Thousands of Danaus

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Panning through our Media Library of images (those that stayed while the other 45,000 or so were culled), I stopped several times, to reminisce. Those of you who have been traveling with us for years now, remember this one.

You who joined our adventures more recently, quickly know that it’s a Danaus. But which one, where?

We stopped here, mostly because last week I saw no fewer than several thousand milkweed Danaus butterflies in the Rio Grand Valley, in Mission, Texas. The numbers were staggering. Thousands of Queens, dozens of Soldiers and a handful of Monarchs. It was extraordinary, seeing big beautiful Danaus, 3 species no less, in the last week of December. The boy from Brooklyn was blown away by the thought! butterflies at Christmas time, and in huge numbers.

This one seen here is the Plain Tiger butterfly, in Mishmarot, Israel. Probably also seen in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, but that I will never be able to personally confirm. Nor do I wish to see you travel there, for the risks are as real as the risks were back when I was a kid.

What can you say when you admire a fresh Danaus?

Jeff

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