Why Didn’t Our Monarch Make His Home In Alabama?

Monarch butterfly (male, full dorsal)1, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

He arrived in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, exhausted, but zero bird-struck. He reminds of a man in his early ’50’s, buff, handsome but no longer a 30-ish strongman.

Presuming that he stayed here in Eatonton, Georgia, to spend time with the butterfly whiz, Virginia C Linch, at this butterfly oasis, that in itself raises questions.

When he flew from Texas to Louisiana, why didn’t he remain there, for the weeks that he had to enjoy?

When he left Louisiana, and flew to Yazoo, why didn’t he stay there, in their wonderful National Wildlife Refuge? I was there once, and like it much.

The Delta didn’t do it for our Monarch, then how could he not fall in love with his next stop, Alabama?

Why’d he leave Alabama and fly those hundreds of miles to Virginia’s Briar Patch Habitat?

Did he leave Eatonton and fly to Marcie’s Summerville, South Carolina?

I’m guessing that he lived out the rest of his days here, in the Briar Patch habitat

You’re urged to explain all of this to us, to me.



Do Butterflies Commute?

Today’s special visitor was a very big Black Form Female Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. We posted some pics on Facebook. I commented that there’s a good chance that she came from Virginia’s Briar Patch Habitat, just one mile from our native plants garden. Came to partake of our Bottlebrush Buckeye bush, now in splendid full bloom. It may well be that the super fresh Giant Swallowtail also flew to us from the Briar Patch.

Virginia C Linch posted a Comment to my Facebook post, and it got me to thinking.

If butterflies are especially attuned to aromatic emissions from active flowers, what is the working range that their sensory organs can effectively track? In other words, did our 2 extraordinary butterflies follow aromatics from our 303 Garden to the vicinity of the Briar Patch Garden? Is that how they came to visit us, following a trail of aromatic hydrocarbons? Curt, Phil, Virginia, Ken, Bob, NABA friends, Holli, Rose, Nancy and John, Dave, Dave W, Bill, Deepthi?

The accompanying photo? Me at the Habitat, working to score a Skipper image.


On The Lookout For That ‘KISS’ Thingee

I saw one in my garden in April. She was almost fresh, and she was determined. Fortunately, we now have what? 6 Hercules Club young shrubs. Days later, we found 3 tiny Giant Swallowtail caterpillars. It didn’t turn out well, for by some 9 or so days later, they were gone. Predators (birds, lizards, wasps, etc.).

These last years, that I’ve met and enjoyed these graceful, BIG swallowtail butterflies, I’ve been teased by a challenging thought. Their dorsal pattern of bright yellow cells reminds me of something. What?

Opened this image, taken at Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, right here in Eatonton, Georgia, and I got it!

Know I’m a Rock ‘N Roller, so I’m not too conversant with KISS, but is this not like close to looking like their logo? KISS wrought Big?

Me? I expect Giants to reappear by the middle of this very July 2019.


Red River Valley & Those Red-Banded Hairstreaks

Red-Banded Hairstreak butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

The backstory here goes back to Brooklyn, me as a boy, a pre-teen enduring a less than happy existence, truth be told. A release, an important one was the radio. I cannot recall home many hours I listened, safely inside away from there asphalt, concrete and brick that was my milieu day in and day out. Hours, countless hours with my radio sweetly bathing me in Paul Robeson (Old Man River), what I think was Dixieland (that I heard like one million times, and that nearly got me into Big trouble, for I loved to whistle, and sometimes when I was teaching in New York City and in Pittsburgh, I’d realized OMG’ I’m whistling Dixieland in my Big City classroom, or in the school halls during passing!!) and Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Coming . . . . My favorite of them all? Red River Valley, which I must have heard one billion times, and sang aloud too many times to count.

I survived the streets, grew up, still singing, whistling those loved songs/tunes. The irony of all this was not lost on me. But . . . Where was the Red River Valley, and why wasn’t I there? Why did I grow up where I did, why was my early association with Them preordained?

In 1962, me and a friend hitchhiked from Binghamton, New York to Miami Beach, Florida. We must have been dumber than stumps, for once we entered ‘the Deep South,’ as soon as we opened our mouths, my poor boy from Brooklyn and his rich boy from Westchester, New York tagged us as prospective troublemakers! Not! We reached Miami Beach, and I was not lynched after I left that Greyhound Bus Station in that town in South Carolina. How was I to know that I misread the sign on that mens room door??

I’m now a resident of Eatonton, Georgia, to the puzzlement of my own family and friends. Why Daddy? Why? Those country tunes sung to my heartstrings. I tired of carrying that huge folding knife those 4.5 years of riding the subway to and from college. I must have always wanted acres, sun, trees, civility and butterflies.

I just did research using Google. I listened again to Red River Valley, sung in turn bye Gene Autry, Eddy Arnold, Connie Francis and Chris Isaak & Steve Nicks. The lyrics vary some, but this sticks:

Then come sit by my side if you love me, Do not hasten to bid me adieu, Just remember the Red River Valley, And the one who has love you so true.

It turns out that the real Red River Valley is out in the U.S. northwest, but that didn’t matter so much to me. Butterflies became a Sweet pursuit for me, and Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia riveted me, with its fly squadrons of fresh, beautiful butterflies. Field guides had teased me, suggesting how much more beautiful butterflies were in the American South. Especially memorable was their mention that the Red-Banded Hairstreak butterflies were amazing, with broad, richly red bands and more.

Well there they were, including this one in the Briar Patch Habitat, and Scrumptious swallowtails, yellows and oranges and more, so much more. I found myself singing Red River Valley time and time again in that special place, and the haunting memories of a life on the streets, an unhappy childhood home, teaching and disciplining tough kids who were notorious in their own neighborhoods . . . and Frieda’s A”H battle and passing softened and slipped away.

Yes we’re not in the famous Red River Valley, but this new home so works for me, and the excitement of planting new natives, that may one day draw King’s Hairstreaks, Goatweed Leafwings, Hessel’s Hairstreaks, Great Purple Hairstreaks and more, excites me.

It seems that Johnny Cash sang Red River Valley also, but I could not Google that. As I close, I’m brain singing it, as he would have.


Talkers & Doers

Searching for Caterpillars/Eggs James Murdock and Virginia Linch photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, GA

There are talkers and there are doers. A couple of years ago, I met James Murdock, shown here at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat I, with the Habitat founder and angel, Virginia C Linch. I followed them around the OMG! Habitat I, as Virginia introduced James to the hundreds of native Georgian hostplants and nectar-pumping plants she and the volunteers set in to make the Habitat I the success it was. James shared that he worked for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and would soon be a middle school science teacher at nearby Putnam County Middle School (PCMS).

It was one of those Georgia 93F mornings, and I took note of how these two, shown there that day, were totally unconcerned by that.

We in Eatonton have a real, excellent local newspaper, The Eatonton Messenger, and this week’s edition, out on July 4, 2019, today, features a very rewarding story on page one of its Community section B. Titled ‘Inspiration Camps – Growing Knowledge and subtitled ‘Putnam’s newest gardeners gain experience through summer,’ reporter Katie O’Neal shares pics of Murdock and his middle school kids at the Habitat II (the Habitat moved from its original site to this new, larger acreage, still in town) and Katie captures the excitement and enthusiasm that these middle school kids daily enjoy, as they work and improve their gardens at Habitat II and in the PCMS gardens.

James has a full beard now, but he is clearly the same in-the-bushes and doer that he was back when I captured them in this photo. His work with these youngsters is important and they’ll be still gardening in the year, what? 2069! Some of them may well be the next stewards of this Briar Patch Habitat, way down the road. Eatonton, Georgia has a real gem here, and they do not yet realize how it will impact on this city in the future (think Butterfly Festival!).

Virginia? Now that she has retired, the Habitat II is just alive with butterflies, botany, bees, dragonflies and visitors.

These here are doers. Brings a smile, no?

I hope that this news story, in the Eatonton Messenger, is available online.