That Uplifting Giant

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

She flew in yesterday. I spotted her as she spent alot of time first inspecting one of our Hercules Club plants. Satisfied, it seemed, with the vitality of our 2nd year in the ground Hercules Club, she spent several minutes deposits eggs on it, one at a time. It looked like our friendly Giant, Giant Swallowtail butterfly set 3 eggs on this plant.

Planted safely away from her, about 10 feet away, I smiled big time, for it was April 12, and here in middle Georgia, Eatonton, a healthy Giant was in our own yard, entrusting us with her precious eggs!

Did she leave right then? Nope. She spent more than an hour in our yard, searching and finding our other Hercules Club and Hop tree young plants. I think that she left her eggs on all of them. Friday sunset was approaching, so I couldn’t check them all for eggs.

Last year we set several Giant caterpillars in our newly purchased ‘cube,’ and managed to feed them all. I think all eclosed, and were released, to our significant joy and satisfaction.

This whole business of fostering the success of swallowtails leaves you with a very pleased sense. Seeing Mrs. Giant get the process going in the 2nd week of April, here in the Deep South . . . icing on the cake!

Our young Sassafras trees are off to a good start, our Rue is looking strong, Tulip Poplar trees are leafing well, Native Black Cherry look fine, Pipevine are strong, Willows are amazing, Spicebush are making up for a slow start their first year, milkweeds look happy, Plums are reaching for the sky, Passionflower are just now beginning to grow, Pussyfeet putting out good flower, Hackberry trees appear to be healthy . . .  Pawpaw adding inches. Might be that we’ll need to order that 2nd ‘cube.’ Wouldn’t that be fun?

Jeff

April in Beg Bend

Palamedes Swallowtail on Thistle Flowerhead photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

I returned last night, driving those 248 miles home from St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida’s Panhandle. One week in a sweet VRBO rental home on the scrumptious Aucilla River. Gifted with mostly sunny weather, this 2nd visit to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area was a joy. Even before you leave Mandalay Road to drive to Big Bend, those early morning walks dish up deer, boar, osprey, and snake. You are in a high state of expectation, for you might see others that abound in St. Marks NWRefuge: bobcat, alligator, bear, manatee, gar, bald eagle, coyote . . .

The devastation from that last hurricane, months ago, was moderate. These same thistle were in rich bloom. The Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies, like this beaut, were everywhere. That 2016 visit was during the last week of August. This early April 2019 trip so convinced me that a Big Bend redo was a very, very good idea.

Why did I go back? Sitting here, working that question in my mind, I again and again remind that I fell in love with the Georgia Satyrs that I saw at Old Grade tram back in ’16, and regretted that my few images of them were Eh! We shared then that late August that time was Hot! Humid! and a plague of biting insects made each and every exposure an eye irritating (salt running down over my Dick’s headband onto my eyes) experience, me on my belly, saying aloud that what I was doing was an incredibly uncomfortable time, and yet I sooo wanted a stunning Georgia Satyr image.

Last week I saw some 15 Georgias.

My skirmishes with No-See-Ums were mostly horrible, the one day they waited for me to exit my vehicle, then, as I began to set out my folding stool to change to my Merrells, they kamakazied me. I quickly sprayed on my Off! 40%, way too late, for I am now a mass of small welts, 97.61% of them itchy!

My exposed slide film now is overnighted to Kansas, with Appalachian Brown, Spicebush Swallowtail, Little Wood Satyr, huge Tiger Swallowtail, Palamedes Swallowtail and Viceroy capture.

Jeff

That Librarian Moment

Palamedes Swallowtail on Thistle Flowerhead photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

My first morning in the Spring Unit at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, near Perry, Florida. I will not forget driving up to the entrance of the Spring Unit, and ogling a stand of these large thistles, each sporting oversize flowerheads. It wasn’t so much the size and rich color of the thistle. What super-charged me was the platoon of huge Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies that were feeding on them!

I etched that sight into my life-memory bank. A moment when I was touched by the absolute beauty before me, negating all the blah/blah of those who lack firm conviction of the origin of it all.

The Palamedes tolerated my relatively close approach, and this look pleases me.

TBTold, it was a ‘Librarian Moment.’ Self enforced silence, for I was in a very special place, enjoying a very special sight, and I knew that silence was appropriate and earned there.

I plan to return there, perhaps to the Hickory Creek Unit, soon, in April 2019. Yippee!

Jeff

Eye Candy Swallowtail

Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly on Thistle photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

We were at ‘What’s this, What’s that?’ mode, now examining this heretofore never seen thistle. Its stems looked way too frail, and its flowers had delicate petals, they a difficult to describe pinkish white.

What also caught our eye was the steady arrival of butterflies and bees. I reasoned that with the obvious magnetic pull of these blossoms, I might just stop at this particularly robust looking thistle, and await what might fly in.

That worked out well, for soon this especially gorgeous Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly arrived. He had to be very fresh, for his wings were almost black, and their shocks of color were as dramatic as you’d see in the butterflies of Costa Rica, Peru, Bolivia or Indonesia.

A super-duper Palamedes swallowtail at the edge of Laura’s Woody Pond in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, on the Georgia coast.

Eye candy in this showcase of a Refuge.

Jeff

Peru? Bolivia?

Close Up of Pipevine Swallowtail  Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow as it perched on Bergamot flower at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 7/31/14

Life sure has a way of intruding on your plans. Paul’s brother Fred dazzled me with anecdotes of his studies in the interior of Bolivia and Peru. He’s an academic, and travelled there to pursue birds. The things that he found, leave you speechless. Birds and butterflies of almost indescribable beauty and mystery. His telling of the dangers that he confronted chastened me, for after the streets of Brooklyn, thank you, I do not want to be one of the poor souls who are in a bus the goes over the side of a cliff, on one of those unimproved mountain roads!

Me? I’m very happy to travel here in the U.S.A to more predictable destinations, like this one. Doak field in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Imagine us there, with Bergamot blooms blanketing this enormous meadow, as a Pipevine swallowtail butterfly floats in. The pipevine is anxious for the rich sugary nectar of the Bergamot. Distracted, I cautiously move in closer, and what I see there, erases my thoughts of Peruvian rain forests, their ferocious mosquitoes, the very real threat of being ambushed/kidnapped ( my son was kidnapped there, and Thank G-d he and Rene were released unharmed ), or caught in the middle of a firefight in Lima, between army and rebels.

America is a butterfly magnet, and for good reason. My Fuji slide film shoots color real-time, and this year, I hope to please you with butterflies of much beauty, amidst green foliage that is honest in its share of green.

Jeff