National Butterfly Center Monarchs Engaged

Mating Monarchs on Milkweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX
We were working the perennial beds at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas when I happened on this pair of Monarch butterflies, fully coupled. They were on an Asclepias flowering plant.

They were standouts. The largest Monarchs I have ever seen. Big, very big. I’d grown accustomed to seeing Monarchs of one uniform size. These 2 were behemoths, for Monarchs.

Here the male is closest to us. He was a hunk!

The publicity and press for the NBC holds water. This place offers surprise and surprise!


Is it My Monarch or Yours?

Right side view of Monarch butterfly on Tithonia, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat I, Eatonton, GA

Legions of us love them. Monarch butterflies, beloved for so many reasons. Relax in your yard with friends, family, or washing dishes in the kitchen, keeping your eyes on your garden, or walking through your neighborhood . . . and a Monarch flies in. Their flight is graceful, their search for nectaring flowers is a purposeful ballet. Their perch-time on flowers may be brief or prolonged. Their flight away from that flowerhead, quick, surprisingly quick. It’s all good, therapeutic, for it clean washes your mind, replacing whatever with sweetness, peace.

Most of us, who visit and like the site, have seen a lifetime’s worth of Monarch butterfly images. Though that is true, we examine more and more of them. Who dismisses a Monarch photo, without pausing to study it?

Our Monarch here, I’m thinking a male, flew last July in the Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. My processed slides were returned from Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, and after culling out dozens of disappointing slides, I louped and relouped some, and sent most of them onto Rewind Memories in Pittsburgh. I kept this one.

Sharing a Monarch slide? Me, I want to feel that when you see my image, after seeing your own Monarch looks, and the Monarch images shared online, in NABA magazines, and in hundreds of commercial applications, from fabrics, to accessories, to advertisements and beyond . . . I want you to stop, examine this fine beast, and I want to evoke something from you, pleasing, appealing, nurturing, or even tag way back in your brain’s memory bank.

My Monarch here? The right hindwing I like, for its soft orange color, dramatic thick black veins, exquisite rows of milk white dots at the trailing margins of the wing. Right forewing? Depth of field realities leaves it dreamy, and richly colored. Head? Good, sporting nice white dots against the black, great antennae, right eye teasing you to locate it, and proboscis set firmly into a flowerlet in the Mexican sunflower flowerhead. Feet? As if I worked with him to set them in the most agreeable way. The Tithonia bloomhead? Richly colored, flowerlets OK, and the whole flowerhead not in the routine dead center of the image, but just enough to the left of center to my satisfaction. Background? That real-time green, that Fuji Velvia film does so well with.

Jeff likes your Monarch shares. Jeff likes this one, his. Kudo’s to the D-signer, Susan.


The Envelope Please! Start with the Monarchs

Monarch Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at

I took a stroll . . .   Oops! a scroll down through our more than 800 images. The thought came to my mind, “Which of the butterflies that I have photographed, are the most compliant, which hold their pose, allow me to shoot them? Which produce the most consistently pleasing images?”

Let’s start with which have been the most difficult, most elusive and most frustrating? My personal list begins with Mourning cloak, Georgia satyr, Gemmed satyr, Red-banded hairstreak, Goatweed leafwing and Compton tortoiseshell. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley two weeks ago, I surely add the usual suspects, the Yellows, large and small, and Metalmarks as well as those butterflies that I saw, shot and winced when I realized how beaten-up they were (Hairstreaks, that Mexican Bluewing).

I used to watch the annual Oscars award show on TV, and that interesting moment, when the movie star asked for, “The envelope please,” fits here, so nicely. The butterflies that I have most enjoyed shooting, affording the most enjoyed images? Start with the Monarchs. This one here, on Joe Pye Weed, at Raccoon Creek State Park in Hookstown, southwestern Pennsylvania is one of many Monarch images I am glad to say are mine. Monarchs get the ‘Oscar.’

Easy runner-ups are the Gray hairstreak, Northern metalmark, Red-spotted purple, Tiger swallowtails at sunrise, Red Admiral, Baltimore checkerspot, Great spangled fritillary and the Regal fritillary.

Funny that, how so many people don’t understand why we love and seek out butterflies. You will spend half a lifetime seeking that 12-point buck, or one image, any image of a northeastern cougar or a brief glimpse of a bird not seen in 30 years. OK, those? But really, really want to finally seek and capture an image of a Creole pearly-eye or a Dingy purplewing  or a Milbert’s? 98% of folks I’ve ever met don’t see the sense of that.

And what’s in your Envelope Please!


Danaus Plexippus Stopped By

Look! Look! There she was in our very own ‘peanut garden’ this afternoon. What a rush it was to watch her, superbly fresh and lush, working this 2017  benchmark garden. I kept going to the our large window, again and again to see if she was still there. She was still there, and she worked these native perennials for more than an hour. Our very own garden, now in its 5th year, and full, verdant with nectar here there and everywhere.

She was chased off several times by an equally pretty Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly. Royal as she is, our monarch patiently allowed the frenzied fritillary to do its thing, and each time she floated back in. What kept her highness in the peanut garden for more than an hour?

The peanut garden is in our side yard, and our side yard abuts Frick Park, a heavily wooded Pittsburgh (city) park of many hundreds of acres. The natives and others in the peanut garden:  Common milkweed; Swamp milkweed; Butterflyweed; Monkeyflower; Celery (in flower), Bergamot, Balloon flower; Buttonbush, Shrubby St.John’s wort, Green headed coneflower, Rue and Chocolate mint. All 3 of the milkweeds (Asclepias spp) are in height of bloom, and buff! very buff.

The instant monarch butterfly shown here was not the flier today. This photo is of another female, who flew in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Today’s monarch’s colors were deeper, richer. She was . . . gorgeous.

How much do I hope that she rewards us with her eggs?