Me? I’m Dreaming . . . of 2017

Allancastria Cerisyi butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

Here we are in late October of ’16. We here in southwestern Pennsylvania now see an Orange sulphur butterfly here and there. Maybe a worn Mourning cloak butterfly in Frick Park or in Raccoon Creek State Park. Virginia and friends daily share on Facebook, Monarchs, Swallowtails, Gulf Fritillaries and American Ladies. We are checking where we left our snow shovels, Virginia, Stanley, Nancy, Cathy and Marcie are stalking butterflies.

Somehow that got me to thinking of my next trip to my grandsons in Israel. Two hours waiting for my Pittsburgh flight to New York, then some 3-5 hours wait for my El Al flight to Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv. Meet my daughter Rachel at the beautiful airport, then we rent a Hertz car and drive the 1-hour plus to her home, north of Hadera, not too far from mysterious Caeseria.

Three, perhaps 4 weeks as Rachel’s guest, in their bomb shelter equipped 3rd bedroom . . . and at least 2 long drives north, to the Upper Galilee and north Golan regions. Objectives? #1 Butterflies. #2 Wildflowers and especially rare Orchids and Irises.

In the Galilee and Golan, I pass, see, photograph next to Christian sites that would so excite so many of you. Yet, to date, not a single taker, to my suggestion, book when I do, and let’s roam . . . .

Oh, and what the Media scares you with, that Israel is dangerous, is a whole lot of Hooey (whatever Hooey is).

On a recent trip, I set out to find an endangered swallowtail-relative, Allancastria cerisyi. Well here he is. I found them near a small Galilee village. They fly wildly, and then, unexpectedly, stop, and well, pose. 10-15 exposures, and Zoom!! gone. Then I went on to find the next male, and repeated this minuet. The females, well they were mostly hiding, but when I found one, she usually stuck around a bit, as I softly whispered to her. Totally Fun, and very Rewarding that! Funny, quite rare, but if you find them . . . there they are. Amazing I think.



What Jeff Tries To Capture

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

Let’s use this Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, in part because last month in Georgia I met a good number of these winged beauties. As the years go by, I am happy to share that more and more of us are out there, capturing butterfly images. That is very good news.

When I view your shares, mostly on Facebook, I am often tempted to offer my encouragement, and to . . . offer some suggestions. We know that when a fine butterfly comes along, the excitement is real, and we rush to get some pictures of it.

Let me share what I work to achieve in a photo capture. First and foremost, my goal is to share, so I carefully consider the background. This image had a very yummy! background, and that was a Go! Next I remind myself that the flowerhead or leaf platform ought to be sharply defined, to enhance the overall. Those considerations happen lightning quick, time being sooo limited.

Now to the butterfly. My priority is capture of the eye or eyes. Long ago I thought this through. A good image of a Great blue heron, or a grizzly bear, of a lion, no matter which, they all share sharp eyes. Photos of horses are very beloved, and the eyes are always crisp and defined. My image here met my own threshold of acceptability.

Next, and critical, the wings. We admire butterflies largely because of the extreme beauty of their wings. I have never seen a butterfly whose wings, if well  captured, are not beautiful or beyond beautiful. Wings inspire, connect us with our Maker. When this image came back from the slide processor, the wings assured me that I would be pleased to use this image.

Eyes, wings OK, then on to other goals, I try for good head capture, especially the head coloring (think those Wow! big white spots on Monarch heads) and if it’s doable, the antennae and the tiny palps.

Abdomen improves the whole package, and here the Pipevine’s abdomen boasts white spots and flashes of that extraordinary blue! Legs are one of my last considerations, knowing all along that good legs always please.

Every once in a while there’s a bonus, and that bonus is an unfurled proboscis. My experience is that folks enjoy seeing a curled proboscis.

These objectives meld with time enabling you to respond almost effortlessly to produce images that gain those Oohs! and Ahhs! that so Thrill! us.

What do you think?


Back to Big Bend WMA

Palmed Swallowtail Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida

Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida

Our trip to Georgia this July to August 2016 was, super duper! ‘Our’ because Petra came along, too. The fieldwork was too much fun! Destinations were Yummy. The Habitat in Eatonton (27 species of butterfly in one morning), Shellman Bluff on the coast, Brunswick, Ga, Skidaway Island (very tony and gated, Thanks Fitz), Jekyll Island, Ga, St. Simon Island (birthplace of Virginia C Linch, founder of the world famous Butterflies & Blooms Habitat, Eatonton), Walton County, Georgia, and the Georgia Botanical Gardens, in Athens, Ga (home of the Bulldogs).

Catching a glimpse of this beaut, was not assured, and if I saw one, it was from some distance, on Skidaway Island. The Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes) is a very big,  strikingly beautiful swallowtail butterfly. Last year I was bedazzled at big Bend Wildlife Management Area on the Florida Panhandle. Four, 4! days spent at Big Bend, surrounded by squadrons of these Palamedes. Not a human in sight all morning, each morning, but not alone, as these winged beauties flew in and out. They hunt for and sip nectar, hard and furiously.

Our plan is to return to Georgia in mid-September, and again make a run down to Big Bend. The tip I got then was that butterflies of all types abound when the Liatris (Gayfeather) is in bloom. Back last year, they just, just began opening, as I was extending my goodbyes to Big Bend. Argh!

The plan is to be back again, with Liatris in Full show! Alone again naturally?  (Petra does not join me in the field. meet her and you will know why).

Stay tuned.



Favorites For 2016: Tiger Swallowtails

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Phipps Conservatory,  Pittsburgh

We’re in a butterfly year that for sure challenges. Butterflies are flying, but aren’t you seeing them less often, and in reduced numbers? Don’t you work your trails thinking, ‘I miss the Eastern tailed blues, duskywings and American coppers that usually monitor me as I move along this or that trail?’ and ‘It was so much fun watching the Wood nymphs play Peek-a-Boo with me just 2 or 3 years ago!’ Totally “Missed seeing Monarchs surprise us all and come on stage” to resounding cheers, in June!

That’s the year I’m living here in ’16. Then who does this year seem to belong to, at least for now? I say, the Tiger swallowtails, Papilio glaucus. Males are almost everywhere, doing the wild and crazy swooping, diving, swerving and otherwise wild flying in search of females. Their females have certainly played hard to find, too.

Enjoy your Independence Day, and report back, won’t you?