Why Do More And More People Seek Butterflies?

People viewing Gold-Bordered hairstreak butterfly at “The Wall,” photographed by Jeff Zablow in Mission, TX

The number of people who seek butterflies in the USA is growing. Some have made bold changes in their gardens, uprooting the tired traditional shrubs that can be traced back to Asia, and replacing them with butterfly hostplants and plants that produce the nectar beloved by butterflies. Others have begun to look for butterflies here and there, and have began participating in local annual counts. Many remain on the lookout for speakers at their local Audubon Centers or Native plant Societies.

The joys and thrills of nurturing have caused thousands to collect caterpillars in their gardens, and raise them in protected enclosures . . . that to avoid heavy losses to predators and disease.

This group had sped to the “Wall” at the entrance to the Retama Village development community, when the call went out (on their cell network) . . . that a rare Tropical Greenstreak butterfly was seen in those tall shrubs, and was still! there, nectaring methodically. Many of these folks retired or relocated to this Lower Rio Grande part of Texas, just to be near friends who also pursue butterflies, and they move there to ogle the great variety of rare butterflies than fly up from Mexico.

Why are the numbers of butterfly enthusiasts swelling?

My thinking?

  • Butterflies appeal to our desire to protect and nurture. They are tiny, delicate and vulnerable. So many want to help them, benefit from the satisfaction of enabling their ongoing survival
  • Butterflies are compellingly beautiful. Unlike Tiffany’s, Cartier, the riches of Christie’s & Sotheby’s, butterflies are within reach, not subject to the barrier’s that money throws up
  • So many of us have known butterflies all our lives, in our neighborhood, nearby undeveloped land and in our literature.
  • We know that butterflies, many species of them are being seen in reduced numbers annually. Some, like the Monarch are thought to be at great risk. We worry that we may be the last generation to . . . . . . . . . .
  • Birders have been searching for birds for many years now, many have almost ‘seen them all,’ and butterflies’ convert’ them, draw those birders, presenting new opportunities to open up a whole new world of fliers.
  • There is a sublime appeal in this butterfly pastime. Monied or near broke, butterfliers don’t need fancy hotels, tony restaurants are not needed either, dress is relatively inexpensive, as are binoculars and cameras.
  • Those who want to spend money wantonly, can find butterfly seeking tours to Costa Rica, Brazil . . . well to many corners of the world;.
  • For those who don’t go boating, golf, and have tired of sitting on this or that international beach, butterfly hunting is a whole new pursuit, and an active one at that.
  • There’s a sense of newness here, and a Big factor is, You never know what you might see, as these folks demonstrate in Mission, Texas. For sure you might see one not seen for 10 years, now that’s a rush.

I pause at this punchlist, noting that I could have gone on, again sharing my experiences at Pre-Sale Exhibitions at New York City auction galleries. That’s what launched me. Frieda A”H would try on multi-million dollars rings, broaches, necklaces, bracelets, just a foot or two away from me, that in the 1980’s. I have never seen Magnificent Jewelry  more beautiful than a Monarch or a Malachite or that fresh Common Mestra that flew just before I could cop my first exposure! A fresh Mourning Cloak sends me into a near swoon, Cathy, Kenne, Barbara Ann, Patti, Virginia, Marcie, Beth, Jim, Angela, Ian, Sylbie, Deepthi, Ginny, Laura, Peggy, Susan, Leslie, Laurence and. . . . .

Jeff

Edwards Hairstreak Etiquette

Edwards Hairstreak Butterfly on Leaf photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie, OH

My first ever introduction to a Hairstreak was that Striped Hairstreak at the Powdermill Refuge in Rector, Pennsylvania. All Stripes I’ve see since mirrored that first one. They stand motionless on a leaf, and allow many exposures.

Gray Hairstreaks are almost as cooperative. Grays permit me say 8 or more exposures, then vamoose!

Coral Hairstreaks, they so difficult to find, and that thing about how they often skip a whole year, waiting. When I have found Corals, they must be approached carefully. That one last year at Kamamama Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio was more cooperative, though it did make me scramble, with its version of tag!

The 2 Banded Hairstreaks I’ve enjoyed seeing did pose, but for ever so briefly, and then, gone.

The Acadian Hairstreaks I saw in Toronto were nectaring furiously on Common milkweed, and I had to move as quickly as they did on those huge flowerhead.

The very rare Tropical Greenstreak that we saw in the last week of December 2017, at the National Butterfly Center (NBC) was a study in passive movement. Those 2 nectared very slowly, and often took breaks, posing sweetly for the crowd that formed, when the cell network shared where they were.

White M Hairstreaks? I see one maybe every 4 years, maybe. They are spotted, you realize, OMG! is that a White M? Yes! You make cautious approach, cop maybe 3 exposures, and off they go, deeper into the tall growth meadow . . . gone!

Now this Edwards. It was one of several dozen, all fresh, nectaring in that Lynx Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio. They were a joy to shoot. They nectared slowly on mostly luxurious Butterflyweed. Their periods of rest were many, and as here, they nicely enable many, many exposures, as they offered their ‘best side,’ just 12 inches or so above the ground.

Edwards’ etiquette? To be copied and emulated, for sure.

Jeff

Meadow Fritillary? Huh?

Meadow Fritillary Butterfly at Rector, PA

Just today, a FB friend posted an image of a Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly, ID’ing it as a Meadow Fritillary. That reminded me of how fortunate I have been to have seen several Meadow Frits in these many years in the field.

Here’s a male Meadow Fritillary that I met in the reserve of the Powdermill Wildlife Refuge in Rector, Pennsylvania (the Laurel Highlands in central Penna). There was a summer once when I was there almost every morning, ’til a hostile Director told me to not ever come back. Powdermill habitat is rich in wildlife, e.g. that’s where I met my first Eastern Timber Rattlesnake . . . .

Meadow Frits are small, fly with dainty grace, just inches above the ground. They appear fragile, with that tiny head, and those oddly arched wings.

You can understand why folks who encounter them go, ‘Huh?’ Despite Glassberg’s shared “East LC-C” my extensive experience is they are not common and never locally common. Moist meadows and grassy field disappear by the day ( a developer’s dream, no trees to remove ), so you see a Meadow Fritillary, and you have every reason to be pleased . . . “Jackpot.”

Jeff

When You See A Rare One In The HolyLand

Nordmannia Myrtale butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

Eran Banker was my guide, who went with me to the top of Mt. Hermon, in the HolyLand ( Israel ). Israel on the south face of the mountain, Syria on the north face. Why? More than 10 species of butterfly are found on that mountain peak, but no where else. That really enticed me. Eran lugged liters of water that 95F day, and we spent many hours up there, in full, unrelenting sun.

Did we see ’em? Yes, I saw many rare, Protected Species. Not a one nectared peacefully on those sparse little blooms up there. All flew in fast, nectared faster, and left just as quickly. I was unable to photograph many, trying to negotiate large rock . . . and later, a bit shaken when Eran called me over to show me a landmine, lurking there for decades. Landmines? set just where the butterflies fly. Hmmm.

I tell you, seeing and being able to shoot Protected Species is a very satisfying experience. You pause after, to applaud yourself for your great success, and soon you dwell on how privileged you have been to have met such a rare winged beauty.

Our female Nordmannia myrtale evoked such joy and introspection. It flew in, landed on that flat leaf, and happily suffered my cautious approach.

Me, the street kid from Brooklyn, on the peak of Mt. Hermon, with G-d’s winged gems . . . .

Jeff