Acid Bog Pearly-Eye

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

We hiked to the Allenberg Bog in far western New York State. I wanted to find Bog Copper butterflies (themselves very rare) and Barbara Ann Case looked forward to examining the many specialized plants that can be found in Sphagnum moss (acid) bogs. The Niagra (New York) Audubon Society owns this relic of thousands of years ago, it the size of a small pond, but a very ancient small pond.

This field trip stands out in my mind, for Barbara Ann A”H (Of Blessed Memory) passed away some months ago. She made those hikes despite her worsening health problems. Why did she? She loved the outdoors and an opportunity to see a habitat that is fast disappearing, with its pitcher plants, sundew plants, bog blueberry and a host of plants threatened with extinction.

The happy surprise for me was the appearance of this Northern Pearly Eye butterfly, at the bog’s edge. I’d only seen them on trails, where moving water was nearby. Seeing this beaut at the bog? Exciting. It was fresh, richly colored and it came to rest on a leaf, wings extended. Shooting a Pearly-Eye with its dorsal wing surface revealed? Totally Wow! Those ‘eyes!’ Those ‘eyes!’


Searching For Rare Botany

Barbara Ann Case, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Meadow in New York

She was methodically searching the grasses and sedges that surrounded the Tamarack Shagnum Moss Bog, looking for rare, hard-to-find plants. Barbara Ann Case (A”H) passed this year, and we’ve lost a naturalist who loves to seek rare and beautiful wildflowers, orchids, ephemerals, ferns and more.

This was at that magical acid bog that we’ve posted about recently, secluded in far western New York, near Frewsburg. Where was I? The bog open water begins just beyond the foreground of this photo. Me? I’m searching too, at the bog pond’s edge, looking for Bog Copper butterflies. Their single flight a year coincides with the appearance of the dwarf Blueberry bushes upon which they will lay their eggs. When the blueberry bushes grow, the Bog Coppers eclose. To ever see them, you must visit a bog like this one, at the correct time, remembering that Bog Coppers fly no more than 3 weeks each year.

The Pitchers plants and Sun Dew plants there fascinate me, they do. The high acidity of the bog, the result of its Sphagnum Moss and other acid-rich botany, insure that the bog continues unspoiled. Few plants and animals can tolerate, nor do they enjoy the extreme acidity.

That same acidity, and its fabled reputation for preserving whatever drops into it, causes your mind to create strange daydreams of what may be down in its depths, preserved in nearly mummified state for what, 500 years? 1,000 years? 2,000 years?

Wow! stuff, and the very same reason that such a bog should not be visited alone, for if G-d Forbid one fell in, and sank down, would it take 250 years for you to be . . . ?


Pearly-Eye At Ancient Bog

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly (Profile), photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

So many likes of mine are seen here: I Love and Fantasize at acidic Shagnum bogs; Shots with unusual backlighting intrigue me; and I get excited each and every time I find a Pearly-Eye butterfly. When these and I think other ‘likes’ of mine converge, Wow! I feel of Rush of joy! that is slow to leave me.

This Northern Pearly-Eye butterfly was spotted at mystical Allenberg Blog, near Frewsburg in very western New York State. When I look carefully, I’m able to see those sweet white ‘pupils’ of the hindwing eyes. Nice! Very nice!

Barbara Ann Case OBM” led me to Allenberg. I recently wrote of how difficult the hike must have been for her, and how the BAS should/could have made it somewhat more doable for her. Quit? Nope, after rest after rest, she insisted on seeking the bog. We did, as you see here. On our last attempt, the next year, once again the BAS rebuffed her, we tried without clear mapping, and we did not find the bog, she, exhausted, concerning me that we might need EMS to come . . . and try to find us (no cell coverage). I shall not soon forget the BAS’s lack.


Stunning Pearly-Eye At Bog

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

The Tamarack Pine – Sphagnum Moss Allenberg Bog was beautiful and eerie. Yes, I saw it as eerie! In a sparsely populated part of western New York State, there were Amish farms found here and there in the surrounding land, but little more. The bog is owned by the Buffalo [New York] Audubon Society, and they keep the bog unbothered by making it very difficult to hike to, to locate.

I made that 3/4 miles give or take hike with Barbara Ann Case, the haphazard blazes on trail trees causing us to lose our way often. She passed weeks ago, and I now understand how callous the Buffalo Audubon Society was, for I now realize how she struggled on that not easy hike to the bog, despite her earlier attempts to get their help in insuring that our hike would be reasonable. A seasoned Orchid expert and I surely should have been helped by the BASociety, our intention noble, our skills real and our love for the Bog, deep.

Finally at the bog, look what we met! A Northern Pearly-Eye butterfly, warming its wings in the early morning sun of June, those scrumptious eyes resplendent, each ringed in tasty light orange. My oh my oh my.

A fresh Pearly-Eye butterfly seen with full dorsal wing extension, at a Tamarack Pine bog! Yes, I’ve used quite a few !’s here, but they tell the awe! we felt in this magical, age-less place.


NB, I continue to miss Barbara Ann, her kindness, her knowledge of Orchids and Monarchs, and the incredible destinations that she shared.

Memories of Barbara Ann Case & Allenberg Bog

Barbara Ann Case, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

We lost Barbara Ann Case weeks ago. Her struggles with getting her much needed liver transplant and probably more have left the Jamestown-Freswburg New York region without one of their most gifted naturalists, and surely one of their top native orchid experts.

I’d driven up to Frewsburg in far western New York State several times, to explore Allenberg, Akeley Swamp and other excellent preserves/reserves. She had the eyes of an eagle when it came to spotting and examining wild orchids, ephemerals and wildflowers. Best of all, she shared her knowledge happily, and immediately let me know when she spotted a less than common butterfly here or there.

Seen here are Allenberg Bog, I now understand how much effort she had to expend to make that 3/4 mile hike on primitive trail to reach the Bog. Those several stops to rest evidenced her heroic effort to get to where you see her here, the edge of the ancient sphagnum moss bog, she amidst a sea of native bog blueberry. Me? I was totally ecstatic, closer to the bog open pond, seeing and shooting the very rare Bog Copper butterflies that only live at acid bogs with those tiny blueberry plants, and only fly when the berries are about.

I cannot soon forget how reticent the Buffalo Audubon Society (it’s correct name?) was to give her access to this, their owned Bog. We got lost many times trying to follow the mostly unmarked trail, they probably wanting to discourage visitors to this gem of a bog. Barbara Ann struggling to cover the rough trail, and we getting lost time and time again until we found the bog.

Had the Buffalo folks only known how gifted this woman was, how much she loved this, and how much of a challenge, physical, it was for her to make the hike, ending with me sharing images of this unique place, with those here there and literally everywhere.