My Most Viewed Butterfly?

This female Easter Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly remains one of my viewed wingedbeauty images, ever. Taken at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, some nine hours west of the Empire State Building in New York City.

One of my most viewed ever.

Do be so kind as to share with me. Why have so many of you taken the time to have a look at this particular butterfly?

Jeff

Butterfly Horn of Plenty

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

Nine years old and in Brooklyn, New York, we lived on the very edge of development. Just beyond our street corner, there were undeveloped, hardscrabble lots. There was my dream world. After the games of punchball, stickball, stoopball and roller hockey, I’d slip away and head to my favorite ’empty’ lot on E. 57th Street and Clarendon Road. Two to three hours there, in mid-June afternoon, I’d see maybe, 4 or five butterflies. That was the normal, I thought then.

From 1975 to 1990 we lived in suburban Long Island, New York. Doug Tallamy would tell you that my high ranch-style house was typical, with its many nectar-pumping cultivars, and surrounded by hundreds of houses carefully manicured by professional landscapers, and they planted 85% with alien shrubs. My squadron of butterfly bushes (Buddleia) drew perhaps 5-6 butterflies daily.

My third house in Pittsburgh marked my big epiphany. I took Kathy’s advice and read Tallamy’s ground breaking book, and I planted 90% natives, Clethra, Coneflowers, Milkweeds, Obedient plant, Pagoda dogwoods, American plum, American hornbeam, Senna, Monkeyflower, cardinal flower, and so much more. When attendance was taken, by day’s end, a sunny day would count 10 or more butterflies about.

My move to Georgia’s Piedmont in 2017, and now my largest garden ever, most of it in full sun, hit jackpot! I’ve put in hundreds of plants, almost all native to Georgia. At any given time, 30 or 40 butterflies may be flying, with many more busily nectaring on the tens of thousand of flowers there. Squadrons of Cloudless Sulphur, Dozens of skippers, too many Gulf fritillaries to count, platoons of Buckeyes, Painted ladies and American ladies, Giant swallowtails, as many as 5 or 6 at a time, Zebra swallowtails and Zebra heliconians and  . . . . At times, it’s battlestations, for I’ve seen my first ever Great Purple Hairstreak there, and some unlikely ones, as that Palamedes swallowtail that Kindly paid a visit.

There are several excellent nurseries that specialize in natives, including Night Song Nursery and Nearly Natives Nursery, and they are just a moderate drive from my home. You visit them, and Katy and Debi and Jim are 100% friendly and helpful.

This Giant swallowtail typifies the heady times that I enjoy here in this, my garden in sunny Georgia. Butterfly horn of plenty . . . dream . . . realized.

Up from the streets. My life.

Jeff

Palamedes Pretty

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

I must have dozens of vivid memories of butterflies and where I first met them. Maybe it’s more than a handful of dozens of strong memories of first meet-ups. That Gulf Fritillary in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. A Gulf in Pittsburgh!! Those 2 Harvester Butterflies in Raccoon Creek State Park, Pennsylvania. The Goatweed Leafwing in that same Raccoon Creek State Park. I was so startled to see it on that tree trunk, that I forget to put my camera to work!! The Southern and Creole Pearly-eyes in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly in Mason Neck State Park in Virginia. The Malachite and the Erato Heliconian butterflies in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. A standout first saw was that morning when I came upon the most gorgeous Tawny Emperor ever, again in Raccoon Creek State Park.

This Palamedes was one of the first I’d ever seen, this time in 2016 in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area in the Florida Panhandle (northern Florida). They were huge and they adored the thistle seen here. There were many of them. When they’re fresh the black of their wings in brilliant jet black and bedazzles.

I’m booked to return to Big Bend and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in just a few months. I can hardly wait to reunite with Palamedes Swallowtails, Georgia Satyrs, Goatweeds, Great Purple Hairstreaks and all of those Skippers that are so difficult to ID.

Yet another destination this year might be Okefenokee Swamp. Oh, who might I see there? Pretty Palamedes?

Jeff

Spicebush & Vegas

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

What’ve I seen? Well, I’ve seen perhaps some 50 or so Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies, these 24 years of earnestly hunting for butterflies. That makes them a Will of the Wisp butterfly for me, one that you see on say, day 3 of a 4 or 5 day field trip. They fly in silently, elegantly, and by the time you register ‘Spicebush!!,’ he or she has already begun to fly away.

When I saw those 2 of them, here in my New! Georgia Piedmont natives garden, months apart, I mentally bookmarked, ‘Get their hostplants: Spicebush and Sassafras. Glassberg in his field guide Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America shares that they are “U-A.” That is, that finding them can be uncommon or abundant depending on where you are. So mark me down in the “U” end of the spectrum, for I almost never see them.

My sizable natives garden, here in Eatonton, now sports both hostplants, Sassafras and Spicebush, though we are now entering only year 2 for each of them. I did find a lone Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar in October 2018, brought it in to my new ‘cube,’ and it now rests as a chrysalis in the cube on the back porch.

This buster accommodated me at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat right here in Eatonton. What say you of him?

If I queried Las Vegas on the odds of my attracting Spicebush adult butterflies this 2019, I haven’t a hunch as to what they’d come back with.

I so want these winged beauties to visit, and stay a while. Vegas?

Jeff

My One In A Billion

Jeff with Black Swallowtails on his ears at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

They flew to my hat, then my shoulder and finally to where you see them here. A coupled pair of Gorgeous butterflies, Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies. I was paralyzed with Joy! We were at the Butterflies and Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. 886 miles from my birthplace in Brooklyn, New York. These were wild butterflies. Sylbie was there too, and she took this photograph of me, teared-up and all. Frieda A”H (OBM) was gone some 8 years by then, and my life was challenged, that day.

Those Brooklyn streets, no food in the house, G-d sent Frieda, teaching, H.S. Dean (not for the ‘good’ kids), NYARNG ARTY & OCSchool. much success in NYNY real estate . . . treacherous partners, no more bricks, Pittsburgh, children and grandchildren, Frieda gone . . . searching. Always the lone rider, so to speak. Gardening since back in 1975, those dirty fingernails for 1/2 a year.

Georgia? Only superlatives. Today, remnants of a nasty ‘cold.’ The sun is shining this morning on my sizable Georgia natives garden. It will begin to awake in February. February! Not late April, but February!

This photo, my one in a Billion, evokes this famous thought shared by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

What is Success?  To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the Beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a Healthy child, a Garden Patch or a Redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

I sat here this morning, dwelled here at this image of me, and this is what I share.

Jeff