Extraordinary People: Extraordinary Experiences

Barbara Ann photographed by Jeff Zablow near Allenberg Bog, NY

Some years back, I was stymied. I so wanted to find and shoot new butterflies, and new botany. Stymied because the United States is big, very big. How can you find new butterflies, when almost no one was willing to show me where they can be found. Almost no one.

Why folks refused (a strong word, but true) to invite me to drive 2, 4, 6, 8 or more hours, and be shown the habitat where new butterflies can be seen . . . long baffled me. Why would folks decline to show me? Why would they refuse/remain silent when I was willing to drive so many hours to meet them on trails, at park, refuge offices, etc.? If you’ve got a guy who is in young shape (Thank Y-u), reveres and respects habitat and the plants that live there, is very savvy and no namely pampby (thanks to my coming up on the real streets of Brooklyn), hikes well and for hours, loves butterflies and Never, Never collects or wields a net, and on and on, why?

When I met Barbara Ann on Facebook, she was posting about her beloved orchid excursions. I like orchids, know not too much about them and knew that trips to orchid habitat also end up encountering many many butterflies. I asked to join such, and Barbara Ann agreed to allow me to tag along.

That led to several trips from Pittsburgh to western New York State and Ohio, and more recently from Georgia to New York State and Ohio. So much new, so much beautiful and so much to long remember.

I met Angela through Barbara Ann, she another extraordinary lover of orchids and wildflowers and ephemeral and more.

Here’s  Barabra Ann carefully searching for wildflowers and more at Allenberg Bog, home of sundew, pitchers plants, bog cranberries and Bog Copper Butterflies.

Locating much that we share here becomes easier, when you encounter extraordinary people. They open extraordinary experiences, of indescribable beauty and learning.

Jeff

Vegas Says You’ll Never Meet This One

Dorsal View of Bog Copper Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

Jeff sooo wanted to meet up with Bog Copper (Lycaena epixanthe) butterflies. Barbara Ann shared that there was a little known, almost never visited bog near her home, Allenberg Bog, in very western New York State. We agreed that Allenberg may have Bog Coppers, if we go during their very brief ‘flight.’

When to go? They only fly when their hostplant, cranberries, are going into flower.

The opportunity to finally meet this rare butterfly, found only in cranberry bogs in New York, New England, Michigan and Minnesota, was too sweet to pass up.

We followed a very overgrown trail, from where we parked on the side of the road, and after several wrong readings of almost non-existent trail markers, there was Allenberg Bog, replete with Pitcher Plants and Sundew Plants in bloom. The tiny bog cranberries were also in bloom, and there were the Bog Coppers, they something past the mid-point of their brief flight.

Here is a Bog Copper, perched on Cranberry leaf. She was adorable, and I had met, and shot Bog Coppers. Not need to mention how I almost sunk down toooo deep into that unfathomable bog’s depth.

You? Vegas passes on that Your chance of seeing one, at the rate you’re going is 726 to 1.

Jeff

 

Silver Spots at the Bog

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly on Swamp Milkweed, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

We spent not one, but two mornings at Allenberg Bog in northwestern New York State. Nary a moment with nothing to do there, for the botany was extraordinary, and those Bog Copper butterflies captivated, and challenged.

Why did the Bog Coppers count as a challenge? They were beyond tiny, flew very closed to the ground, mostly from one Bog Cranberry blossom to another. As you worked to capture a killer of an image, you experienced that bog thing, that your feet were steadily sinking down into the bog. Sinking while you’re readying for a click negates countless captures over 2 sunny mornings. This was a single Bog Copper flight, and each time we sought another Bog Copper, it was always the same, slightly worn. I kept searching, but that very fresh butterfly never did show up.

Some 100 feet from the bog’s open water, wildflowers stood, and these (swamp ?) milkweeds were seeing new butterflies every few minutes. I was pleased when this Great Spangled Fritillary flew in. He was fine looking, and I wanted to capture the sunlight reflecting off of his silver spots. In the field, real-time, the right moment, when he turns and the sunlight bounces off of those spots, pleases your eyes, alot!

I’m hoping to revisit a northeastern sphagnum moss bog this year, one like Allenberg, where you might, if G-d wants you to, see any of 5 or more different fritillaries. See, that excites me. I threw the latter out, hoping that you . . .

Jeff

No One Forgets A Bog

Barbara Ann photographed by Jeff Zablow near Allenberg Bog, NY

You have never been in an acid bog. Only 0.03% of us have set foot in these surreal places. Why have so few visited such a sphagnum moss bog? Most of them have been destroyed in the last 200 years. Those that remain are few, far from where we live, and their owners include many organizations that fiercely protect them, by keeping their existence mostly secret, and by not encouraging us to visit them.

Barbara Ann is seen here in Allenberg Bog, a remote sphagnum moss (acid) bog in very western New York. Owned by the Buffalo Audubon Society, it remains very difficult to reach, hidden at the end of an. obscure, poorly marked and challenging trail. Owners of acid bogs own them for good reason: they want to protect them for perpetuity, especially from those who destroy, collect specimens without permission and litter.

Such bogs are heavily acidified over thousands of years, and feature flora and fauna that seek such an extraordinary environment: pitcher plants, cranberry plants, sun dew, Bog Fritillary butterflies and Bog Copper butterflies.

Each step you take in a bog requires that you work, work hard to extricate your boots so you can take the next step, and again sink down 2″ – 4″ in the standing bog water. You usually sink no further, for the ageless sphagnum ‘mat’ just below the surface usually  supports you. One time, at this very same Allenberg Bog, we got a scare, as I crouched to photograph a Bog Copper butterfly, and I began to sink, slowly, but down, down, down!! I will never go to such a bog alone, again, and I will not enter such a bog without a partner and a rope!

Know this, you experience a very calming sensation there, as if you have peacefully reached an interplanetary body, covered with strange plants and strange wildlife. Those thousands of steps you take, each a struggle with the bog’s pull on you, leave your calves exhausted . . . but the butterflies you see there, you’ve never seen before, and likely, will never see them again.

Try to go to an acid bog one day, and really try to get someone like Barbara Ann to go too. Knowledgeable, patient and experienced.

Jeff

The Honor Roll

Dorsal View of Bog Copper Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

I will never forget the thoughtfulness and generosity of those who have invited me to special, sometimes hidden habitat to see and photograph butterflies. Those of you who visit this blog, winged beauty.com are occasionally reminded that you are seeing what only 1 in 126,598 ever get to see. That so pleases me, and helps to drive me forward.

Barbara Ann guided me to this Bog Copper butterfly and a fresh Ringlet butterfly. Rose and Jerry to a bunch of new ones, including the Creole Pearly-Eye, Southern Pearly-Eye and Silvery Checkerspot. Nancy and John to a whole slew of butterflies, the Little Metalmark, Eastern Pygmy Blue, Saltmarsh Skipper, Great Southern White in Georgia and Texas’ Red Rim, Erato Heliconian, Mexican Bluewing, Malachite and at least 18 more lifers. Mike led me to Zebra Heliconians and my first brawl with fire ants. Virginia’s Briar Patch Habitat the fabled Southern version of Viceroy butterflies and Giant Giant Swallowtails. Angela kept the ball rolling with Northern Metalmark butterflies and Edward’s Hairstreaks. Phil straight to that long awaited Gemmed Satyr and Juniper Hairstreak.

These unsung heroes gave us much to cheer. Thank G-d for them, for the big ‘names’ in butterfly conservation and butterfly search remain woefully silent, even these 23 years, plus or minus.

I am thinking in this edgy way, for with 2019 almost upon us, I am frequently daydreaming (again) of butterflies I’d so like to find and greet. I’m working on Mitchell’s Satyrs in Alabama. I’m now booked to return (Yay!!!) to the Lower Rio Grande Valley to explore the National Butterfly Center again (Double Yay!!!), awaiting Angela’s next shout-out for Ohio or the Bruce Peninsula or . . . Friends here in Georgia continue to ask, ‘Have you been to . . . ?’ Washington State happily offers a new friend, who’s familiar with all those northwestern USA butterflies, none of whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

Ask me how much I want to see the Very Very rare continental USA ones? Hermes Copper? Mariposa Copper? King’s Hairstreak? Any of the Alpines? Zilpa Longtail? The Giant Skippers?

Always dreaming . . .

Jeff