Imbibing Sweet Nectar In The Briar Patch

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

The Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) achieved enormous growth there in the Briar Patch. Virginia’s tiny seeds produced 8 foot tall Tithonia. She’d tell you that yes, they were not native to Georgia, but, they were strong, robust sunflowers, easily tolerate the Piedmont’s long bone-dry summers, self-seeded and nourished legions of butterflies, year after year.

I’ve planted Mexican Sunflower here in my own Eatonton garden, and their vigorous growth and absence of pests enables them to provide nurture for butterflies from June to November. For the price of a packet of seeds, you get Tithonia that neatly fills whole corners of your sunny garden spots and summons squadrons of swallowtails, brush foot butterflies, hairstreaks and many skipper species.

I suppose that they must also make fine cut flowers for your home vases, and if grown in your front garden beds, they’ll have your neighbors asking, “What is that gorgeous big flowering plant you’re growing there?”

This Eastern Black Swallowtail is fully involved, methodically working this Tithonia flowerhead. His golden yellow flashes, blue patches and shot of red/red, against black wings and black body handsomely fitted with white spots, works nicely here with the developing Tithonia bud and sweet Tithonia flower, all set in a clump of Tithonia, that blocking the sunlight that brightens the rest of the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat.

The richness of plants and butterfly here is real and as with all we share, the color of it all, real-time.

Jeff

Buckeye Watching

Buckeye butterfly (full dorsal), photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

We here spend a lot of time in the field and in the garden. For most of us, the Common Buckeye butterfly is a familiar sight. They meet us in field, in gardens replete with clover and along trails through lush, moist habitat.

How many among us give them more than a passing glance? For us, this is one of those ubiquitous butterflies, seen often and mostly overlooked. Another Buckeye . . . .

Not me. I find myself stopping to examine each and every Buckeye I see. ?. I recall Buckeyes whose wing ‘eyes,’ epaulettes, bars and bands were fresh and Rich, Rich in color. I continue to want to see ever more colorful Buckeyes. A richly hued Buckeye makes me smile.

This one here, seen in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia bedazzled me then, and my Fuji Velvia 50 film captured beautiful, beautiful color.

Jeff

Splendor In The Briar Patch

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

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

Me? I gaze at this and the several other image captures I scored of this pair of Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies and my mind is awash in thought.

She is facing you, and he is below her.

Does this picture evoke thoughts, for you? Be so kind as to share them?

Jeff

Me and Br’er Rabbit?

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

Br’er Rabbit at the entrance to the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. I now live 1 mile from this, Virginia Linch’s 2nd launch of this butterfly wonderland. Brooklyn to Eatonton? How, why, where and when?

Back in the ’40’s my mother Mary A”H read books to me, I sitting on her lap. A favorite was the tales of Br’er Rabbit in the Briar Patch. She said I’d ask her to read it again, and again, and again and . . .

wingedbeauty.com was launched in 2011. My stalwart early blog followers were loyal, fascinating people. As time went by I sensed that they were steadily tiring of only seeing butterflies of the U.S. northeast, of Israel and of Arizona and Toronto. My decision was to score photos of southeastern USA butterflies.

But how? At that time, no one was willing to meet me in any of the states of the U.S. South, and lead me to butterflies, common or rare. Travel to Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina & North Carolina . . . with no one to guide me. I’d get skunked after each and every 500-880 miles drive!

About that time, I noticed mention, on Facebook of one Virginia C. Linch. Long story short, she FB msg’d me “Come on down!!”

The butterflies in then Butterflies & Blooms Habitat I were incredible! Hundreds would be flying at any given time, and I counted 29 species there, one morning alone.

Snow, ice, cold-shoulders in Pittsburgh after 27 years there, and an unhappy domestic situation, and where to go next, Jeffrey? Well . . . Eatonton, Georgia.

For my kids it’s not the city, and I am kind of different down here, unable to shake my roots and my Brooklyn twang. That said, I love the patience and kindness of Georgians, the 25% lower prices of groceries and so much more, the gorgeous weather and short “winter” and this garden, my new natives garden. Butterflies flying in early February, not late April! My lifelong dream.

Mommy read to me of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, Bear, that Turtle and the Tar Baby and more, and now the Briar Patch Museum is some 600 feet from our home.

Thanks Mom, and thanks Joel Chandler Harris, the gifted author of the Briar Patch tales! He an Eatonton native.

Now back to my practicing my “Y’all,” which still comes out kinda . . . Brooklyn.

Jeff

The Monarch Understudy

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

I have always recoiled when I hear that Viceroy butterflies ‘mimic’ Monarch butterflies. It’s true that Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed leaves, and the glycosides that are highly concentrated in the milkweed remain inert (unchanged) in the Monarch caterpillars, and the Monarch butterflies that eclose from Monarch chrysalises are fully stocked with those very same, disgustingly bitter glycosides. We are taught that this adaptation of the Monarchs provides them with excellent protection from predators.

It may or it may not be true that selection has caused the Viceroy butterfly to closely resemble Monarchs. Either way, birds learn early that this look signals, “Leave alone, don’t even try to eat!” Experience has convinced that Viceroys like this one, show zero wing damage from birds (bird-struck), because the birds’ mommies taught them early, avoid that sort of butterfly, or retch uncontrollably should you forget that lesson!

That band of black, across the middle of the hindwing of this Viceroy, enables you to ID as a Viceroy. Time in the field also teaches, Monarchs fly high, with elegant wing strokes, while Viceroys fly more like jet fighters, fast and with much diving and soaring, yet always some 8 feet or so above the ground. Monarchs Love to nectar on flowers, Viceroys rarely are seen upon flowers.

Viceroy butterflies do not treat us with one of our biggest life mysteries, that is, How do Monarch butterflies, that have never been to central Mexico, fly from Maine, New York and Ohio, thousands of miles, to the mountains of central Mexico??

Viceroys have their own charm. They are less commonly seen than Monarchs. They prefer to be close to their hostplants, Willow trees and shrubs, which puts them in the neighborhood of wetlands (marshes, swamps, ponds & lakes, and wet meadows (fens)). That fascinating habitat includes cattails, red-wing blackbirds, Baltimore checkerspot butterflies, aquatic turtles, muskrat and beaver, birders seeking sightings of egrets, herons, rails, storks and ducks. Poetic places that when found, protected from billionaires and developers, tickle our imagination and treat our eyes. It also puts Viceroys, here in the Southern USA, at home with alligators, as we saw in Laura’s Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge (Georgia) and in Neel’s St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (Florida).

This Viceroy here, seen in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in my Eatonton, Georgia, affirms what some Butterfly field guide authors share, that the southeastern Viceroys are especially handsome, decked out in the stronger, more vivid oranges, black and white.

Understudy, the Viceroy? Nope. An authentic American Idol, no doubt about it.

Jeff