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?

Jeff

Israeli Swallowtail, Check!

Papilla Machaon butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Ramat Hanadiv, Israel

Eight? Nine? The number of visits I’ve made to Israel since 2008. Wonderful visits, meeting one grandson! The a second grandson! Seeing Rachel set roots and flourish. Relishing the vigor, beauty and success of this gutsy little nation. Tasting the sights, sounds, aromas and foods that are so unique to this part of the world.

My visits there are split between being guested at Rachel’s, where I am given the bomb-shelter room, and excursions into the field. Americans don’t know about this, Uh, uh! When they build a home, like Rachel and Uri did, they fortify a room and that will be the bomb-shelter room. Two years ago I was there, and sirens went off, and that meant . . . incoming from Gaza. So we dashed into that room with 1-week old Boaz. I was livid, having to go into a rocket-proof room with my one week old grandson. If all your sympathy is with them, you try living like that, and let me know how much you love it? My youth on the streets back then hardened me in a way, and that episode still triggers anger.

An objective of my each trip was to capture a good image of Israel’s swallowtail, Papilio machaon. They fly at high speed, are there and then gone! All my effort has produced few photo opps of these beauties. This one was a turning point. I was a Ramat Hanadiv, March 2016, on their exciting trails, when she flew in, and began nectaring. Daddah! She continued nectaring on the flowerhead. I shot, shot, shot, shot, and then . . . she was gone.

Fair to good image of Papilio machaon? Check!

Jeff

False Apollo Butterfly at Mt. Meron

False Apollo butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Nahal Dishon National Park, Upper Galilee, Israel

I set goals, I did. This February – March 2016 trip to Israel had me once again placing tabs on several pages of Dubi Benyamini’s field guide, A Field Guide To The Butterflies of Israel. My daughter Rachel and her family were fine and welcoming, now it was time to see butterflies that I’ve never seen before, or butterflies that I want better images of.

I’ve already posted here images of 3 butterflies closely related to swallowtails, The Clouded Apollo (the rarest of rare), Eastern Steppe Festoon and the Eastern Festoon. The missing 4th swallowtail relative? The False Apollo or Archon apollinus bellargus.

Last week of March I drove my Hertz rental from Mishmarot to the Upper Galilee. I checked into my field house accommodations at SPNI Meron, at the foot of Mt. Meron. Went to the nearest moshav (a type of village) to purchase my gluten-free/low salt food, and spent the next 3 days searching the SPNI Meron reserve, and area, venturing as far north as a tiny moshav, right, and I mean right up next to the Lebanon border (across which we may presume are Hezbollah terrorists or other such madmen).

Timing counts, no? Here I share with you a fresh Archon male. They flew low, and leisurely, and at that early hour, this one definitely wanted to warm his wings in the warmth of the early sun.

He just bedazzled me, with so much color in play, much of it rich to the reds, or blues or soft yellow, contrasted by broad sweeps of black, black in transition or what we shall call white. Long-time Followers know that my goal has long been to match or tweak the quality of field guide images. Jeff is a Happy boy here. A protected butterfly, usually difficult to impossible to find.

Jeff

Pipevine Color Pop!

Pipeline Swallowtail Butterfly sipping nector on a thistle photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

Marcie McGehee Daniels posted electrifying images of the 1st Pipevine Swallowtail she has ever seen in her yard in South Carolina. Soon there was alot of activity at her Facebook post. I came along shortly after she put her images up, and remembered to come back later last night, and again this morning. Lots of Comments. Lots of ‘Likes.’ Pipevines peak interest. Butterfly enthusiasts really like seeing them, and spread the word. Traffic picks up, and shares follow. You tell me your Pipevine experience, and I’ll tell you mine.

Why does the sudden appearance of Battus philenor bring so much excitement?

Cech and Tudor’s Butterflies of the East Coast (Princeton University Press, 2005) writes “dazzling,” “open flaunting of bright colors,” “cautionary displays [of hot colors].” This image here pleased me, because the orange is bright, the blues are so sweet, the black is total, and the whites on wing and body are sharp. Catch this ventral (lower) view in good sunlight, real-time, and the result is “Wow!” Capture that on an image, and you’ve done well.

Lucky you are to leave with a fine image of the dorsal (upper) view. A fresh male displays a field of flowing blue on its hindwings that forces another “Wow!” whether you consciously meant to or not.

They fly in directly, while you are busy scanning around the wildflower beds, leaving you little time to anticipate. There you are, suddenly realizing that that is not a Spicebush, not a Eastern Black, not a Black-form Eastern tiger swallowtail female!! It’s, it’s  . . . a Pipevine!!! Your brain calculates that hey Jeff Z, you don’t see many of them, and hey Jeff Z, this one is a beaut!!!! Fresh, strong, very shmeksy!!!!! It’s a rush for sure. Will you leave with 20-30 exposures, and therefore the chance of a Winner or two?

How do you insure that you’re chance of seeing them improves? Virginia’s answer to that: Plant their hostplants, native Pipevines. These medium-sized vines increase the odds of seeing them by alot. Curt gave me a pipevine last year. It came through our frigid Pittsburgh winter just fine. So, you can do that too. Obtain several and train them up a trestle, and Presto! you have more good news to look forward to.

When will a Pipevine swallowtail fly into your personal space? Will we be able to hear your suppressed shout of Joy!? Lots of “Oohing” and “Ahing” making this one of the most Pop! butterflies that I know.

Jeff