Where Would You Look?

Close up of Red Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow as it was basking on a trail at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania
Today is February 11th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This Red Admiral butterfly was photographed on August 27th, 2014. I was scouring Doak field for butterflies when this beaut flew in and stopped on a leaf. A real looker this one, sporting those smart red-orange bands, blue dots at the trailing ends of its hindwings, bright orange bands along its hindwing margins and even white tips on antennae. This butterfly is dressed to the 9’s.

“Where Would You Look?” asks a toughie. If you went outdoors today, or tomorrow, determined to find this Vanessa Atalanta, where should you look? To begin, they are common to all eastern US states, from Maine all the way south to Florida. Where in your area are they today, February 11th?

Answer? You’re unlikely to find their eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises or adults. Huh? Almost all the ones you will find in your garden, parks, farms, schoolyards and greenbelts fly up from Southern states in the Spring. Rarely do they overwinter as pupae. They are not well equipped to withstand northern winters. Remember those -9F nights we had this winter? This winged beauty has no adaptation for those temperatures.

You may hesitate to get into your car and drive 14 hours to St. Simons Island, Georgia. The butterflies take their time flying up from around there, but, that is what they do. Route I-95 anyone?


Red Admiral Butterfly Nectaring in ….

Red admiral butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Ramat Hanadiv,  Israel

Where are we? Spain, Denver, Estonia, Sao Paulo, Toronto, Moscow, Great Barrington, Baghdad, Paris, Shanghai, Wichita, New Jersey, the San Fernando Valley? Where in the world is this? …. Ramat Hanadiv, in west central Israel, not very far from the shores of the Mediterranean. Let’s go, count the colors of this very fresh Vanessa atalanta. Black, white, red, blue. An eye pleaser, no?

You can’t imagine how many approaches I had to make to finally be able to snap away and capture suitable images of this shmeksy butterfly. This is among those that are so unique in appearance, that as soon as you see one, you remember the last one you saw, and your brain instantaneously recognizes those reddish blazes on the forewings. Male or female? It is difficult to distinguish the sex of Red admirals.

They perch for a bit, then they fly to nectar. Then they perch some more, and again fly to a spot where they can sip nectar. Once the morning ends, they disappear for some time, then reappear, and perch/nectar, perch/nectar. Males do reveal themselves eventually, because they are especially territorial. They establish a perch, and return to it repeatedly. They challenge other butterflies or insects that enter their imagined territory. Each and every time I see Vanessa a. males speed to make these challenges, I compare them to my rather rough childhood. Many a time I had steel on my person…. These gentlemen fly off to challenge with nothing more than sylvan wings…. Impressive.

Racheli and the staff at Ramat Hanadiv offer a beautiful, welcoming menu of perennials, annuals, and shrubs for their butterfly neighbors. And the excellent restaurant, where I have already noted that after a morning’s effort, I enjoy a comfortable, tasty, fresh gluten-free lunch. Not without gratitude for it all.


Red Admiral (Israel)

Red Admiral butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Ramat Hanadiv, Israel

The world cooks this and that scenario to bring ‘Peace’ to the ‘Middle East.’ The media paints a dark picture of that region, and its viewers imagine a place of tension, strife and conflict, everywhere. Meanwhile…our Vanessa atalanta savors the real peace, calm  and tranquility of Ramat Hanadiv, an hour’s drive north and west of Tel Aviv, and within minutes of the Mediterranean sea. A much better barometer of realities on the ground, imbibing sugary nectars in a land planted decades ago, and now awash in Milk and Honey.

This was March 12th, and I was working the perennial beds of their vast botanical park. Papilio machaon were seen that morning, but only for a moment, mimicking as they do Israeli Phantom jets, Whoooosh!…gone. Archon apollinus (known as False Apollos) rushed down the trails of Ramat Hanadiv, they too maintaining top speed. So, no Wow! photos of Swallowtail or False Apollos those 3 mornings there in March. Too bad, too, because March brings the end of Israel’s winter. Not a winter like we enjoy in Pittsburgh, USA (lots of snow, ice and low temperatures of 0 to 10 degrees Farenheit). Israel’s winter is cold and slightly bone dulling, with nigh time temperatures down to perhaps 40-45 degrees Farenheit.

We look again, this time more closely, at our Red admiral as its proboscis captures those sweet carbohydrates, mixed with pollen and imperceptible other nutrients. We eye the smashing reds of fore wings and hind wings, and we are pleased with the stark arctic white splashes set hard amongst sheer black and with a little bit of eye strain…there is one of those sweet blue patches along the margin of that right hind wing.

Let the haters and plotters and criminals and fanatics run their bloody  games…this is the vision of this Land that is real.


Red Admiral Butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly photographed in Ramat Handiv, Israel

You’re working the paths in the perennial gardens of Ramat Hanadiv, in Israel. It’s a wonderful time to be there, after all in March butterflies typically are fresh and fun to photograph.

Suddenly, in zooms! just such a butterfly, Vanessa atalanta. Now we know that Red admirals can be verrrry skittish, and usually leave within seconds of appearing. But, it’s morning, the sun is out, there is little wind and flying as much as they do requires lots of carbohydrates. End result, our Vanessa a. remains on these flowers for a long enough time for me to shoot away, and enjoy this image with upper left wings, head, antennae and proboscis.

Compare this image taken of an Israeli Vanessa a. with our images of U.S. Vanessa a.’s (click on Butterfly Types – Admiral). 6,300 miles apart and don’t they look ……………………………….. Red Admirals sure are adaptable.