Tracking Erato Heliconians

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

Our “Rare” Erato Heliconian Butterfly remained in that vicinity for some time. There were just a few of us that caught a glimpse of it in the National Butterfly Center’s Mission, Texas reserve. It riveted the gaze, for those red, broad streaks were red-beyond-red.

Each time it flew, it flew to a new perch, never much more than 15 feet from where it had rested before.

Some time later, the gawkers left to find other Wow! butterflies. I too left, and soon returned. I descended down into that crevice-like trail. When I came within 10 feet of the Erato, it flew. I eagle-eyed that flight, wondering all along . . . how many here in the U.S.have ever seen the Erato’s flight manner?

The Erato flew away on that trail, a straight trail that did not meander left or right. It flew some 4 feet or so above the ground, in a perfectly straight trajectory. No dips, no dives, no meander left or right. I’m thinking that whole time, that the numerous predators around, bird, reptile, insect, mammal . . . ? would have no difficulty snatching this Erato out of the air.

That was when it struck me? Throughout the 100 feet or so of observed flight, those shocking-red streaks remained in sight. The red was visible 100% of the time.

What did I think? That totally visible, bright red must serve as a bold, critical, cryptic warning to any and all: I am toxic, very toxic, and remember what your mother taught you or bide the genetic warning bells your’re hearing . . . for I might just give you a mouthful of hurt!

Like I said before, I could’ve used such a jacket, cape or shirt when I was a kid on those Brooklyn streets: You don’t want to even try it . . . !

Jeff

Erato In Diminished Light

Red-Rim Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

I’ve spent some 2/10,000th of my life in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. That was the very last week of December 2017. Talk about unforgettable! We kept seeing butterflies I’d never seen before. Several times, here at this National Butterfly Center, we saw butterflies, the handful of folks nearby put out cell alerts, and folks actually drove to the NBC, just for the chance of seeing rare butterflies.

This was one of our Wows!! An Erato Heliconian Butterfly. A “Rare” stray to the USA from Mexico, some less than a handful of miles away.

Yes it’s flown to shade, and yes my Fuji Velvia 100 film was seriously challenged, but . . . the color that we caught here is just fine. That streak across the cells of the hindwing is a sweet yellowish-white. The broad burnt orange streak across the forewing does sing, no?

We enjoyed this Erato, rarely seen in the USA, and usually seen once every few years!

Jeff, a Happy Boy! again and again eye feasting on G-d’s winged beauties.

Jeff

Zebra At The Briar Patch

Zebra Heliconian butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat I, Eatonton, GA

The juice is flowing for sure. Sampling the many new shares on the internet, they of fresh, exquisite, purposeful butterflies, brings us to these months that we have so waited for in the United States. We’re now in the latter half of Spring 2018. Each and every trip into the yard, to a State Park, Wildlife Management Area, National Wildlife Refuge or Monument . . . holds the promise of exquisite beauty, reunion with your favorite butterfly species and, the potential to see NEW. New for the year, new for the county, new for the state, and, as in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, new for the United States!!

Our Zebra Heliconian butterfly here was at the Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat I in Eatonton, Georgia. May 2017.

I study this beaut, on strong Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) and Thank G-d that I am among the few, the fortunate, who head out to see such magnificent creatures.

Jeff

Julia! a Julia Heliconian butterfly

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

You think it’s easy? It’s fun, exciting, and exhilarating, but I can’t say it’s easy to photograph Heliconian butterflies.

I first met a Zebra Heliconian in 2016 in Kathleen, Georgia. I actually enjoyed at least a dozen of them that day. It was an easy to remember double-header, for I met my Zebras and then I stepped and stayed too long on a concealed fire ant hill!

In December 2017, during that wondrous last week, I ogled my first (how many get a chance to see a second?) Erato Heliconian butterfly in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. I got some fair to better images of Erato.

That same December ’17 week, John pointed to a spot in a mass of thick growth, some 14 or so feet away. It was Julia! a Julia Heliconian butterfly. He sure was “bright satiny orange” and had the Texas Julia look (no black on the upper wing surface). He remained on that leaf for at least 10 minutes. I got no closer, but I saw and if you indulge me, copped my first image of this Heliconian, Julia.

Lots of times you get what you can get.

Jeff

 

Erato Heliconian at the National Butterfly Center in Mission Texas

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

A beautiful day at the National Butterfly Center (NBC) in Mission, Texas. The extensive perennials beds of the NBC’s gardens and trails were just loaded with butterflies! Most of them, new to me. Battle stations!! The few other people there, that last week in December, 2017 were skilled butterfly folks.

Someone told us, excitedly, that an Erato Heliconian butterfly had been spotted at the head of a nearby trail, in a sunken trench like crevice that runs about 300 feet. Judging from the electricity that that news! dished up, I sped there too, wondering (I have severe hearing loss in one ear) who would name a butterfly an “Erotic” anything. LOL.

We got there, and two wonderful men showed us where it was. OMG! It was stunning.The black was jet black. The yellow was bright yellow. The red? My red. Lipstick red is the kind of red that always caught my attention way back when.

This was a very fresh, screamingly exquisite butterfly. It rested there, for many minutes. It tolerated my robotic approach and remained in pose as I shot away. The lighting was not ideal, subdued. It remained in place as several others photographed it, most with telephoto lenses. It remained there more, and I left, not expecting to see that magnificent butterfly ever again.

I returned some 15 or so minutes later. All of its admirers have gone. I made yet another slow, robotic approach. Good. It remained in place. After some moments, it flew. I watched it, my Erato as it flew straight, away along the trail that forms the bottom of the trench. I watched my Erato fly some 150′ in a straight trajectory, no rising and descending (like Monarchs and Zebra heliconians). No twisting and turning( like Satyrs). I was transfixed! Those red bands remained in full sight all of the time. Never did they not reveal.

My conclusion? Erato heliconians must be toxic. Oh, it’s gotta be. Those red bands surely advise all potent predators, “See my red. bands? I am one toxic Erato”

I left that low-lying trail, heavily in shade, warmly appreciative of this eye opener, product of the D-signer.

Jeff