Which One For 2021?

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

That’s what we love about butterflies, each year brings its own surprises and disappointments. Butterflies you looked forward to seeing in any given year sometimes don’t show up, and each year butterflies you have given up thinking about visit and bring a smile.

This year, just 6 months in our new home, in North Macon, Georgia, we aggressively planted perrenials, trees and shrubs in our back garden. The list is fun for us to recall: Hackberry trees, Swamp milkweed, Linden trees, Bear oak trees, Passionflower, Coneflower, Oak trees (post oak), Hercules Club bushes/trees, Liatris, Brickellia ( rare, rare), Hickory trees (Pignut, Shagbark, Nutmeg (rare, rare), Cardinal flower, Cosmos, Hibiscus, Iris (Blue flag), Spicebush, Crocosmia (Lucifer), Joe Pye, Ironweed, Lobelia, Basil, Black & Blue salvia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Asters (Several Varieties), Buttonbush, Turtlehead, Atlantic White Cedar, Sassafras,  . . .  and more. Really, more.

The payoff for all the work that we did? Excellent butterfly visits and fulfilling caterpillar numbers. The Big Surprise? This 2020 season brought lots of Zebra Heliconian butterflies to our 800 Garden. Lots. Heliconius charithonia flies with the flight of a ballerina, and just stops you in your tracks, you watching that graceful flight with awe, me thinking where are we in the Amazon or in tropical Africa? Then I smile, thankful that no, we are here in Georgia, and this butterfly is real and inspiring.

So for us, 2020 brought Zebra Longwings. What butterflies will be plentiful in 2021? Ma’am, I have no idea.

Which butterflies would you like to see more of in 2021?

(This one was seen in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia).

Jeff

Enjoy Your Nap, Viceory

Viceroy Butterfly at rest (right side), photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

It was always a struggle for me to get to the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, before 8:30 AM on any morning. I’m a slow starter in the morning, and that jeopardized the opportunities that can be had by early arrivals at wildlife habitat. I’ve often seen others come along at 11 A.M. or noontime.

The sun is way too high after 11 A.M., striking your subject butterfly so that the image is bathed in strong light. I didn’t want that. Much better are images scored early in the morning, with the sunlight striking your butterfly at a sharp angle, accentuating the topography of your subject, producing interesting angles, and great images.

This Viceroy butterfly was difficult to see, as it remained on this flat leaf, just inside the tree margin at the Briar Patch Habitat. It wasn’t ready to make flight, not yet. I was able to quickly have a look at it, and Wow! it was a very handsome Viceroy. it’s marking was bold, nicely colored and included a solid, thick black hindwing mid-line, the line that enables you to easily see that not only is the butterfly smaller than a Monarch butterfly, but with that hindwing line coursing the middle of the hindwing, it’s definitely a Viceroy.

Viceroy butterflies thrive when their hostplant, Willows, trees or bushes, are nearby.

Eatonton, Georgia, in the Georgia Piedmont region.

Jeff

The Presidential Giant

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly on Tithonia photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

I think I once saw the back of the head of an American President, Dwight D. Eisenhower. I remember that everyone around me was looking to catch a glimpse of President Eisenhower. That’s thousands of people all trying to see him, and hoping to come away with that memory: To remember that they saw a President of the United States.

There is a butterfly that commands that same universal attention, this one, the Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes). What have I seen? My head turns, and all heads turn when this magnificent butterfly gracefully flies in, and all eyes are fixed while those 2 or 3 minutes, that it flies around, looking for nectar, go by.

From the field guides, It appears that Giants may be seen in about 39 states in these United States. That is Presidential, no?

Where this one? The Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat I in Eatonton, Georgia.

Jeff

Those Mysterious Anoles (Georgia-Style)

Anole lizard photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

It was November 2017, No not a cold, blistery north-wind blowing November. I was in Georgia, and began renting 303. That back garden was Huge compared to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania gardens. I met some of our new neighbors those first days, including the violent, gangsterish Fire ants. This Jeff, whom many of you have learned about in past wingedbeauty posts (streets of Brooklyn, ‘Connected’ friends, Knives, Dean in a NYCity high school, artillery officer, loved attending the Golden Gloves Finals in Madison Square Garden, NYNY) made not one but 2 trips to St. Mary Emergency Room, after Fire Ant bites nearly became ‘septic.’ The mosquitoes of Eatonton included a species of tiny little mosquitoes (species? Don’t know) that bite you without you knowing it, and whose bites blow up immediately and then are ‘itchy’ for the next 24 hours.

The flip side of the not so pleasant Georgia ‘neighbors?’ The butterflies abound! So many new: Giant Swallowtails, Palamedes Swallowtails, Cloudless Sulphurs, Great Purple Hairstreak.  The moths, even there 2 blocks from the center of town brought Ooh! and Aahs! The beetles were all new, the bees too. The birds were nearly all new, and migrating birds often sent me to my bird field guides (The Sibley Guide to Birds).

Butterflies, Birds, Moths? All easy to ‘know,’ their habits and behaviors understandable. There is a Georgia backyard resident that remains cloaked in mystery, the Anole lizard. A near total unknown, the Anoles.

They pretty much remind me of the ‘Spooks’ who have their main offices in Washington, DC, those of the C.I.A. (Central Intelligence Agency), NSA (National Security Agency) and the dozens of other top secret government agencies who are supposed to be gathering information here and abroad.

I study the eyes of this Anole here, and their aloofness, almost coldness remind me of those detectives back in New York City, on the job, and carrying faces that tell? Tell zero about what they’re thinking.

Anoles? Work the shadows of the garden, and maybe snatch a butterfly caterpillar or two, and then . . . disappear . . . .

Jeff

Beauty Seen & Never To Be Forgotten

Earring Series - Blackswallowtail butterflies coupled, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

I was in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat. Yes, I had seen hundreds (many) of butterflies there, making my 13+ hour drives from Pittsburgh easily worth it. Sometimes I saw the most beautiful butterflies I’d ever seen, ever. The possibility of seeing magnificence was always tantalizingly present.

My strategy was to get there as early as possible, at least before 8:30 A.M. in the morning. I especially liked finding butterflies that flew out of their night perches, and stood on leaves, soaking in the rays of the morning sun. Those trips south paid off, with exceptional images and joy, real joy!

That morning I arrived early, and went straight to a spot that gets full sun from the East. I scanned the perrenials for signs of butterflies, just as we learned to do in basic training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey (Viet Nam has begun to boil over, and we took that training deadly serious).

I saw them, in low perrenials and . . . I could not believe it. I saw one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen. A pair of eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies, coupled tighter, about 18 inches above the ground. Look at them, see how fresh they were, how vivid their colors.

I wasted no times, robotically making my ‘patented’ approach. What was I thinking? The ever recurring thought was that G-d had set this stage for me, and I’d better not waste it. I shot away, maybe 20 exposures.

Sylbie arrived in the Habitat minutes later, and the rest is . . . History.

Feast your eyes on this female, her patches of blue defying words! After, I thanked G-d for this experience, as I always did for such incredible moments, even this many years after Frieda’s A”H passing.

Jeff