My name is Dragon’s-mouth

Orchid, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

How’s that for a catchy name? You’d think that Colgate or Crest would have made this pert beauty a sometimes celebrity.

Scrutinizing the sphagnum moss bog for Bog copper butterflies, and finding them! was very exciting. Seventeen years of pursuing butterflies, and finally, bog coppers. Working through the bog matt of bouncy “carpet” you knew you were liable to find very, very exotic butterflies, insects, animals and plants.

When this orchid was spotted, I felt like using one of those old lines, “Hello baby, where have you been all my life?” No more than 7″ tall, it just stood there, a fairy princess, looking as delicate as delicate can be, and not a court attendant in sight. Nearby were several others, separated nicely from one another.

The sense was, this is a rare and extraordinary orchid, described by Paul Martin Brown, in his Wild Orchids of the Northeastern United States, as a “regionally significant species.” That is how I viewed it, a rare, hard to find, fragile example of G-d’s handiwork. I was there at exactly the right time, for days earlier, nope! and a few days later? nope!

For thousands of years, Arethusa bulbs Linnaeus has persevered in this unique, western New York bog.  Allenberg Bog is also known to some as Waterman’s Swamp, Congdon’s Pond, and Owlenburg Bog and is on the border of the towns of Napoli and New Albion, New York in Cattaraugus County. A unique and fascinating refuge of 390 acres, it is the jewel of the Buffalo Audubon Preserve System. The orchid looked fragile and vulnerable, but surviving, and producing anew. If this slight, delicate flower can, then we surely can, is what I thought.

Jeff

Another Regular at the Acid Bog

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

Bog copper butterflies were the OMG! attraction at this primeval acid bog, western New York state. Pitcher plants in bloom, sundew tinies glinting in the sweet sunlight, and rare, bog orchids rounded out the menu here. Allenberg Bog is also known to some as Waterman’s Swamp, Congdon’s Pond, and Owlenburg Bog and is on the border of the towns of Napoli and New Albion, New York in Cattaraugus County. A unique and fascinating refuge of 390 acres, it is the jewel of the Buffalo Audubon Preserve System.

At the outer edge of the bog, beyond the wild cranberries and tamaracks, were interspersed Swamp milkweed plants, in bloom. They too were seeing heavy traffic, swallowtails especially, and the beauts that you see here, Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) butterflies. This Yummy! fresh male was especially handsome. I wanted a fair image of his silvery spangles, as they faced and reflected the morning sun. He was fine with my approach, just so long as I didn’t attempt to mooch off of the flowerhead. We agreed to agree, and I shot away!

Fritillaries, those so American butterflies, that 99.679% of American don’t know exist. When I first began photographing butterflies, I noted that word, ‘spangled.’ It was the first time I had ever noted it, outside of Mrs. ??????’s 4-grade class at PS 244 in Brooklyn, New York. The beloved Star Spangled Banner.

Jeff

 

Sundew Blooms at a New York Bog

Sundew Wildflowers, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

It’s rough at a true northeastern acid bog. This Tamarack bog was in far western New York State. Two consecutive mornings there will be long remembered. Why?

Why? because it is rough at one of these thousands of year-old glacier relics.

Begin with these Sundew blooms. Just 2 feet or so into the central bog ‘pond.’ You must get closer, everything you stand for dictates that you must get right up to these other-worldy carnivorous plants. Their tiny stature insures that you push yourself closer again. Then, you begin to sink, because the end of the ‘pond’ shore is no end at all, just another ruse, to make you think you are on solid ground. As you begin slowly sinking, you remember, Hey! I wanted to capture looks at these sundews, to share here. So you’re sinking, and water begins pouring into your already very damp boots . . .

The diversity in the bog habitat draws at your goal of photographing bog butterflies. The ideal window of opportunity, for great images, is about 7:30 A.M. to 11 A.M.. When that window is reached, you fret, because you spent so much time Oohing and Ahhing! sundew, pitcher plants, tamarack, orchids, difficult to ID botany, that you DID NOT harvest sufficient exposures of bog coppers, fritillaries, skippers, brushfoots and other butterflies.

Ache! Halfway through the morning, my calves began to ache. Why? I had been in the field for months, when I got here this early July 2016 morning. My legs never (Thank G-d) disappoint me. Didn’t throughout my rich and challenged life. Both mornings, they ached. Each and every step you take in this bog, over the 4 or so hours there, exercises your lower legs. The bog surface looks like ground cover, but that’s illusory. It is just a 6″ or so matt of plant growth, under which is water of unknown depth (think a good place to store Jimmy H – what with the acidity as it is). Every step you take forward or backward, the bog surface is forced down, your legs compensate, muscles work to keep you stationary. That constant, aggravated tension exhausts your calf muscles. When you leave the bog, your calves hurt! Fishing back through my colorful life, I don’t remember my calves ever talking to me before, as they did in Allenberg bog.

Allenberg Bog is also known to some as Waterman’s Swamp, Congdon’s Pond, and Owlenburg Bog and is on the border of the towns of Napoli and New Albion, New York in Cattaraugus County. A unique and fascinating refuge of 390 acres, it is the jewel of the Buffalo Audubon Preserve System.

I will share this, it may be that when you visit an acid bog, and you love the outdoors, as we do, . . . I think you remember that experience for decades. Decades. That because it is the closest you can get to feeling like you are walking on . . . Mars.

Imagine the excitement your child or grandchild would have?

Jeff