Dishing up Memorable Butterflies and Beautiful Blooms at Phipps Conservatory

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly resting on a tall Verbena blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory Outdoor Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA

You wait for those moments, those that offer so much promise. Moments when a memorable butterfly flies in, and nectars on beautiful blossoms. Most days don’t dish up such. Once in a while, it happens.

This was such a moment. I was working the perennial beds at the long entrance walkway to Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory. She flew in and I was ecstatic. A Black Form Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, her wings were a rich soft black, her hindwing blue flashes were gorgeous, her marginal wing spots were an elegant bone white color, and the hindwing trailing spots a rich coral in color.

The Tall Verbena flowers must have been pumping nectar steadily, for she lingered on each tiny flower, and that helped me capture lots of images, shooting away as if I had no concern of the dollar$ that the Fuji Velvia slide film were costing me.

I look again and again at this image, and you want the truth? I Thank G-d for enabling me to enjoy such moments. That my friends, is the Truth.


Gorgeous Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Reminds Me of New York’s Rockettes

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly resting on a leaf photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

I was not raised in a small, rural town. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, with officially 3,000,000 people in that borough. We always knew that with the uncounted immigrants there at any time, the real number of those living in Brooklyn was nearly 4,000,000. I travelled by New York City subway for decades, amongst the hundreds of thousands who used the subway any morning or afternoon. Remember, I was the young guy, who as a delivery messenger working in Manhattan after college those years, had a package to be delivered to a Rockette in Radio City Music Hall, and there, was told to take it into the Rockette in the Rockette dressing room. I did, and I was briefly, immersed in infinite beauty, momentarily, but long enough.

All this by way of sharing that I have seen beauty and do find myself awestruck when natural beauty is one in a million. Like some, I get tongue-tied, despite that other facet of me, that having experienced temporary financial success, I am not awed in the presence of the very wealthy, celebrities or ‘stars.’ Beautiful women did/do quiet me down some.

Know then that when I happen onto certain butterflies, as a Gorgeous female tiger swallowtail butterfly, I find myself almost apologetic, as if I am intruding on her. I’ve experienced that quite a few times, and no amount of rationalization erased that feeling for the next time . . . .

Raccoon Creek State Park’s Nichol Road trail in southwestern Pennsylvania, an 8 hours drive west from that Radio City Music Hall in New York, New York.


In Doak Field, a Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly with Royal Blue and Coral Spotted Patterns

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly on a Common Milkweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA
When one flies in, and you’re sure it’s a black species of swallowtail, lots of us immediately speed to determine if it is that uncommon Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. Not easy that, for they move their wings very rapidly, as they hover over the flowers they’ve common to enjoy. Making it even more difficult to decide the ID, the definitive ventral (under) wing surface is usually tough to see, that because those wings are in rapid motion.

What do I do? I quickly position myself knowing that my object of possible elation will be gone in one minute or less. Then I shoot way, with my Canon film camera’s shutter choice set a 3-exposures in a second or so. Sometimes all this results in success! This time, I score an fine image of this Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly nectaring on a Common Milkweed flowerhead. There’s no doubt about it. The wash of royal blue extends forward of the sweet coral spots, the abdomen and thorax and head feature the characteristic pattern of Pipevine white body spots, and this one is Fresh! Very Fresh!

Have I ever thought that the incoming butterfly was a Pipevine, only to be disappointed, or to find that it was a Pipevine, but a ‘worn’ individual? Well, yes, perhaps hundreds of times over these years.

Doak field, Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, just an 8-hour drive from Grand Central Station/Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.


White Spotted Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Sipping Thistle Nectar

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly on a Thistle Flowerhead photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

The privilege of standing there, and enjoying this is very satisfying. This Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly is fully engaged in sipping the rich nectar of this Thistle flowerhead. Some years ago, I asked a professor emeritus of the sugars that might be present in this nectar. I don’t recall that his answer included the names of those sugars. Sugars, proteins and the occasional tiny insect that are taken up with the nectar must provide a fine nutritional mix here, for this Spicebush Swallowtail is resplendent, with its jet black, handsome coral spots, blue blazes, white spots on head, thorax and abdomen and that very healthy looking right complex eye.

Raccoon Creek State Park’s Doak Meadow, southwestern Pennsylvania. Just an 8-hour drive from New York, New York.


Happy Valentines Day from a Romantic Pair of Butterflies

Earring Series - Jeff Zablow with Black Swallowtail 'Earrings' - on Arm, at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Sylbie shoots away, and the pair of Swallowtail Butterflies move to my upper arm.

Part of our cherished ‘Jeff’s Earring’ series of photo images, the coupled pair of Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies pause, he holding her and himself firmly to my right arm. Sylbie Yon is shooting photographic slides with my Canon Elan 7e film camera.

Moments later, they will have found their way up to my right ear, and, with G-d’s exquisite beauty adorning me, Frieda A”H (OBM”) gone, Georgia at my feet, and Sylbie with sure hand and eye, tears did well up, but, Brooklyn born, I foolishly refused to let them run.

Hope this makes sense on Valentine’s Day?

Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat I, Eatonton, Georgia.