Skipper Flies to Thistle. Perfect.

Skipper Butterfly on Thistle photographed by Jeff Zablow at Clay Pond Preserve, Frewsburg, NY

Adams County, Ohio? A destination for sure. We were there the last week in June 2017. We had varied hopes. Most in our little group were focused on wildflowers and rare orchids. We were seeing wildflowers that were new to me, again and again. I was having too much Fun! Every trail promised. New wildflower. New to me tiny, robust, little orchids, that they told me were Oh so difficult to find. There they were.

Every 20 feet promised the appearance of terrific butterflies. Northern Metalmark! Edwards Hairstreak! Big, fresh Great Spangled Fritillaries. You’ve gotta love them Coral Hairstreaks. Neat Skipper butterflies, that Joe and Dave knew. Truth be told, I may have a Skipper block. Absent a skipper mentor, I find myself flummoxed when having to ID skippers. But! But . . . I still love meeting them, and trying to figure out which is which.

I passed this little patch of thistle-like wildflowers. My inner self told me to go back and photograph them. Moved into position, prepared to click my exposure . . . and then, Eureka!! This very shmeksy skipper flew in and began nectaring.

So here we are, Angela, with a wildflower I am not sure of . . . and Dave K, a skipper I am not sure of. What am I sure of? I’m sure I love sharing this with y’all. This at Prairie Road Fen Reserve, Ohio.

Jeff

The $100 Question?

Rare Skipper, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Brunswick, GA

That $100 question is . . . . Where must you head out to, if you are desirous of  meeting a Salt Marsh Skipper? In my case, the Crosby’s and I drove to Brunswick, Georgia. We wished to see and shoot Eastern Pygmy Blue Butterflies and Salt Marsh Skippers.

Why did we go to Brunswick, on the Georgia coast. Because to find Salt Marsh Skippers, you have to find their habitat, coastal salt marshes. Off we went, for my hoped for 1st view of Panoquina panoquin.

Bingo! Coastal marsh dwellers, they were challenging, alighting on these small yellow flowerheads, and remaining in place for fractions of seconds. No complaint mind you, for that sunny morning these coastal marshes were spectacularly beautiful, and we were treated with a menu of wetland birds, including hard to find Roseate spoonbills, very methodical working the marsh edges with their fascinating bills.

Our Salt marsh skippers spend their whole life living in salty or brackish marshes. I remember as a kid, spending all of those summers at Grandma Polisar’s tiny bungalow in Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York. Every bungalow in that little ‘colony’ had an outdoor shower, a little wooden affair, which scarily housed huge (? were they) spiders in their corner webs. You always showered after spending those 9 AM to 5-ish PM at the salty Atlantic beach. How do these skippers live 24/7 in a habitat just covered with briny salt? Well, that’s why they get the tag, butterfly ‘specialists.’

Jeff

Eye Candy on Mule Wallow Road?

Long-Tailed Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow on Mule Wallow Road trail in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

All that was missing was Johnny Mathis, sweetly serenading as I worked the edges of the trail known as Mule Wallow Road. It took  awhile, but there I was last August 2015, the proverbial kid in a candy shop, pirouetting from one new butterfly to another, new wildflowers, new flies, new insect, new botany. All those years enjoying the shares of others, in Florida, requited, for there I was, for 4 days, in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, in the northern Florida Panhandle.

This Long-tailed skipper butterfly was fresh and clean, and the Tall Ironweed blossoms must have been sweeter than sweet. How am I sure. This usually skittish butterfly almost totally disregarded my approach, and allowed me the honor of shooting away. The background here, green. A soothing, rich green. Johnny is still singing, I can just hear him.

Short of a nasty late summer tropical storm, the plan is to return to Georgia on the 8th of September, when the Liatris are in full show. They say that when that happens, butterflies flock to them. Sometime after the 8th, my goal is to get down there for about 4 days, staying in Perry, Florida. Alone again, naturally.

You know, you know how expectant I can be. Diagnosis? Just about incurably expectant. Guilty as charged. Doing what for me, comes . . . . . . . . y!

Jeff

Bet You’ve Never Met a Leonard’s

Leonard's Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Leonard’s Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Please form a single line, and get your betting cash ready, for me thinks that almost None of you have ever seen a Leonard’s Skipper. Hesperia leonardus and I have met only once. It was the most unlikely, improbable meeting!

The odds of seeing her on this trail were about as good as the odds of being there, and . . . along comes Cindy Crawford!

I’d visited this same southwestern Pennsylvania park, Raccoon Creek State Park, dozens of mornings that summer. It was a summer with lots of butterflies, quite the contrast to this summer of 2016. I scored many, many excellent images. I was pleased with that. There was no reason to return to Raccoon Creek, now that September had arrived.

The day before this day, the forecast was for a sunny, beautiful day. Tempting, very. But it was mid-September, y’all were back at work, kids back to school, and . . . I didn’t need more images!

That night I decided, OK, expect nothing much, butterflies in decline or gone, spring ephemerals a faint recollection, just expect a sea of goldenrod, and not much more. Even the Monarchs should be expected to have left.

I went, LaDeDah, it was so nice there, not a sole about, and so comfortable . . . and Then, then, something  flew out from the cut meadow edge, onto the trail in front of me, and my eyes, my eyes sent what they saw to my brain, and my brain, it responded, Huh? What is this???

I had never seen this before. It was a butterfly. It was super fresh. It was a skipper. It was a Big skipper. It remained on the just cut grassy trail, with its dorsal surface in perfect form.

I made my robotic approach, I sllllooooowwwwwllllllllyyyyyyyyy got down on my belly, and I shot away (Fuji film, Velvia 50). I moved some, changed film rolls, and took almost 50 exposures.

I learned something very important that day. There are butterflies that are “our only butterfly with a single brood in late summer (Butterflies of the East Coast by Cech & Tudor, Princeton University Press)” I also learned that I have nothing to complain of, for Cech and Tudor continue, “A strong, rapid-flying skipper, Leonard’s is notoriously difficult to approach.” This babe stayed and posed for me for what seemed like a lifetime, or almost 4 minutes. Leonard’s are said to be steadily disappearing from their known eastern range, making this even more incredible!

I learned: Don’t discount the possibilities when you go out there, never underestimate what you may or may not see.

Oh, I hope you read along here to this end, for I Love retelling this,Truth be Told.

Jeff