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

Ordering A La Carte

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

Counting the days, until I return to the Florida Panhandle (northernmost Florida). This will be my second trip to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, near Perry, Florida. The first visit there, in 2016 was better that I could have expected. The thistle was in good bloom and the liatris had just begun to open flower. Milkweed was abundant. The butterflies? I almost want to say everywhere!

That first visit was in the last week of August. This April trip?  The Spring/Summer 2015 issue of American Butterflies (NABA) reported that 84 species of butterflies were recorded there in September, and 70 species seen in Big Bend in April. That “70” jumps out at me, and is the siren’s call to revisit.

When I gaped at this Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly in the last week of August 2016, the high of the day was in the mid-90’s Fahrenheit. Working to shoot as Georgia Satyr, the sweat was pouring down over my eyes, having coursed over my headband, and the salty sweat nearly blinded. April 2019? I can only dream . . .

Taking orders at this time, let me know what you’d like me to find?

Jeff