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.

Jeff

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.

Jeff

Caron 5

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto Canada

I’m counting, Caron, counting the many reasons that I select this image as one of my 5 favorites. This gorgeous Mourning Cloak butterfly. Where’d I meet this elusive beauty? Smack-dab! in a large park in the city of Toronto, Ontario. How I met it, I will not forget.

Mourning Cloaks are few and far between in southwestern Pennsylvania. They are solitary, and mostly fly in the Spring and in the Fall. Their preference is on or about trails that pass through dappled shade, near running stream and rivulets. I’ve posted earlier how that Mourning Cloak, months after I lost Frieda A”H, flew above my head, some 70 or so feet up, then disappeared out of sight. ???? It flew to my hat, and rested there. Next it flew up again, to about 70 feet, and flew down the trail some 100 feet, turned and flew over my head once again, at the same hight of 70 feet. Then . . . it was gone. I lost it all, and cried like a baby, I did. I had lost my love and best friend, and my whole being made a connect with that Mourning Cloak, in a way that defies explanation.

When I began to date, after that void in my life, I began seeing a new friend in Toronto. Six hour plus drive from Pittsburgh. On that certain trip, I brought my camera. We went for a walk in a pretty Toronto park, West Don Park, I think. I notice a modest break in the bushes that lined a walk, and told her I’d be back in a second . . . I pushed through that likely deer passageway through the heavy shrubbery and I entered a small meadow, one I will never forget. It was almost filled with Common Milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca). They bore round huge flower heads, and on those extraordinary blooms were squadrons of Mourning Cloaks, and skippers and other butterflies. Loaded. I was in a kind of butterfly shock. All, or nearly all were fresh and comely.

This is my favorite from that magical meadow in the center of Toronto. I had for Oh! so long wanted a Mourning Cloak image that boasted their rich color, the maroon of the wings, the eye-popping blue spots of the wing margins and the lemon-yellow of the wing edges.

And there is the very real Sigh! I feel, recalling a Mourning Cloak so beautiful that its escape, just as I was now down on the floor of Nichol Road Trail continues to sort of haunt me. It had flown to the perpendicular bit of rock at the side of the trail, and posed there, a sight for Happy eyes. I’m down on my tummy, raising my Canon, and . . . it flew!!!

A OMG! Mourning Cloak moves me, for sure it does.

Jeff

Guess Where We Met?

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto Canada

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto Canada

Oh Super! the caption affixed to this image gives it away immediately. I was going to offer Borneo, Cuba, Kenya and Mongolia . . . but you now know we met in Toronto.

Favorite ice cream? Breyer’s Mint Chip. Favorite meat? Grilled Lamb chops. Favorite trail? Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park. Favorite state? Pennsylv/eorgia.

Favorite butterfly? This Mourning cloak butterfly. They fly in March, April, May, June . . . then you can’t find them until . .  September, October and maybe, maybe a bit into November. When you see one like this one, Busting with rich color, it’s like that time when you were 16 or 17 and you entered the . . .  and there she/he was and you almost couldn’t . . .  And it’s about the same, you’re thinking don’t, don’t leave stay there and let me get my act together, ’cause . . . .

It was one like this one that busted me up  that morning on Nichol Road trail, so soon after she passed . . .

From Maine down to northern Florida, and across North America.

Citing favorites is a fool’s errand, but you do expect me to not hold back here, so . . . it’s this one, the Mourning Cloak.

Jeff

Winter Antidotes I

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto

Bitter cold, bone-chilling wind, always the threat of snow flurries, or even more disarming, snow. This New York, cum Pittsburgh boy has known northeast winters throughout his life.

15 years of seeking butterflies, seriously, has added another negative to my winter list. No butterflies (wild).

Let’s share this as the first of a number of winter antidotes. After all, these Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis Antiopa) are generally the very first to be seen, and that’s often during the last week in February, sometimes with much snow on the ground.

So friends, for those go-getters who are willing, it may be just a modest 54 days plus or minus, until our first northeastern butterflies take wing.

How? Don’t most require a minimum of 60 F to fly? Yes, most do, but this butterfly flies when it is much colder than that. Then how can the manage without nectar about? Mourning cloaks enjoy sugary sap dripping from maples and other trees, and they food on scat.

54? OK.

Jeff