Big Bend WMA Results Are In

Georgia Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

This my first meet-up with a Georgia Satyr butterfly. NABA’s Spring/Summer 2015 issue of American Butterflies featured an article, Definitive Destination: Big Bend WMA, Florida. It riveted me, and the very next year, in late August 2016 I drove down to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. It was a super 5 days.

My images taken there were mostly good, but my Georgia Satyr shots disappointed me. They prefer to be inches off of the ground, requiring that you get down, down to their level. Sure you get down, robotically, and when you nearly reach their life space . . . they’ve flown. Several remained still in the early morning. That was good too, but the humidity was oppressive, the sweat cascaded down over my headband, washing my eyes in salt, every shot required that you first made sure that ‘bad’ snakes were not within your circle of activity, and the ‘No-See-Ums’ came divebombing in squadrons.

This shot here was the best I got. Slightly embarrassed, I shared it back then.

We got back last week from an April 2019 revisit to Big Bend’s Spring Creek Unit, and the lightly visited Old Grade tram (trail) delivered again. This time the very sameNo-See-Ums (sandflies) were worse than 2016, but we did spot 15 Georgia’s. My goal was to score a better image than this one.

The Fuji Velvia slides are back from Dwayne’s Photo, and Yes Ma’am, one of them made me smile. As soon as I can get them back from Rewind Memories in Pittsburgh, we’ll be sharing that one. If the scan does the slide justice, it’s color will be rich, it’ll have a pretty decent eye capture, and y’all (Did I spell that correctly, Virginia?) will see what a Georgia Satyr really looks likes, on a sunny late April morning in the Florida Panhandle.

Jeff

April in Beg Bend

Palamedes Swallowtail on Thistle Flowerhead photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

I returned last night, driving those 248 miles home from St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida’s Panhandle. One week in a sweet VRBO rental home on the scrumptious Aucilla River. Gifted with mostly sunny weather, this 2nd visit to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area was a joy. Even before you leave Mandalay Road to drive to Big Bend, those early morning walks dish up deer, boar, osprey, and snake. You are in a high state of expectation, for you might see others that abound in St. Marks NWRefuge: bobcat, alligator, bear, manatee, gar, bald eagle, coyote . . .

The devastation from that last hurricane, months ago, was moderate. These same thistle were in rich bloom. The Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies, like this beaut, were everywhere. That 2016 visit was during the last week of August. This early April 2019 trip so convinced me that a Big Bend redo was a very, very good idea.

Why did I go back? Sitting here, working that question in my mind, I again and again remind that I fell in love with the Georgia Satyrs that I saw at Old Grade tram back in ’16, and regretted that my few images of them were Eh! We shared then that late August that time was Hot! Humid! and a plague of biting insects made each and every exposure an eye irritating (salt running down over my Dick’s headband onto my eyes) experience, me on my belly, saying aloud that what I was doing was an incredibly uncomfortable time, and yet I sooo wanted a stunning Georgia Satyr image.

Last week I saw some 15 Georgias.

My skirmishes with No-See-Ums were mostly horrible, the one day they waited for me to exit my vehicle, then, as I began to set out my folding stool to change to my Merrells, they kamakazied me. I quickly sprayed on my Off! 40%, way too late, for I am now a mass of small welts, 97.61% of them itchy!

My exposed slide film now is overnighted to Kansas, with Appalachian Brown, Spicebush Swallowtail, Little Wood Satyr, huge Tiger Swallowtail, Palamedes Swallowtail and Viceroy capture.

Jeff

Hickory Mound & St. Marks

Georgia Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

Fuji film? Check. Camera and back-up camera (film)? Check. Batteries? Check. 40% Off!? Check. Coco Loco bars? Check. Babaganoush? Check. Merrell boots? Check.

Petra’s Wellness kibble? Check. Hills W/D? Check. Baked Wellness bars? Check. Ear cleaning fluid? Check.

Fishing rods and reels? Check. Fishing license (Florida)? No, get that when I arrive.

Knee pad? Check? Flashlight? Check. Alligator repellent? No, no such. ‘No-see-ums’ lotion? Nope, get that in Florida.

Getting ready to travel to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area and nearby St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a BIG challenge for me, as is the eventual Oops! when I come to realize that I forgot to bring . . .

All the above to cop new and more pleasing images of this Georgia Satyr butterfly. All that in the  hope of seeing new ‘Lifer’ butterflies for me.

Big Bend and St. Marks can do that, they can bring new joy on a golden platter, rich as they are in butterflies and botany and wildlife.

April 2019 . . . Florida’s Panhandle . . . Yummy!

Jeff

Back to Big Bend (Florida)

Sign = Big Bend, Spring Creek Unit photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

Viet Nam? No. Mongolia? No. Costa Rica eco-tour? No. Sao Paolo and then to the Amazon watershed? No? Alaska? No. Turkey? For sure no. Even Washington State, had to be scrubbed.

Where then in this 2019? Truth be told, I had an unforgettable 5 days at the amazing Florida Panhandle place, Big Bend Wildlife Management Area.

Mobbed by Palamedes Swallowtails, challenged by Georgia Satyrs (Bet you can’t cop a good image of me, ’cause the sweat is pouring down your forehead, and streaming over your sweatband). Tiny blues of several species led me in long hide and seeks. Monster Giants and Monarchs.

This month, April, me and ‘Eagle eyes’ head back to Big Bend. Destination? The other smashing unit at Big Bend, the Hickory Mound unit.

The possibilities? Infinite. Butterflies of what, 50 species? 60?

Spanking new Florida fishing licenses, for the little river running alongside the VRBO rental must be swarming with fish to fry.

Jeff

That Librarian Moment

Palamedes Swallowtail on Thistle Flowerhead photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

My first morning in the Spring Unit at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, near Perry, Florida. I will not forget driving up to the entrance of the Spring Unit, and ogling a stand of these large thistles, each sporting oversize flowerheads. It wasn’t so much the size and rich color of the thistle. What super-charged me was the platoon of huge Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies that were feeding on them!

I etched that sight into my life-memory bank. A moment when I was touched by the absolute beauty before me, negating all the blah/blah of those who lack firm conviction of the origin of it all.

The Palamedes tolerated my relatively close approach, and this look pleases me.

TBTold, it was a ‘Librarian Moment.’ Self enforced silence, for I was in a very special place, enjoying a very special sight, and I knew that silence was appropriate and earned there.

I plan to return there, perhaps to the Hickory Creek Unit, soon, in April 2019. Yippee!

Jeff