Blackwater Pinks

Pink Lady's Slipper wildflower, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD

I was seeking butterflies, she was more interested in revisiting a spot that annually yielded Pink Lady Slipper Orchids. It was a mostly cloudy morning there, at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, near Madison, Maryland.

Yes, I did once visit the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem and I visited the Vatican and its breathtaking Sistine Chapel.

Standing there, gaping at these native (American) orchids, evokes the same kind of Awe,

Three bunched Pink Lady Slipper Orchids, elegance, delicate beauty and improbable pluck, in the shady recesses of a wild, Wildlife Refuge. Speaking in whispers, for G-d is close by.

Jeff

Variegated Fritillary at Black Water

Variegated fritillary butterfly photographed at Black Water National Wildlife Refuge, MD

Which butterfly’s name do I usually flub? This one. The Variegated Fritillary butterfly. Not sure why the name doesn’t stick in my brain. I remember lots of stuff, going way back to Brooklyn in the ’50’s. We had a street loaded with kids my age. I once counted how many boys on East 58th Street were between 1.5 years order than me and 1.5 years younger than me. 40. For that reason it was easy to get a game of punchball going, or defend East 58th from marauding kids from other streets. I remember their names, mostly, still.

When this butterfly flies in, I usually fumble around in my brain for the word “Variegated.” Fritillary? That’s easy, but Variegated fritillary? It gets embarrassing when someone’s around, and turns to me for an ID. I’ll usually respond with, “was that [name a famous, attractive actress] who just biked past us?” Then up pops that word on my lips, ‘Variegated.’

Found from Massachusetts to Oklahoma, its only rarely seen in the U.S. northwest.

When it’s fresh, like this one at Black Water National Wildlife Refuge in Madison, Maryland, it’s an eyeful.

Jeff

Blackwater NWRefuge Orchid

Pink Lady's Slipper wildflower,, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD

Fall is fine, ‘though 99% of butterflies are gone. Mourning cloaks and those elusive Tortoiseshell butterflies do fly in October and November, but these northern butterflies are so very few and far between.

Now back from 3 weeks in Georgia, I have much inventory work to do, louping, culling, identifying and storing all of the newest slides, and working with Rewind Memories to scan the best of the best.

Gardening now amounts to removing spent annuals and cutting other down or to the ground.

A kind of pall descends, ever so slightly on those of us who do these things. Antidote(s)?

Here is one good one. Reminisce. Recall the moments when you did find our own American-native orchids. Remember how they took your breathe away. Beautiful, delicate, solitary and Oh! how defenseless and vulnerable. Rare, so rare. So in need of protection, hopefully by county, state or federal oversight.

Then look forward. Look forward to heading out in the late Spring of 2017 to find these Pink Lady’s Slipper wildflowers. USA native orchids found amidst heavily wooded areas. This one grew in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland, on Maryland’s lower shore area.

Baffled by uncertainty? Don’t know where to find them? There are dozens of native orchids in the eastern U.S., and your county park offices, state park offices and National Wildlife Refuges will be glad to direct you, and use their sharp yellow highlighters to bring you in close personal contact with these Gifts from G-d. June would be my suggestion. Do it.

Jeff

 

Variegated Fritillary Butterfly in . . . October . . . Seen in . . . ?

Variegated fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Black Water National Wildlife Refuge, MD. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com
This here 2016 has produced many surprises for me. In Georgia, in Maryland, in western New York, in Israel and in My Own Pennsylvania.

Count the biggest surprises, the absence of butterflies I’ve seen here in western Pennsylvania, countered by the wild abundance of butterflies in Georgia.

Elevated we were, sun bright and friendly, as we reached the front fence of our garden. 10/5/16 should not merit a close look at the bed of giant zinnias. It’s too late here for most butterflies, No? On Friday I did see a worn Monarch female at these same zinnias, and yesterday I marveled at a fresh (fresh!) female Gray hairstreak.

So we stopped, and Huh? Do I see what I see? A Variegated fritillary butterfly, just like this one (at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, Maryland). A female I think. Methodically working one zinnia bloom head, and the next and the next. Cech and Tudor’s Butterflies of the East Coast‘s range map shares that in my state they are ‘scarce/seasonal range.’ They report that there is evidence of limited overwintering, probably as adults.

Will her days end in Pennsylvania, USA, as the days grow colder? Will she find a crevice in a local park tree, and endure our zero degree winter days?

Finally, I just returned from Georgia, and saw many Variegated frits in the Butterflies & Blooms Habitat in Eatonton. Oh, are they difficult to photograph! My 52 rolls of slides just arrived today, courtesy of FedEx. Who knows if I will have a single Variegated image that qualifies as a  . . . keeper.

But just an hour ago, on my own October surprise giant zinnias, there was this southeastern winged beauty, though Petra truth be told, paid no attention.

Jeff

Pinks at Blackwater!

Pink Lady's Slipper wildflower, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD

Butterflies are my game, ‘though last year my eyes wandered a bit, to native orchids. Just 2 days ago we shared ‘3 Demure Pinks.’ Those Pink Lady’s Slipper orchids lit up the forest at Chapman State Park. Three of them growing side by side, deep red, and very earnest.

This earlier trip to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, included this run down to the “lower shore.” There, at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, I met this threesome. Very Audrey Hepburn-ish, and somewhat lighter pink. They seemed to be almost begging me to photograph them, with those weightless drops of water perilously hanging on each of them.

Lady’s Slipper orchids prefer small open spaces in thick forest. Often they are found where a tree has fallen a year or more ago. That sudden break in the forest canopy, invites their seeds to grow, thrive, in the limited, dappled sunlight that this new opening in the forest enjoys.

I Love orchids, and as if my eyes weren’t busy enough, I am on the lookout, looking for telltale indicators, like freshly created mini-openings in the forest.

Tomorrow, we drive to Eatonton, Georgia, for 2 weeks of southern butterflies. The Briar Patch Habitat, an amazing destination, beckons. We’ll be quiet, until the return back home.

Jeff