That Urban Disadvantage

Common Wood Nymph Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Clay Pond, NY

It came to mind today, as it occasionally does. That growing up in Brooklyn, New York, in the city of New York. Our street, East 58th Street, was at the very edge of development in the 1940’s. North and west of my street, was fully, 100% built, nearly all with small brick row houses, one after another, like forever, until miles away, you gaped across the East River, at the Manhattan skyline.

At the edge of development meant that just around the corner from me, just past Lenny Oliker’s house, was an unbuilt lot, maybe 20% sylvan, the rest of the botany in that lot was alien botany. Across the street from there, Clarendon Road, was more undeveloped land, where (Believe it Not!) we once chased cottontail rabbits and found Black Widow Spiders.

Accelerate to now, 2019, and I reckoned today at the Great disadvantage all that meant for me, that Urban Disadvantage.

I now live in the town of Eatonton, 2 blocks from the county courthouse. Yesterday, Eatonton celebrated their 60th annual Dairy Festival yesterday. There are working dairy farms less than 2.5 miles from our house. Most here grew up on the parents’ farm or their grandparents’ farm. Many worked on farms while they were in high school. On their own lots, they grew up amongst butterflies, deer, raccoons, water moccasins and copperhead snakes, opossums, black vultures, wild hogs and boars, armadillos and . . . butterflies. Grandma often had a garden that was unforgettable to my friends today, and it was regularly visited by . . . butterflies.

My childhood? I have much difficulty remembering butterflies in those ’empty lots’ back in my childhood. Very few came, for 80% of the botany was aliens, and Doug Tallaway famously teaches that our butterflies and moths and bees just don’t know alien species, no matter how many decades those plants coexist with our butterflies, flies, moths, bees and wasps.

Those of you who grew up rural learned of and saw butterflies their entire life. They’ve developed foundational experience with their names, habits, preferences and life cycles.

Me? True I taught high school Biology in New York City’s Queens borough and in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,but . . . all that I know off butterflies had to be learned more recently, and still lacks the rich experiential familiarity of the so many of you who grew up in such as the Briar Patch. That Urban Disadvantage, unknown and a negative, here.

A very attractive Wood Nymph butterfly in the high wet meadow at Clay Pond in Frewsburg, New York, home of the famous naturalist, Barbara Ann Case.

Jeff

Butterfly’s “Eyes”

Common Wood Nymph butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Clay Pond,  NY

I’m a guy who searches for eyes. Mine are blue, but that has nothing to do with this now. I travel much, to find butterflies with extraordinary eyes. When I find a butterfly with outstanding ‘eyes’ I will follow it until I can score alot of images. It’s all about getting exposures with comely, sharply focused eyes.

Eyes on the head of the butterfly? No. We’re after the ‘eyes’ found on the wings of many species of butterflies. They’re in italics because those are not the eyes that see. They are instead decorations on the wings. Their reason for being there has been much discussed, but there is no sure determination of why butterflies have retained their wing’s eyes for those thousands of years?

A trip of several days may be declared a major success if I’ve gained several good exposures of butterfly wings sporting great ‘eyes.’

This Wood Nymph butterfly rang my Alert! bells when I saw it. That large forewing ‘eye’ was crisp, prominent and film worthy. The smaller ‘eyes’ strung along next to it along sung to me.

I remember several people I have run across in my life, people with strikingly remarkable eyes, as that Afghan girl on the cover of National Geographic some years ago. Another, that girl who walked into my Biology HS classroom back at that Pittsburgh high school. From September to June, I was transfixed by them.

Winged beauties often stop such as us in our tracks, The Eyes! The Eyes!

Clay Pond, very western New York State.

Jeff

Wood Nymph Butterfly (Clay Pond)

Common Wood Nymph Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Clay Pond, NY

Clay Pond in very western New York state features acres of grass wetland. That day in 2016 there was a sizable flight of butterflies. I was seeing Wood nymphs, wetland Skippers, Satyrs, a Viceroy here and there, a Monarch or two and more.

My eyes were mostly searching for Wood Nymphs. Why? Ever since that day some years ago at Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania, I have been on the lookout for Wood Nymphs with attractive forewing ‘eyes.’

This one here was hiding in 4 foot grass. Once I made a successful approach, I liked what I saw, a lot. This Wood Nymph has scrumptious! ‘eyes,’ they encircled by rich orangeish borders, and those eyes have the bluish centers, something that I have always enjoyed finding.

One of my most sought after butterfly patterns, ‘eyes’ on a Wood Nymph that bring a smile to a Butterfly guy.

Jeff

Skipper On Break in Clay Pond Reserve

Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Clay Pond Preserve, Frewsburg, NY

Stats once again. It is my belief that 0.00038% of Americans are able to ID the Skipper butterflies of the northeastern United States, or the southeastern United States, etc. This translates to less than 4 people in 10,000 who can tell you the name of the Skippers where they live in the United States.

Self consciously, I admit to have difficulty identifying Skippers. This one here, seen at Clay Pond Reserve, in Falconer, New York State? Is it a Long Dash Skipper?

What it is, is fascinating. Starkly beautiful. Met in thigh-high grass in on marshy land, just 30 feet from the pond. Resting, though I forever wonder how they make the decisions they do, as here, to take a break. What is the level of conscious decision making?

This stuff triggers me, that’s for sure.

Jeff

Long Dash Skipper– a Polites mystic

Skipper Butterfly II photographed by Jeff Zablow at Clay Pond Preserve, Frewsburg, NY

It’s Skipper time. Here we were, at Clay Pond Reserve in western New York State. My eyes are peeled for Satyrs, Viceroys, Monarchs, Wood Nymphs, Angle wings. Rare and/or beautiful wildflowers are also appreciated.

The grass is thigh high, and the going is slow, for though the pond is only 50 feet away, this is a very wet read very wet meadow.

You see what I saw. A very beautiful skipper on a lush, colorful bloom. Arrgh! I try to make believe that I don’t see handsome skipper butterflies, because there are so many species of them about and I never did develop a working ID program in my head, to tell one from another skipper species.

That moment though, I thought, Hey! this is one of the more interesting Skipper species, it is totally occupied as it nectars the full flower head, and it’d make a fine image, if I can capture what I see and share it well.

June 2017, and I make this as a Long Dash skipper, nicely adorned, eyes good and proboscis well extended. And Barbara Ann, he is sipping at this (what kind do you think this is?) bloom.

Jeff