Moments of Ecstasy: North America & The HolyLand

Lycaena Phlaes Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

Lycaena phlaes Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa - Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap. (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

I’m enjoying posts shared by so many who like me are anxious for the winter of 2020 to end. Their posts of Spring-Summer-Fall butterflies wet our appetites. It’s so close to the time that we check our stuff, and head out to see and shoot G-d’s winged beauties.

Enjoy with me here 2 of those moments of ecstasy.

The first is a Copper butterfly met on the lower slope of Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand’s Golan region. Lycaena phlaeas. Fragile, beautiful, perky, purposeful sipping that nectar . . .

That’s me at Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation’s expansive meadow, photographing the very rare Regal Fritillary Butterfly. I crouch there, thinking that this exquisite Fritillary used to fly where I was a boy in Brooklyn, New York, and it’s range is now limited to this meadow in central Pennsylvania and another meadow on a restricted military site in Virginia.

Moments of Ecstasy. Admission price?

Jeff

Jeff Hits What? A Triple?

Mating Regal Fritillary Butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

I was taken with their name, Regal Fritillary Butterfly. They once flew where my childhood house is, in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood. The British troops and the Hessian troops saw them, during their march to surround George Washington’s men on the island of Manhattan.

I’d never seen Regals, and I wanted to meet them. A nearly 3-hour drive in June, to Ft. Indiantown Gap, a military post near Harrisburg, New York, made this image possible.

I was put off by the crowd that showed up that morning! Nearly 150 people, if you include the naturalist guides provided by Ft. Indiantown Gap. That well-managed program soon had us broken off into many groups, and mine was just 4 people.

We saw many Regals (Yay!!!) and Monarchs and Coral Hairstreaks and Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies. The sight of my first ever Regal Fritillary? A rush, truth be told.

I spotted this pair of coupled Regals, and to this day, I equate that to pounding a triple against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium itself!

Regals, found in only 2 meadows in the Eastern USA. That, folks, is sadder than dirt.

Jeff

Who’s Seen A Regal Fritillary?

Regal Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

There surely were 30,000,000 or more Regal Fritillary Butterflies when George Washington was President of the United States. That’d be 30 million Regals flying east of the Mississippi River. I have no doubt that they flew in my old neighborhood, East Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York in 1770.

Today, they fly only on 2 military reservations from the Mississippi to the Atlantic Ocean. The first is in central Pennsylvania and the other, is in the State of Virginia. In those places, expansive pristine meadows grow, protected and nurtured by the U.S. military.

I can’t even guess how many Americans have ever seen this handsome butterfly, once found in the tens of millions, and now rare, with perhaps 2,000. eclosed each year.

I’d been determined to see Regals, and when I finally saw them at Ft. Indiantown Gap, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, they were even more beautiful than I expected. Really.

Why now? This Butterflyweed, a milkweed, is now in bloom just about everywhere, and this is the week that Regals Fritillaries make their appearance.

Jeff

Are You One Of The 54,000?

Regal Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

Armed with my 90’s and 95’s in high school math, and my ‘D’ (Yep!) in college Calculus, I have endeavored to determine what fraction of Americans have ever seen this one in the wild. The results of my exhaustive research provide the shocker, some one in 54,000 of us have seen a Regal Fritillary Butterfly in its prairie habitat. That’s 0.000018 of us.

We had to take account of the extraordinary rarity of Regal Frits east of the Mississippi River, they found in just 2 different prairie/wet meadow habitats in Pennsylvania and Virginia. West of the Mississippi, their range is extensive, found from Oklahoma to  Dakotas, but know that their habitat west is very, very localized.

I saw this male in the extensive meadows at Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reserve, not far from Penn State University. I registered for the annual 4-days in June summer Open House at Ft. Indiantown Gap, and it was so worth it. The sun shone all day, and the Regals put on a show, accompanied by Monarchs, Coral Hairstreaks, Great Spangled Frits and more.

I did not want to ever have to pack it in (cease my field work) without having introduced myself to these splendid butterflies. I am among the one In 54,000.

Jeff

Losing America: A Regal Retrospective

Mating Regal Fritillary Butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

The politicians here in the USA rage at one another. Put a TV or a video camera in front of them, and they fault all that the opposition is doing, no matter what the issue. Americans in this 2019 have become increasingly numb to the babbling of our politicians. We know that we can no longer hope for a lanky, young James Stewart to be elected, and go to Washington, D.C. to raise cane, all to improve life back home and across America.

We know, too, that over these last more than 100 years, all the bluster and speech making has had little effect on the overall quality of life here. Richie and Regina Rich continue to ‘fall in love’ with a pristine oceanfront lot, or a meadow with a sweeping view of a tony mountain or a forested area with high concentrations of Sassafras, Oak, Poplar, Walnut. Developers buy up land that supports amazing wildlife populations, and schools, shopping centers, industrial parks and myriad other uses distort sylvan land that beckons to them.

Regretably, the loss of wildlife continues. Those of us who care, cringe as we see evidence of this. We mostly feel voiceless, impotent, and we lack the powerful leaders who might sound the clarion call, but don’t.

These very rare Regal Fritillary butterflies are fine examples of how we, the esthetes, are losing America. If our elected leaders had noticed or recognized the slow march of death and destruction this last century, Regals would not have disappeared from at least 11 states east of the Mississippi River. Why? Their habitat is prairies and meadows. Prairies and meadows offer developers prime land, minimal expense for tree removal, excellent perc rates, together producing all the elements needed for good profit and few problems.

I found this mated couple of Regal Fritillaries at one the 2 last holdouts in the East, here at Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in central Pennsylvania. There is one other existing population in the eastern USA in Virginia. Both of these small colonies require the protection of the military, for their existence.

The male is seen below, and the larger female above. They are, drop dead gorgeous butterflies, and in our fancy schmancy America, they require the protection of the US Army and Air Force.

Irony, it ’tis, that so many march for ‘climate change’ and when a butterfly population faces imminent loss to development, . . . the sound of silence.

When will this be reckoned with?

Jeff