With Blue Trailing Wing Spots and Yellow Chevrons, a Mourning Cloak Butterfly Rests on a Broken Rock

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

I have some wonderful memories of Mourning Cloak butterflies. I have one very sad, hugely poignant memory of a Mourning Cloak just weeks after Frieda A”H (OBM”) passed.

I have a wrenching recollection of that incredibly beautiful Mourning Cloak, that I came upon as it was warming, resting on a broad leaf in the morning sun. That one remained in place, as I so, so slowly made my approach. Just when I was down, and slowly raised my Macro- lens, that one fled. It would have been a fantastic image.

Another lip biting time, again in Raccoon Creek State Park, I watched as a fine, fine Mourning Cloak flew out from the trailside foliage, and landed on the Nichol Road trail. I spent minutes approaching and reproaching it, each time it fled upon my getting within 8 feet of it. It flew to a part of the trailside that had a vertical-90 degree side to it. Picture that. It was now resting on the vertical little wall, fully facing the center of the trail, its handsome/beautiful dorsal features in good light and in full view. I approached, it did not flee. I approached again, I so wanted this to yield a ‘best ever’ shot. It . . . fled. Arrrrgh!!

TheMourning Cloak Butterfly shown here did not flee. We were in Raccoon Creek State Park, where it chose to warm itself on broken rock, in the early morning sun. Its complete yellow wing margins, blue trailing wing spots, yellow chevrons and diminutive ‘tails’ all please me.

Now in Georgia’s Piedmont (central Georgia), I want, want to find a southern Mourning Cloak, an extraordinary one, and share its yumminess with you. Deal?


It’s November 3rd! How are Mourning Cloak Butterflies still Flying?

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park

I’m in Georgia, my new home. Hundreds of miles north of Macon, Georgia, this butterfly is still flying around. It’s 66 degrees Fahrenheit here in Macon now, but just 54 degrees Fahrenheit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tonight is forecasted to go down as low as 44 degrees Fahrenheit up there in Pittsburgh. Next week may go down further, perhaps as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit in the Steel city.

Cold as that is, these Mourning Cloak butterflies continue to be seen, well into November. Imagine, they may endure nights as cold as 30 degrees Fahrenheit this month, and hours later, when the sun comes out and the air reaches 55 degrees, they can be seen flying, headed to their favorite nutrition, sap leaking from Maple tree trunks, and animal scat (feces AKA ‘poop’).

Know how they can be active in such cold weather, when Monarchs, Admirals, Viceroys, Crescents, Hairstreaks,Satyrs, Azures, Fritillaries, Painted & American Ladys, Swallowtails, Skippers, etc. have disappeared from sight, gone until the Spring?

(Mourning Cloak butterfly resting on Nichol Road trail, Raccoon Creek State Park, Hookstown, Pennsylvania, USA)


A Whole Life of Scanning

Jenny Jean took this photo of me, scanning the bushes, trees and skies. She came highly recommended, a professional photographer charged with capturing images that demo what I do while on those trails, in those meadows and fens . . . how and what I do while on the hunt for butterflies. She’d already shot my greeting cards of Petra and I, the cards I send out each year to friends and associates, Christmas time and when I just want to stay connected with you and with my family. The Petra & Jeff cards are wildly popular, and still hang on I don’t know how many refrigerators and office walls.

This shot here, so sums up what I do these recent years, and what how I’ve managed to survive this long. As a kid in Brooklyn, I had to always be ready, always scan way down the street, scan what’s going on on those Brooklyn corners. In the New York National Guard, I used the scanning techniques they taught us at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, all that preparation for where they said we were headed: Viet Nam. Same went for OCS (Officers Candidate School), scanning the horizon, the trees and tree tops, the sky, the ground for hidden armature. Me, a high school Dean, and a high school Biology teacher in New York City and later in Pittsburgh. My city kids were a handful, and I always scanned, scanned, scanned. When I left teaching for that decade, and managed real estate in NYNYork, life was safer when you scanned those East Village, Chelsea, SoHo, Tribeca, West Village, etc. streets in the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s.

An epiphany that. I’ve spent my whole life preparing for this search for butterflies. I’ve been scanning since I was a little kid. To this day, when I hear a helicopter coming toward me, low in the sky, I began scanning it, only minutes later realizing that it’s not a threat to me, and I’m not toting ordinance.

Scanning has led to many successes, had me seeing tiny or well hidden rare butterflies, when others might have missed seeing them. Scanning has me seeing beauty, and many atime, it was prudent that I not be seen noticing such, ‘though I did.

A whole life of scanning, from the New York City transit systems subways, to this trail, named Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, eight hours west of Times Square, New York, New York.

Scanning is good, good for eye health and good for helping you achieve that goal of goals: survival.


Touched By A Mourning Cloak I Was

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park

Chasing butterflies? I love the search for butterflies that you will appreciate seeing and hearing about. I daydream of shocking discoveries, of finding butterflies that y’all will be excited to see. The most impossible daydreams? Finding a new butterfly, once never seen or photographed before. It’s 2020, and I know that finding a new butterfly, short of trekking through the wilds of Indonesia or Madagascar, is impossible (?).

This Mourning Cloak butterfly reminds me that during these nearly 3 decades of the search, butterflies have touched my heart, left me semi-a mess. Why? That Mourning Cloak that overflew me repeatedly, 30 feet or so above me, and then disappeared, rocked my boat. Why? I couldn’t see it because . . . it landed on my hat!!

Tears flowed. Why tears, doesn’t Jeff always display bravado, macho-man persona, and boast of how he grew up with Them? All true but, this product of the 1950’s had just endured the loss of Frieda A”H, watched her nearly 8-year fight end. That Mourning Cloak sent me into an emotional tailspin. I was convinced that Frieda’s Blessed Memory was embodied in that Spectacular butterfly. When it flew from my hat, up again 30 feet and then flew over me again, I was turned to Brooklyn Jelly.

I’m hoping to return to Pennsylvania again in early November, visit her grave, and search several refuges and state parks for Mourning Cloaks and their cousins, Compton Tortoiseshells and Milbert’s Tortoiseshells. If I do, photos may happen, and those knees may well go spongey again.


Everyone Have A Favorite Butterfly?

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto Canada

Cherie posted a photo of a Compton Tortoiseshell Butterfly yesterday, in Ontario, Canada. That sure got my attention. I’ve seen 3 Compton in these 27 years, and my only image of a Compton was taken while I was about 12 feet away, me using a Macro- lens! Cherrie’s Compton sure got me to thinking, and I Commented on her Facebook post, writing how much I wanted to see another Compton, and how fortunate she was to live in the Land of Tortoiseshells, Mourning Cloaks and species of Comma butterflies. When you are lucky enough to see one of them when they are fresh, you know that scoring a good image will later bring a flood of views, and the Comments you’ll reap, Oh My Goodness!

There’s one of these Brushfoots that is my favorite butterfly. Here it is, a fresh, richly colored Mourning Cloak Butterfly, seen in a city park, Don ________ Park in Toronto, Canada. I was strolling with an acquaintance in the park when I noticed a break in the bushes. I just had to head through that only break in those closely planted shrubs. As I went through those bushes, I must have been on a deer path. It continued for about 40 feet, and there, in a small clearing, was a stand of Common Milkweed. My eyes opened Wide, for on those blooming milkweed were Mourning Cloaks, lots of them!!!

This was one of them, and I love this picture. Study it, its lush, lurid colors. What do you think?

That same year, I was brought to tears [Please don’t tell folks this admission] when a Mourning Cloak circled me several times from 30 feet up, and came down and . . . landed on my hat. Frieda A”H died just months before, and this mystical experience melt me like I was butter or something.

I love stuff, and especially Mourning Cloak Butterflies.