The Irony and the Tear(s)

Earring Series - Jeff with Black Swallowtail Earrings (Best shot), at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

This is the shot with the Eastern Black Swallowtails fully on my right ear.

Caron answered my request with her own. I asked her, a new FB ‘friend,’ to share her 5 favorite images of butterflies. She offered up her favorites within minutes. If those are her best, after 5 years of shooting, she is a new, very talented butterfly photographer!! Her talent is best expressed with her Ruby-throated hummingbird images. I saw her name shared along with another good FB shooter, I went to her FB page, and minutes later requested that she accept my FB ‘Friends’ request, I’m glad that she did.

She turned my request back on me, and wanted to see my 5 favorites. Well, I was reminded that it’s easier to ask than to provide.

I didn’t forget her request. Here is one of my responses. I was at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat I, in Eatonton, Georgia. I was alone, very early in the morning. I spotted a gorgeous Eastern Black Swallowtail hidden amongst perennials. I shot away. Minutes later, nearby, I spotted a mated pair of Eastern blacks. I began shooting them, when Yikes! I heard a loud, familiar voice, calling out to me, and approaching. It was Sylbie. I went Shhh! Shhhhh!

What followed was that word, Serendipity! The coupled swallowtails flew. Sylbie whispered . . . they are on your hat, Jeff. I handed my camera to Sylbie, changed setting to automatic. As she was watching, the coupled beauts moved from my hat, to my upper arm and soon, to my right ear. That’s the female you see, with the coupled mate somewhat hildden behind her. Sylbie shot true, with a steady hand and trained eye.

Caron, I love this pic, the irony of it is stark. I look to most like an academic type, true to some degree, but I grew up on the streets, Brooklyn, New York, and fought my way through life, wearing an earring back then, a good way to get frequent and brutal punishment, maybe daily. Here, though, I couldn’t give a whatever, for this was one of the handful of butterfly moments that teared me up, the connection to Frieda’s A”H loss so poignant.

The guy who carried cold steel in his pocket, through all those years of college, who stood and delivered, when only G-d knows how I came out alive many times . . . Here I am in Georgia, beautiful Georgia, with those of Creation adorning my ear.

You might see the “Jeff’s Earrings” feature, at the top of this post page, to see more of the amazing moments we had.

Thanks Caron.


What Should You Do When A Giant . . .

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

Not enough of us have yet enjoyed that moment. That moment when its mid-morning or a bit later, and you’ve reflected on your success. You’ve seen and shot swallowtails: Black, Spicebush, Tigers yellow and back form as well as a Pipevine; Ladies: painted and American; Satyrs: little wood and Carolina; brushfoots: snouts, buckeyes, admirals, pearl crescents and maybe silvery checkerspots; yellows and whites: cabbage white, orange sulphur, cloudless sulphur, checkered white and skippers, so many different skippers.

That’s when we begin to slowly close the book on a productive morning. That’s about the time that I reach into my LLBean backpack for my reward! a Coco Loco bar.

What! Huh? Into the pocket goes the 1/2 each coco loco bar, for something big, very big has just flown in. Very big. Those oversize wings provide immediate ID. A Giant Swallowtail has come to nectar!! In it flies, every go elegantly moving its wings in flight.

This one? It came out of the treed perimeter of the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, Eatonton, Georgia., flew briefly and assumed this leafy perch.

What should you do when a Giant flies in? 1) Look in wonderment. 2) Thank G-d for continuing to enable such beauty and grace. 3) Make a slow ‘Technique’ approach (see our Technique section) and shoot, shoot, shoot.

This instant one? I scored good general form, clearly show the yellow bands criss-crossing on each forewing, tease with those deep red spots on the hindwings and nicely show the yellow spots on the 2 tails.



Snout? So What?

American Snout Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Habitat, Eatonton, Georgia

It’s known as the American Snout Butterfly. It’s habitat extends from Massachusetts to Southern California. It makes unscheduled appearances from Maine to the Dakotas and from Oklahoma to Nevada. That’s a whole lot of habitat. Snouts like to be close enough to Hackberry trees and shrubs.

What is most remarkable about this species of brushfoot butterfly? They get No Respect (apologies to Mr. Dangerfield). They are the ‘So what?’ ‘Who cares’ butterfly.’

Only in big years in Texas do you see Snouts in any appreciable numbers. They are almost always seen as solitary individuals, except for the brief interactions when male discovers a reluctant female.

Why don’t they spark excitement? Well they only briefly generate excitement . . . until it is realized that it is ‘Only a snout.’

Snouts sport muted colors and they have those elongated palps, making them look, well, kind of silly. I no longer stand them up against the Jimmy Durante legend (Vaudeville star, from Brooklyn, NY, who had a sandpaper voice, was very likable and had a big schnazola. Almost no one remembers Jimmy Durante, is the reason.

Snouts flew around the town greens, when the Patriots were devising their future strategies, but even though snouts are native butterflies, no credit comes their way.

When you are having that kind of day, when you seem well, invisible, you may easily empathize with this American snout. Invisible in plain view.


Spicebush Spooks

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Me? I have several thoughts when a Spicebush Swallowtail flies in.

1) I reflect on how infrequently I see them in the field. I spend much time in “open woods and edges” (Glassberg, Swift Guide to Butterflies of  North America) and I may see one or two over the course of a full morning.

2) They fly in silently, without fanfare, avoid me totally, nectar on flowers with brevity and great shyness, and like C.I.A spooks, do not want to be seen or approached.

3) Their range extends from Massachusetts to Florida to Texas and Illinois and along the northern border with Canada. Strays are reported much to the west and north. Despite such an enormous range, I have yet to meet a single person who adores them or can be deemed ‘the’ authority on this large, handsome butterfly.

4) Few of us share good images of Spicebush Swallowtails. Like an effective ‘Spook’ most view this butterfly as unremarkable in its appearance, and readily forgettable.

I’ve planted a 10′ Sassafras tree in my garden, and  and 3 little Spicebushes, and I hope that these hostplants for Spicebush butterflies brings ’em in, from far and wide.