do not allow close approach. as they glide amongst Passionflower vines. For those who have never, or almost never seen one, their appearance rivets, and if they are some distance from you, this usually has them in heavy growth, some 8 – 10 feet off trail, lots of us moved to them, disregarding all of the precautions we know and precautions that have been offered to us, wisely.

We have done just that, seeing one, and anxious to score worthy exposures. The operative thought is that we may not see them again that day, that month or for the coming years. So, in we go.

That day in beautiful Kathleen, with seasoned Mike watching, I again and again buffaloed my way into thick growth. The worst of it was that fire ant hill I planted my left foot on, and . . . shot away at the Longwing, until moments later . . . Accch!!!!! I can’t remember if I ended up sitting in the Emergency Room that night or not. I probably did, ’cause fire ants cause my hands or feet to react strongly, blow up to 2x their normal size.

After those !^^#!* fire ants educated me, I dashed out to the trail, and Thanked G-d that they were fire ants, and not a Copperhead or Water Moccasin or Eastern Timber Rattlesnake. Me standing in unknown knee high growth off trail in Kathleen . . . ? Dumb! Careless!

Here then we have one of the most dangerous butterflies in the Southeastern USA, Zebras, whose siren song leads you to unknown risk, possible deadly risk!

Yes I shot with a Macro lens, and no I don’t plan to go long lens.

Jeff