The Elusive Southern

Southern Pearly-eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

The only Pearly-eye butterfly I’d seen was in southwestern Pennsylvania, and that was the Northern Pearly-eye. Nearly impossible to approach is the Northern. Over many years I’d found some Northerns that held fast to their leafy perches, and allowed me to make my Macro- lens approach. Many of you have seen my Northern images here on earlier wingedbeauty.com posts.

My appetite for Pearly-eyes satiated? No, because I wanted to find and shoot the other 2 American Pearly-eyes, the Southern Pearly-eye and the even more elusive, the Creole Pearly-eye. How to find them, go south young man!

Georgia! I made several trips to the Georgia Piedmont, middle Georgia that is, many miles East of Atlanta. There I made new friends, and it was suggested that I contact Rose and Jerry. The next thing I knew, I was to meet them at the Park Office at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. I did and I enjoyed a day I will never forget. Never!

Before we left that Park Office, a Ranger warned me, me!, that I must understand that the wooded bottomlands (wet) we were headed to sickened earlier visitors with several serious, chronic diseases, vectored by mosquitoes. I stood there, as those around me waited for my reaction and response. Me? I thought ‘Cr-p!” I’d grown up on the streets of Brooklyn, often with cold steel in my pocket, navigated a life of frequent risk and danger, been an artillery officer during the early years of Viet Nam, been a Dean in a New York City high school for nearly 6 years (guns, knives, gangs, riots, Connected guys, murder), and well, more. Am I really going to confront a stated risk, disease-transmitting mosquitoes (I think the Ranger told of at least 4 horrible diseases.) Kid Zablow made a snap decision, and we went to the swampy bottomland.

It was as a Hollywood set for a horror movie. Dark, muddy wet, mosquitoes constantly checking to see if my heavy covering of Off! (Deet-25%) was still potent) and all three (3!!!) Pearly-eyes bedeviling us by flying away each and every time we made an approach, forcing us to jump over logs, pull our boots out of the mud, only to find that our Pearly-eye had flown again. Rose and Jerry were selfless, with eagle eyes, always calling me quickly, “Jeff, come quick, a Southern” or “Jeff, over here a Creole, a Creole!”

I was soon exhausted, for I didn’t mention that the humidity there was some 115% and it was hard to breathe, what with the 90F plus heat in that darkened, dank lowland.

You’ve gotta know that none of us quit. They looked like they could have done another 2 hours down there. I must have looked like pudding . . . But, we saw all 3 Pearly-eyes. All 3!

This Pearly -eye is the Southern Pearly-eye butterfly. Forgive the image, for it was very dark under that tree cover, and as you can see, very wet there. I did stop some distance from this beaut, after having so many flee on closer approach. It is a fine looking one though.

I left that site at Piedmont beyond exhausted. Hours of mucking in dank, muddy dark, mosquito infested swampy habitat. Happy as a duck, for I saw and shot all 3 Pearly-eye butterflies. Rose and Jerry? My heroes.

The elusive Southern Pearly-eye captured . . . on Fuji Velvia 100 slide film, that film straining to reward Jeff despite real, dark, super moist light.

Jeff

Northern Pearly Eye Thrills

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

They are often hard to find. They stay in shade, or within several feet of shaded spots. On your approach, they flee, flying low, but with the skill of an accomplished F-16 pilot. Few of us ever get to savor the spots that adorn their closed wings. What we are lucky to see is just that, their ventral (the underside) wings’ surfaces.

So they are demure, very. They do not come out and display their comely features or bling. Mostly they stay to those margins of the forest, very prim ands proper, and shy, so shy.

That is why this image of such a Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly stands out for me. This one allowed my approach, and I was thrilled, because it was there taking in whatever early morning sun it felt safe to absorb. Thrilled for how many get to see this? See the milk chocolate hue of those wings, and the handsome array of those spots,  each bordered in yellow gold? He is a hunk, no doubt of that.

Jeff

Caron 2

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

‘Jeff’s Earrings’ served as my first pick, responding to Caron, she asking what may be my 5 favorite butterfly images. My first photo was shared here yesterday.

Caron 2? For many years Raccoon Creek State Park was my favorite destination. Doak fields there is a more than 100 acre meadow, where after 3 to 4 hours, I usually saw not a single soul there. Perfect! After those hours in the summer sun, I would hike back to my truck. That 3/4 of a mile hike, went along a moist area, with trees on each side. For many years, I would see Northern Pearly-Eye butterflies fleeing ahead of me. They preferred that short stretch of Nichol Road trail, enjoying the dappled shade, moist forest borders and nearby little stream. I scored few shots of them, ever.

This time, about 4 years ago, my eyes searched the low growth of the trail edges. There it was, a very, very fine Northern Pearly-Eye. It was a good size and . . . it held to its leaf.

I so, so slowly made my approach, decided not to cop ‘insurance’ images. I was going in, robotically. I’m pretty sure I had Fuji Velvia ASA 100 (faster) film in camera. I began talking to this gem telepathically, ‘Don’t go, don’t go, Please.’

Pearly-Eye remained in place. I was no down on my left knee. Good. I slowwwwly raised my Macro-lens. Good. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Perhaps 35 or more exposures.

I waited the 2 weeks or so to get my slides back from Dwayne’s Photo. You must remember that day, Caron, for that day you heard a muffled scream of Joy!! when I louped them on my lightbox. Several were worthy of Caron’s List, Yippee!!!

Jeff

2018 is in with a Bang!

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

I’m back from the Rio Grande Valley, Mission, Texas to be exact. Just flew home less than 24 hours ago. Wow! I repeat, Wow!

This accompanying image of a Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly is one of my favorites. An elusive species of butterfly, but that day there it was, and how fine a Northern Pearly Eye, this one. This is one of those images that, back in the early ’90’s, I hoped, hoped I could ever share. An image that stands on its own merits, and that encourages and reminds that we are surrounded by G-d’s magnificent handwork.

I’m now shipping my 27 rolls of Fuji Velvia film to Parson, Kansas. You will not believe how many very, very rare and, very very beautiful butterflies we saw in very southern Texas. Short of a couple of cloudy, cool days, my Life list of butterflies ballooned out, in just that one week in Texas.

So, I wish a Happy New Year to you, and if Dwayne Photo’s returns good stuff to me, I look forward to sharing dreamy images of Erato heliconians, Red rims, Malachites, Gold-bordered hairstreaks (last seen in the U.S. in 1968), Tropical leafwings and so many more. Those and the largest, freshest male Monarch I’ve ever seen, and his quick, successful flirtation with an equally Big female Monarch.

To 2018!

Jeff

The Butterfly of the Shadows

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Along favorites trails we keep our eyes alert for butterflies that fly the forest edge. When the weather forecast fails, and clouds that shouldn’t, do appear, its drats! Butterflies almost universally prefer sunny to dappled sunny locales. Bring dark clouds, and butterflies disappear, as quick as that.

When it’s cloudy, or dark or slightly drizzly, there’s a strong temptation to no longer remain alert for random butterfly flight. Years of working trails has taught that when you are moving through moist wooded habitat, or habitat with active streams or moderate wetland, it’s important to not succumb to dropping your attentive radar, for  with wet conditions flanking your trail, chances are good that you will note these beauties, Northern Pearly-Eye butterflies.

Northern Pearly-Eyes are difficult to make approach to. They flee approach, not with jet-like speed, but just as effectively, as they fly their low, looping flight, and just about vanish from sight.

This magnificent Pearly-Eye was seen on Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. It was to my right on the trail, and the forest that began at trail edge was poorly lit, and humid.

I kept asking the Ab-ve to allow me to get my Macro- lens close to this one. It looked handsomely fresh. I approached, robotically. It held the leaf. Closer again, it remained. Slowly lowered my left knee onto my Tommy knee pad, it was still there.

I love this image, now one of my favorites. A butterfly that when seen looks bland, now revealed to be very shmeksy! when you close the distance from Pearly-eye to Macro- lens.

When I occasionally revisit this image, Oh, how I  appreciate the many features that it shares, so easily.

Jeff