To See This Rare Parnassian Butterfly You Must . . . .

Parnassius mnemosyne butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

Where did I see this very Rare Parnassius Mnemosyne Syra butterfly? When did I see it? Why did I see it there? How confident was I that I’d see it?

I secured a guide to find especially rare butterflies, species only found on the peak of Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand(Israel). He picked me up in Tel Aviv and we drove the 3 hours to the Golan. The next day we took the lift up the 7,000 feet slope, and WOW! The peak of the mountain was so much larger and more expansive than I ever imagined. Eran lugged many liters of water for us, vital on that scorching 95F June day. We met birder there, they from Germany, who were seeking migratory birds. Eran spotted a land mine, a menacing man-made monster, in an area I was working in my search for butterflies. The mountain had been a battleground.

Eureka! We found many rare butterflies there, including this one. It was kind of exciting to know that our every move was being observed by the IDF, United Nations Observers and for sure Syrian troops.

The peak of Mt. Hermon is no longer open to us, for Syrian has recently been the world’s worst killing field, and because there are now more than 50,000 Iranian troops on the north base of Mt. Hermon, they wearing Syrian uniforms and driving Syrian marked military vehicle. That’s almost as dangerous a place to be as downtown New York, downtown Portland, Oregon or downtown Minneapolis. Irony of ironies.

I treasure this image. Really. How many have such?

Jeff

Met The False Apollo Butterfly in . . .

False Apollo butterfly  Nahal Dishon National Park, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Upper Galilee, Israel

It is difficult to accept, but this False Apollo butterfly is closely related to our Swallowtail butterflies. That I never saw one in the U.S. is explained by the absence of these Parnassian butterflies from much of the United States. They fly here in the western United States, mostly in mountainous areas.

I was 7,000 miles from home that early morning, in Nahal Dishon Park in Israel. That’s why I was there, to meet this eye-pleasing, new for me, butterfly.

Pleased I was to find such a fresh, vividly-colored False Apollo. Happy too I was, to be afforded those many moments that I was given to successfully capture it’s image.

I found, without a guide or guidance, this Protected HolyLand Parnassian butterfly.

This is the kind of experience that I Love.

Jeff

 

A Special Image From The HolyLand

Allancastria Cerisyi butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

These cold days are upon us, even though we reached 74 degrees Fahrenheit today in Eatonton, Georgia. A couple of hardy Cloudless Sulphur butterflies show themselves briefly, but this summers gangs of butterflies are absent.

Me? I fill this butterfly near vacuum with thoughts, thoughts of those amazing experiences I’ve enjoyed in the past.

He’s a fine male Allancastria Cerisyi seen several years ago near the village of Hanita, at the northeastern tip of Israel. I timed that trip to the HolyLand carefully. These rare, protected Parnassian butterflies fly briefly, fly only in April each year. They are only found near Hanita.

I stayed at the time with my family in Mishmarot, and drove my rental car to this area, at the Mediterranean Sea. I followed my map carefully, and . . . I found them!!

A special image this is for me, for only one in 10,000,000 Americans have ever seen A. Cerisyi. I enjoy dwelling on that, I do.

Jeff

Parnassian Butterfly East of the Mississippi?

Allancastria Cerisyis butterfly (Protected), photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

Irony that. I flew 7,000 miles, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Israel to see my first Parnassian butterflies. The continental USA has 2 species of these wondrous beauties, the Phoebus Parnassian and the Clodius Parnassian, as few as some 2,000 or so miles from Pittsburgh. Finding the HolyLand Parnassians turned out to be a tad easier, for Israel is a tiny little country, the western USA is enormous, and I would not have a clue as to where to search.

That said, you may be a bit surprised that America does not have Parnassians butterflies, closely related to our swallowtail butterflies, east of the Mississippi River. That may well have something to do with the parnassian’s preference for higher elevations.

This Allancastria cerisyi was a learning experience for me. I wanted to find them, and find them I did. They are rare, protected butterflies. The learning curve for me was, determine which rare butterfly you want to shoot, pinpoint the limited range (in this case, a narrow strip of Mediterranean shoreline at Israel’s northwestern corner), learn what you can about your objective, and go there. I rented a room in a nearby SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel) field house, and started out that morning early, very, very early. Several fruitless stops later, I noticed a nature park on the outskirts of the little Moshav (village) of Hanita. I parked, suited up for my field work, and within minutes . . . I found them, some nectaring and some still stationary, warming themselves in the morning sun. Bingo!

This play of yellow, black, red and yes, blue tickles my fancy. Better yet they are rare, but not rare once you time it right, and you located them in their certain habitat.

I cannot expect to ever forget that morning. Mission accomplished, mission electrifying.

Jeff

 

Getting Back to Those Very Rare HolyLand Ones

Parnassius mnemosyne butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

Jeff overcame his concern of heights that day, when he and Eran rode the tram up those 7,000 feet to the peak of Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand. We trudged those miles across Hermon’s peak, to find some of the rarest butterflies in the world. We had no GPS, no guidance, no one who told us where to search. It was 95 degrees F that day, full sun on Hermon. Eran is a bull of a guide, and he carried some many liters of water for us.

We were alone up there, except for a group of kids who came up later, briefly, and a German with his own guide, traversing this world birding site. That was good, for when good butterflies appeared, Jeff easily went off trail to follow them. Those trails were made by cattle, Arab cattle (Syrian or Israeli Arabs ?) that have cut those trails amidst the rock, for what, thousands of years? Off trail Jeff became on-trail Jeff when later in the day, Eran called me over to show me a land mine that had been missed by the sappers who clear those tools of war.

Did we? Yes. We saw many rare butterflies, including Parnassius mnemosyne syra, shown here. She incredibly closely related to the swallowtail butterflies! I love this image, and I remember this moment.

It’s been years, and I want to go back. Problem is that war is raging just down the north slope of Mt. Hermon, and some of the most notorious mass murderers on this planet are down there, seeking to kill.

If I could return to that mountain peak, with its extraordinary butterflies and habitat . . . would you go too?

Jeff