Rolling into Big Bend Wildlife Management Area that day, I was psyched even before I rolled to a stop in the small parking pad. The last 100′ I’d been passing . . . big, gorgeous Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies. I hadn’t seen them since many years ago in Mississippi. These Florida Panhandle Palamedes were much bigger than most other swallowtails, were mostly vividly hued, fresh and few were bird-struck (had bits of hindwing plucked by birds during unsuccessful attack).
Virginia discovered Big!! in May in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat (Yes, Eatonton, Georgia). A pair of Queen (!!!!) caterpillars. Never sen there before, Queens? Field guides show them no closer than a 2.5 hour drive south and east. They’re now eclosed and magnificent. No sweat as to what to nourish any future progeny with. The BBBPatch Habitat has about 100 Asclepias (milkweed) plants, poised and available.
Connect the dots? Virginia mentioned in April that she’s planning to set in Redbay trees/shrubs (?) to attract Palamedes swallowtails, like this instant one. Now many know that when this whirling dervish of a woman sets out to do something, Las Vegas’ line is very, very favorable. Palamedes in the Georgia Piedmont? Rare, but they have been historically seen there. Dare you bet against Miss Virginia?
I cannot ever forget the morning in 2016. I’d seen coupled butterflies in the field, lots of times. My favorite to date was that pair of Zebra swallowtails on the tiny beach at Mason Neck State Park, on Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline. They were super fresh, incredibly beautiful, and they unabashedly tolerated my presence, off and on for more than ½ of an hour. Paw Paw trees were nearby, and bald eagles were diving for lunch in the Bay. I was alone, naturally, and just beside myself with thankfulness, for the being there, then.
These Eastern Black Swallowtails above startled me, they did, when I noticed them in the perennial bed at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat. I’d seen so much eye candy there, that I was just beginning to get a teensy bid jaded to it all. Then I spotted them. Fresh, awash in sharply defined color. What a jolt! of excitement that was. I began the special silent pleading I do when I happen onto butterflies that I absolutely want to shoot, something that happens a fews times each year. I am pleading with the Almigh-y Above ( That’s a me thing. ).
And look, I scored the image I wanted. This is before Sylbie Yon entered the Habitat, totally unexpected. What followed is highlighted in the feature at the top of your screen, “Jeff’s Earrings.” The drama/excitement continued, culminating in that Sweet! front page newstory in the Eatonton Messenger ( Thursday, March 9, 2017 edition ).
The female shown in full dorsal ( super) display is gorgeous, and the male, too is a buster!
Jeff has been to many pre-sale exhibitions of Magnificent Jewelry at New York’s Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Doyle auction galleries. My eyes have seen. Trust me then, please, that this is Black Swallowtail Magic.
Minutes, hours, days spent seeking butterflies. I leave the disappointedly dirty streets, litter in otherwise comely city parks, hustle and bustle of traffic. Detach myself from the tens, hundreds and thousands of people whom I pass, who do not offer the Hello! or smile or eye contact that . . . I think shores all (most) of us up. No bills to see before my eyes, no housework to feel obligated to attend to, and almost, almost no thought of family and all that family means to me.
This one? We’re here in the Butterflies & Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. If I had to guess, I’ve posted maybe some 100 or more images from this Gem! of a nature reserve. Even here though, there are signs of leaves that are on the wane, flowers that are spent (as they must be . . . ), insects sadly down on the trails (dead), predators about who do belong who do play a role but who still tug at our sense of life and death. And there are always those squadrons of butterflies, many worn, scales mostly lost, who tease me, until I see that bird-struck hindwing, or those punctures in a wing or more. Y’all don’t much like to see damaged butterflies, no matter how much you protest that you . . . do.
Then, as here, in zooms! a wondrous creature, resplendent in fresh, bright color, and Oh, so Complete! That’s the juice that sets me ablaze! Objective? Capture that beauty, so that its throws a weightless sheer cover over all the not so pretties vying for our attention.
A Giant swallowtail butterfly, young, fresh . . . Beauty in Abundance! Caught on Fuji film, and no cell phone used in the process. Really.
Just miles from picturesque Lake Oconee, where the successful enjoy their comfortable second homes, this man is in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, in sweet Eatonton, Georgia. He’s there to find and photograph butterflies, especially butterflies native to the southeastern United States. It’s about 10:10 A.M. and those tiny Swallowtail caterpillars are his instant targets.
His film camera is this Canon Elan 7e with a Cannon Macro- 100mm/2.8 lens. The hat boosts Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. The headband, now having travelled more than 28,000 miles is from Dicks. The green shirt is worn to reduce the perceived threat as I approach butterflies, and from LL Bean. The jeans from Wrangler. The boots from Merrell (they did just great! in ’15 and ’16 on Israel’s uber-rocky terrain). The wool socks from . . . Goldtoe ( and a connection to . . .). Now, the enthusiasm? That’s from just being able to do this, having survived all of those precarious parts of my life, the sheer joy of meeting exquisite beauty, the real desire to be an esthete and a great appreciation for the Almighty, for allowing me to experience all of the above.
There are very few places in the 50 states of the United States that have this potential. What potential? I have seen 29 different species of butterfly at this Habitat in 2017, in a single morning. Virginia’s regulars and irregulars have pushed, pulled & planted a butterfly destination unlike almost any other . . . in America, right here in Eatonton. I’m trying to remember who to credit this photo to. I think to that very same Virginia C Linch.