Butterfly Horn of Plenty

Giant swallowtail butterfly on tithonia, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Nine years old and in Brooklyn, New York, we lived on the very edge of development. Just beyond our street corner, there were undeveloped, hardscrabble lots. There was my dream world. After the games of punchball, stickball, stoopball and roller hockey, I’d slip away and head to my favorite ’empty’ lot on E. 57th Street and Clarendon Road. Two to three hours there, in mid-June afternoon, I’d see maybe, 4 or five butterflies. That was the normal, I thought then.

From 1975 to 1990 we lived in suburban Long Island, New York. Doug Tallamy would tell you that my high ranch-style house was typical, with its many nectar -pumping cultivars, and surrounded by hundreds of houses carefully manicured by professional landscapers, and they planted 85% with alien shrubs. My squadron of butterfly bushes (Buddleia) drew perhaps 5-6 butterflies daily.

My third house in Pittsburgh marked my big epiphany. I took Kathy’s advice and read Tallamy’s ground breaking book, and I planted 90% natives, Clethra, Coneflowers, Milkweeds, Obedient plant, Pagoda dogwoods, American plum, American hornbeam, Senna, Monkeyflower, cardinal flower, and so much more. When attendance was taken, by day’s end, a sunny day would count 10 or more butterflies about.

My move to Georgia’s Piedmont in 2017, and now my largest garden ever, most of it in full sun, hit jackpot! I’ve put in hundreds of plants, almost all native to Georgia. At any given time, 30 or 40 butterflies may be flying, with many more busily nectaring on the tens of thousand of flowers there. Squadrons of Cloudless Sulphur, Dozens of skippers, too many Gulf fritillaries to count, platoons of Buckeyes, Painted ladies and American ladies, Giant swallowtails, as many as 5 or 6 at a time, Zebra swallowtails and Zebra heliconians and  . . . . At times, it’s battlestations, for I’ve seen my first ever Great Purple Hairstreak there, and some unlikely ones, as that Palamedes swallowtail that Kindly paid a visit.

There are several excellent nurseries that specialize in natives, including Night Song Nursery and Nearly Natives Nursery, and they are just a moderate drive from my home. You visit them, and Katy and Debi and Jim are 100% friendly and helpful.

This Giant swallowtail typifies the heady times that I enjoy here in this, my garden in sunny Georgia. Butterfly horn of plenty . . . dream . . . realized.

Up from the streets. My life.

Jeff

Those Waning Birthday Hours

Unidentified Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Fort Federica, Saint Simons Island, GA

Five hours left in my Birthday day. Facebook has brought around 100 Birthday greetings! from so many. Some I sort of expected, but many others were a Happy surprise. I was, well a bit aglow that so many fascinating, skilled, unique people really wanted to be friends, took the time and buoyed me.

I’ve seen how some go out to find butterflies in groups, once in a while in near mobs. I almost always go solo, and I forget each year, how my singular scouring of the field impacts later on so many. The long drives, the rented cabins, VRBO’s and Homeaways (Airbnb made a poor choice recently, politically), the frequent getting skunked, the expen$ive film, for I seem to be a color purist, the late in the day return to my rental, usually with Petra just gleeful to see me. It can be isolating, if it weren’t for the Holy Cows! that happen now and then, and have me jumping for joy like a 14-year old.

Few ever reach out or volunteer to show me the treasures of their region, state. Almost never am I met and guided to favorite habitat. NABA mucky mucks never reach out and when I rarely share on NABA, the extended ‘hand’ fails to appear.

So . . . this happily received outpouring all day today, from the USA, France, Sri Lanka, Israel ,Canada, Poland, Brazil and Pittsburgh, well, I Love it!

Virginia suggested I try Ft. Federica in August, on now posh St. Simons Island, Georgia. The fort reeks of important history, what with the anticipation of a Spanish Armada sailing up the river, to be stopped or to see the slaughter of the men, women and children of that brave fort and the community built around it.

This skipper butterfly was met in the meadows there at Ft. Federica. Perhaps Curt or Ken or Dave or . . . some NABA leader will come forward and ID. This is my only image of it.

Jeff

 

Common Checkered-Skipper (Female)

Checkered Skipper Butterfly on Lantana photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

They were rare sightings back in Pittsburgh. I don’t ever remember seeing Skipper butterflies in the New York City metropolitan area or in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

Here in Georgia, they are that big word, ubiquitous, seen alot, in most places. They fly low, fly away on your approach, in sum, a very at arms length butterfly.

This one here, she was seen in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. I see many more males than females, so this gal, preoccupied with lantana blossoms, was a nice capture, on a hot sunny Georgia morning.

Jeff

Where Do You Find A Salt Marsh Skipper?

Saltmarsh Skipper photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris NeckNational Wildlife Refuge, GA

Exactly! And that’s where I met this handsome example. This Salt Marsh Skipper was nectaring in the ‘butterfly’ garden at the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Townsend, Georgia. We were at the coast, just moments from the nearest Saltgrass, their hostplant.

They fly in the salt marshes of the United States, from Massachusetts, along the coastline all the way to Texas. They among the grass skippers. They’re easy to identify, with that long horizontal pale strip on their hindwings.

They are very kind, much tolerating the intrusion of the Macro- camera lens, to just inches from them. It seems that nectar near totally dominates their being, and my approach, no problem!

They ground me in reality. We sometimes get too big for ourselves, asking why this or that creature ‘deserves’ to continue its existence. Would not a nice development of fine homes be more important than that  population of skipper butterflies that lived there for say, 200 years? Uh, NO. I’d say that there are some 200 or more good reasons to splat! that suggestion, as we do to Musca domestics on a July day.

Jef

Rare Arizona Skipper

Arizona Powdered Skipper Butterfly at White Tank Mountains, AZ

I so admire those who share rare butterflies on Facebook. I went to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in December 2017, and Whoopee!! I had several fantastic days, seeing butterflies that there’s no way you could expect to see, in a year or in a decade. Examples? Erato heliconian, Red rim, Tropical greenstreak, Malachite and Gold-bordered hairstreak.

Sharing images and anecdotes? I enjoy doing that. Especially when the butterfly’s like this one, a rare and little seen Arizona arroyo (dry stream bed) butterfly, the Arizona Powdered Skipper.

Where’d we meet? In that arroyo I found in White Tank Regional Park, 35 minutes southwest of Sun City West. Won’t discuss the advisability of those hours scouring the long arroyo, partly because working that boulder strewn bone-dry arroyo nearly cost me, everything.

Pleased to share one that you might never ever see, I am.

Jeff