Change Your Place, Change . . . .

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

700 miles. That’s how far I moved last year. Family and friends know how much I enjoy this pursuit of butterflies, and they’ve heard of why I do what I do.

It’s 55 degrees F in my former home now, and its’s a whopping 80 degrees F in middle Georgia, the Piedmont region. Back there, in Pittsburgh, the Monarch butterflies were singletons, and you might see 3-5 any given year. They would be seen until mid-September each of those 27 years, and October might shake out a stray Cabbage White butterfly, maybe.

Today! Today in my 1-year old natives garden, I went out to give Petra some exercise, and there in Bed #2 of my garden, together on a group of giant Tithonia (Mexican sunflower plants) . . . were Five (5) Monarchs, males and females at the Tithonias, the nectar bar for thousands of butterflies this year. Five! I’ve never seen such a grouping together, ever.

I’ve driven down here, beginning back in 2015, and butterflies fly well into November. I L-U-V it!

Change your place, many Moms say, and you Change . . . .

Jeff

Br’er Rabbit, Brooklyn & the Briar Patch

Briar Rabbit statue photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, Eatonton, GA

Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch II will soon be entering its 2nd year at the Eatonton, Georgia site. Virginia Linch and her band of volunteers, by necessity, had to move this Butterfly wonderland from the other side of town to this new, much larger location. Many, I included, were reluctant to make that move. I’d driven down from Pittsburgh in 2015, 2016 and 2017 just to shoot butterflies there.

Y’all showed sign of tiring of solely northeastern USA butterflies, even with a sprinkling of Israeli, Mississippi and Arizona Leps thrown in. The challenge was how to travel to 7 different Southern U.S. states, and without anyone to guide me, find dozens of southeastern U.S. butterflies. When I came across Virginias’s Facebook page, and learned of the 2-acre Wonder, I visited the Briar Patch Habitat. OMG! Two acres with several hundred butterflies aloft at any given time. Imagine that.

Virginia took this once thriving aluminum factory site, now a brownfield, and converted it into the best butterfly destination this side of the Mississippi River. I’ll not go into how she did it without any significant grants or financial Big Daddy, how they acquired hundreds of hostplants and who/how they got planted.

Br’er Rabbit here, greets you as you enter Briar Patch II. He hand carved from carefully chosen Florida swamp trees. Joel Chandler Harris’ series of childrens’ books tell the tales of the denizens of the old-time Briar Patch, right here in Eatonton. Written before the Civil War, he writes of the wit and cunning of this Br’er Rabbit, of the challenges presented by Br’er Fox, the lovable lumbering Br’er Bear and the lesson offered why Br’er Tortoise.

How do I know this? Back in Brooklyn, New York, I sat on my Mother’s lap, as she read me the Br’er Rabbit tales penned by that same Joel Chandler Harris. I’m told that I made her read them to me over and over and then again and again. Now when I pull into the Habitat’s Eatonton parking lot, there he is larger than life, Br’er Rabbit, and that evokes the good memories, back up there, some 840 miles north!

This Butterflies & Blooms Habitat will be exceptional in 2019, once those 7.7 million seeds sprout, and they put in an additional 359 hostplants and wildflowers.  Give me a call before you head out, won’t you?

Jeff

Butterfly Realities

Argiope with sulphur prey photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

I’m glad that I don’t see this too often. Y’all know that I am fond of butterflies. I’ve never ever caught one in a net, never pinned a beautiful, fresh butterfly to a small cardboard and for sure never ever caught one to sell to collectors in Tucson, Manila or Beijing.

Human poachers collect for their own collection or for money. That upsets me, for especially when they finally locate a small rare population, say with 50 butterflies at the most, who do they seek? They search for the strongest, most perfect 2 males and 2 females. Catch them, and desolate the vibrance of the remaining tiny population, by removing the strong, hearty individuals from the endangered gene pool.

Butterfly realities may be difficult to understand. Hard reality does require serious contemplation. G-d made all of these creatures, for good reason. Those that prey on animals, the spiders, wasps, beetles in the trees at night, robber flies, lizards, frogs, mice, dragonflies, snakes, birds, bats, they all depend on butterflies for their 1% to 15% of their prey. This really, really bothered me decades ago. 40 or more years of thinking has led me to conclude that the academics are correct, this is a very well organized system, and it has worked this who knows how many years. And it will work, well beyond our days.

This Black and Yellow Argiope has caught a yellow/sulphur butterfly in her web. Her sticky protein strands have done their job well, and she now will go to feast on her gossamer-winged prey.

Those who never consider such predator-prey relationships, are much aggrieved. Won’t this 1 event trigger the disappearance of this species of butterfly??

No it will not. There are offsets here. The mother butterfly who produced this imperiled offspring did not lay 1 egg. She more than likely set out 100 eggs. Those 100 caterpillars hatched will see high losses to another long list of predators. The chrysalises produced will suffer losses to the elements and to desperate predators. How many adults butterflies will eclose from those odd cases? Oh, let’s say 21. Those 21 adult yellow/sulphur butterflies must fly in the territory of dragonflies, blue jays, mockingbirds, even the sweet and beloved bluebirds. At night, when they roost in trees and bushes, snakes, beetles, lizards and more appear, and . . . !

Butterfly realities make me appreciate my home, my locked door, Petra and . . . . the law enforcement men and women who give us peace of mind and a watchful eye.

Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, Eatonton, Georgia.

Jeff

A Rich Gray

Gray Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Habitat, Eatonton, Georgia

Working the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia, I’m mostly keeping my eyes peeled for ‘fresh.’ It’s much like my careful, not rushed time spent in Giant Eagle or Publix produce sections. I look long and hard for fresh bananas, fresh cantaloupes (well marked netting, that dark green scar and no bruise ), corn in season, with the stem-tip light color (picked that morning) and oranges a deep color and free of bruises and dents. Maybe I should share my desired watermelon, that secret info the result of many conversations with farm owners at their farm-side produce stands. Good-looking shape, rich green netting and most important of all, a fine patch of sweet yellow color on the underside.

‘Fresh’ at the BBHabitat usually means seeking tiger swallowtail butterflies, pipevine swallowtails, monarchs, giant swallowtails, cloudless sulphur, gulf fritillaries, the rarely seen variegated fritillaries, hackberry emperors, longtail skippers, spicebush swallowtails, red-banded hairstreaks, zebra heliconians and the less often seen zebra swallowtails . . . I always want to capture each of these when they are spectacular, ‘fresh’ yes, and particularly good looking.

Seeing this especially handsome Gray hairstreak butterfly was a surprise, for they just don’t show themselves here much. A rich, very rich gray, whose orange spot rates a long satisfying look, for a guy who eats a fresh (and now you know carefully selected) orange every morning for breakfast.

Jeff