That Danaus Look

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Danaus plexippus won’t disappoint us. We know they won’t. As I’m writing, they are flying north, now hundreds of miles distant from their winter perches in fir trees in central Mexico. Virginia can expect to see them before I do. Barbara Ann, hours north of me, may well  see them before I do. Miriam may see these Monarchs first, but my turn will patiently come.

What do the statisticians report? That 94.81% of Americans love Monarch butterflies, and will stop what they are doing to marvel at one. The results are not yet available for Europeans, Canadians, Asians, Africans, Central and South Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, and the French (because they are in the News today).

This instant Danaus, nectaring on a Middle Eastern thistle flower, almost instantly identifies as a Monarch relative. Like our other U.S. Danaus butterflies, the Queen and the Soldier, this Plain Tiger butterfly (D. chrysippus) is large, bright orange with broad black borders flecked with prominent white dots, and black veins. Head and abdomen are striking, with sizable white dots set on a stark black background. Hostplant? Israeli milkweeds.

Monarchs will tolerate my approach when they are nectaring, but not when they are resting, or sunning on a flat leaf in the pre-9 A.M. hours. Plain Tigers? No approach is tolerated. I see a beaut!, decide that a shot from ground level would produce a Wow! . . . approach, s-l-o-w-l-y get down on my belly, do that basic training crawl to get closer, s-l-o-w-l-y raise my Macro-lens . . . Gone! Sped away, full throttle! Time and time again.

Know then that this, and several other looks at D. chrysippus, give much much satisfaction. Yes.

Jeff

Reminiscing With The Milkweed Butterflies

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

The Danaids, or Milkweed butterflies are best known to Americans as the Monarch, the Queen and the Soldier. Right now, Monarchs are especially on the forefront of butterfly fret, knowing that recent reports have their numbers seriously down. That ‘fret?’ Will they return to us in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Ontario, in good number?

Examine these danaids. Have you seen them in your own South Carolina, Michigan, Maine or West Virginia? Well, no. This is the Plain Tiger butterfly, and it flies in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria (if that carnage has left any survivors). Cech and Tudor, in my favorite field guide, Butterflies of the East Coast (Princeton University Press) tantalizes with this: “The Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) was “described” as early as 3500 B.C., in a painting on an Egyptian tomb wall.”

I’m liking my photo here much, as I slowly begin my preparation for my flight in late March to Israel, for a reunion with Plain Tigers, a menu of Middle Eastern butterflies, and my daughter, grandsons and extended family. Once again, I pledge to travel throughout the north, and will not leave my bootprint on the hot borders that demarcate where Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Syria (Russia, ISIL, Al Queda, the Rebels, Hezbollah, Iran, and other despicables) begin.

Reminiscing wth the Danaids, whose flight is “elegant and gliding” (Cech and Tudor), whether at the Butterflies & Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia or within a short hike of Mishmarot, Israel.

Jeff

Plain Tigers – Real Time

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

What would you do? Several hundred approaches executed during those two weeks working the fields abutting orange groves, and no more than 6 to 8% of those stalks produced Danaus Chrysippus Chrysippus macro- images.

Answers that I’m not seeking: Revert to long lens or . . . or what?

But I was hooked. The Plain Tiger butterfly in Israel is eye-poppingly beautiful. I wanted images.

That is why we are seeing this image of a male sipping nectar on Centaurea Hyalolepis on Israel’s coastal plain. Usually they fly 9 months of the year and are inactive from February through April.

So we share this image, showing him in his habitat, just 25 feet up from that agricultural ditch, the Miracle that is Israel, water piped throughout the Land, nurturing agriculture in the middle of desert.

Jeff

Color Me Happy . . . .

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

So many terrific reads. I’m now reading Scott Weidensaul’s Return to Wild America (North Point Press, 2005), and before that Robert Michael Pyle’s Mariposa Road, for the 4th time (yes, the fourth time). Enjoyed Birdwatcher, a mesmerizing biography of Roger Tory Peterson, and Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway. Somewhere in these last months I read Wild America  by Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher. Loved them all.

So I sit and look again at this image. On my belly, leaning on a gentle slope, determined to capture good images of Israel’s Plain Tiger Butterfly. It’s Israel, so I forgot to remember that setting down on the ground meant that I am ‘resting’ on thorny plants. Uhhh. I am doing what Peterson, Pyle, Fisher, Kaufman, Weidensaul, Linch, Crosby and Nabokov have done. Color me Happy.

Why? Why do I keep going to these places, spending hours alone, without another person, almost ever, sweating, batting away insects who see ME as their end-goal-prey? Why haven’t I switched to digital? Duh? Doesn’t my arrival at airport security, especially here in the Middle East, drive those security personnel Nuts? “Hand check!” They just hate that, though they always lose that after we chat about how beautiful their nation’s butterflies are. Ticks, chiggers, the always remembered possibility of venomous snakes, and the even realer occasional appearance of feral dogs with attitude and ? what else.

Because the image we see here was very difficult to get, and I spent 11 days working this edge of agricultural ditch in the arid HolyLand, to get it and the other 50+ ‘keepers’ that we’ve been sharing these last weeks. Because I Thank G-d that I am able to pursue this passion of mine, that I have always admired beauty, in its many forms. Because back in Manhattan, we went to quite a few Exhibitions of Magnificent Jewelry, open to the public before Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction galleries held their auctions of the world’s finest bejeweled work. Because after seeing the finest of all jewels, up close, really close, macro- work reveals that these butterflies are more beautiful than the work of the finest craftsmen and women, ever. Just as breathtaking as my visits to the National Gallery of Art (D.C.) or the Brooklyn Museum or Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art, or the Uffizi in Florence.

Color my Happy because I am there, and I know how lucky I am, and I am Happy to see them flying, with all the healthy fauna and flora around them, and because G-d enables me to see and appreciate it all.

So I continue to share with you.

Jeff