Briar Patch Habitat I – Virginia and James

James Murdock and Virginia Linch photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, GA

For the Historical Archives. It’s 2017, and Virginia here is introducing James Murdock to the hostplant beds at the Original Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, in downtown Eatonton, Georgia. The record books reflect that James was one of some 313 visitors to the Briar Patch Habitat this 2017,  to receive a personal tour, provided by Virginia C Linch, herself.

As word spread throughout Georgia and points east of the Mississippi, the town of Eatonton resolved that with the growing popularity of the Briar Patch Habitat, and its potential for future high numbers of visitors, the municipality would offer a new, very desirable site in town for Virginia’s Butterfly Miracle.

Summoning her closest circle of Habitat supporters, Virginia considered the offer . . . and then agreed to the Herculean task of uprooting the Habitat’s thousands of perennials, shrubs and trees, as well as the tower, Papa’s Porch, and the other hand-made structures there.

With the new location to open in 2018, there’s talk of new attractions, and soon, Butterfly Celebrations, culminating in annual Butterflies and Blooms  Conventions. Middle Georgia, and Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair? Poised for a butterfly Convention feat, that will attract visitors from here, there and everywhere.

Jeff

Briar Patch Statuary

Flower sculptures photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, GA

Folks love the Butterflies and Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, Eatonton, Georgia. This middle Georgia (east of Atlanta) butterfly oasis is now in its 5th year. Dreamed up by Virginia, brought to fruition by a handful of friends and neighbors, Bartow, Sylbie, Doug, Susan, Stacy, Roger . . . the town of Eatonton was gently tweaked all along the way. Five years of planting just about 12,568 annuals, perennials, bushes and trees, almost all of them hostplants for this butterfly or that, and those 5 years of watering, weeding, moving, trimming and thinning came to what result?

The very best butterfly habitat from Maine to at least Perry, Florida, and from Delaware to the Mississippi River. A showcase for the butterflies of the South. Any given morning, on my drives down from Pittsburgh, I have seen no less than 20 different species of butterflies! On that list I include Zebra heliconian, Monarch, Zebra swallowtail, both Ladies, squadrons of giants (giant swallowtails), shockingly iridescent Pipevines (Pipevine swallowtails), well the list goes on and on. Virginia has seen goatweed leafwing butterflies there, and I’m anxious to see one too.

These inviting steel sculptures stands at a spot just after you enter the Habitat. The work of a local artist, Truth Be Told, I stop each time I arrive there, to marvel at how well they epitomize the excitement, zeal and beauty of the Briar Patch Habitat. My mother A”H read me Briar Rabbit stories when I was maybe 4 years old. She read them over and over again, as I would appeal to her to do. Happy irony, no?

The town of Eatonton decided some months ago to sell this site, smack dab in town, to a buyer. An Agreement was reached to move the Habitat to a new site in town, a larger site, and water will be piped there by the town. Virginia and her team are daily planning and working to replant, add new plants and somehow coax, cajole and tease those 3,645 butterflies to make the move too, in 2018.

Let me know when you’re going, Won’t you?

Jeff

Chasing the Checkered Skipper Butterfly

Checkered Skipper butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, GA

There are large butterflies (Monarchs, Swallowtails) and there are small butterflies (Pearl Crescents, Orange Sulphurs) . . . and there are those tiny butterflies (Hairstreaks and the Blues). It’s those tiny butterflies that are so often offended, by our apparent disinterest in them, again and again. Hikes in the field usually ‘kick-up’ the tiny butterflies, from their resting perches just inches off the ground: American coppers, azures, Eastern tailed blues, and skippers, many different skippers.

There aren’t a whole lot of butterfly blogs extant, although there are now a good number of Facebook butterfly lovers who share their image captures. What they don’t share much are images of the tiny butterflies. Why? Tiny butterflies remain mostly close to the ground, or in the case of the skippers fly away at blurring speed.

Getting down to shoot a tiny requires that you bring your entire body down, down to them. That especially vexes me, for I shoot Macro- and must get within some 18″ or so of them. If you live with chronic knee, back, hip or leg conditions, well then, getting down to cop tiny butterfly images is not near half-worth the pain it will cause. That plus while you’re getting down, the butterfly more than likely will be . . . fleeing your approach, leaving you near nose to the ground, and nothing to show for it.

Me? I run a butterfly blog, and I love butterflies. They mean so much to me. They evoke such strong emotional feelings. That and I WANT to bring good butterfly images to you. I want to. I enjoy doing that. I’ve had difficulty explaining that to folks who grapple with some explanation for why I do this. I do my best to make my responses brief, and me and Fuji slide film continue our work, undeterred.

This Common  Checkered Skipper butterfly might be the 75th shutter click that I’ve made of them. They are very, very common in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in  Eatonton, Georgia. They flee as you walk the paths there. On a given morning there, I may see 30 or more of them.

Most of my looks at them end with so-so images. This capture of a fresh male pleases me. There are several things I like about this share. I may have clicked my 75th checkered skipper, but another benchmark should be known. This may well have been my 150th go down to the ground move. They don’t like approach, won’t tolerate it. Most of us just no  longer try, and set them on our Don’t Care About Them List.

Me, I don’t give up . . . I can do it, even if it takes . . . Jeff, chasing the checkereds.

Jeff

 

Identifying Bugs ‘n’ Butterflies at the Briar Patch Habitat

Using Georgia Guide James Murdock and Virginia Linch photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, GA

You’ve read of my ‘discovery’ of the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat. Yep. That incredible 2 acres enable me. It enabled me to meet and greet the butterflies of the southeastern USA, right there. Saved me drives to Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Alabama. That because the Briar Patch Habitat’s thousands of hostplants have attracted dozens of different species of butterflies. This 2017 proved that, with the appearance and everyday reappearance of Zebra heliconians!

What can you expect to see on a typical morning there? 20, 25, 30 or more species of butterflies! All aloft in this open, wild Habitat, in, yes, in the town of Eatonton, Georgia. Fresh, active, strikingly beautiful butterflies.

Virginia C Linch launched the Habitat, supported it, planted, mulched, weeded, watered it, promoted it around town and beyond, and, on occasion, defended it, when folks who should have known better, acted in any way that jeopardized this unique jewel in a pretty town, in the welcoming Georgia Piedmont region.

Virginia here is smiling, though you have to know her to know that. She just showed James Murdock the recently published Georgia fold-out photo guide to Georgia butterflies. James, a Georgia state naturalist and writer for local newspapers, paid a visit to the Briar Patch Butterfly Habitat, wanting to know what all the buzz was about! This was June 2017, and I was there, watching him, transfixed as he was, with the air lanes in the Habitat full, full with beautiful sylvan wings aloft!

The Big New News? The City of Eatonton has agreed to move the Habitat to a new, much larger location in Eatonton. Once Virginia and her stalwart band of friends move the thousands of perennials, shrubs and trees, know that Eatonton’s name and fame will spread. 2018 will be good, Very Good for any and all who favor beautiful, gorgeous and fascinating . . . butterflies.