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

Pipevine Aglow

Pipeline Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

It seems that when certain butterflies fly into my vicinity, I have them on a mental list, of photo objectives I have. For the tiny Metalmark butterflies, I want better views of those scintillating shiny metal lines that shimmer from their upper wing surface. Mourning cloaks are high on my list. I have a special connection with Mourning Cloaks, a very personal one. I can’t wait for the Spring day when an excitingly fresh one decides to strike a pose for me, and I capture that maroon upper, with the delicious blue spots and those yellow borders. Monarchs? I have 2 or so dozen images in my slide storage cabinet, yet I want a killer image of a Monarch with those strange eyes, deep orange-rust color and body/head aburst with those white explosive dots.

Another chance to shoot that Common Mestra that teased me on the National Butterfly Center trail, would be nice, it not affording my a single exposure. Now that I’m getting a tad Gimme! here, I sure would like to remeet a fresh Compton Tortoiseshell butterfly, this time close enough for my Macro- lens to do what it does, with this heavy favorite of me, the Compton. That Georgia Satyr back in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area  in the Florida Panhandle jumps out to me here, for with the sweat pouring down over my eyes those last days of August, my vision was blurred, and image scores turned out to be Eh!

Not true here with this Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. I wanted to get that shimmering blue that you see on the inner side of those coral spots. I pretty much did, and that is good.

Jeff

Why Regals?

Regal Fritillary Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania

Regal Fritillary Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania

Cech and Tudor’s Butterflies of the East Coast (Princeton University Press, 2005) shares them on page 160. I ordered this hefty field guide soon after it was published, and I’d been to page 160 dozens of times. Butterfly people remain difficult for me to understand, and my numerous attempts to contact folks who could enable a visit to Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reserve in central Pennsylvania got zero response. A bit warm under the collar after that, I still had not seen a Regal fritillary butterfly.

I remember reading that the Redcoats scored a big victory in the Revolutionary War because they outflanked the Patriots by . . . marching through my old neighborhood of East Flatbush in Brooklyn. I daydreamed of that day, and thought, Wow! those British guys must have been seeing Regals as they cut through where Clarendon Road and East 58th Street now intersect.

I’m not the easy traveller. I don’t like traveling much. The long, long drives, and especially the airports and the cramped economy seats, are hard although I did meet Patti and Aileen and some now distanced friends that way.

So, I thought long and hard about How much I wanted to meet a Regal butterfly. It’d mean a more than 3-hour drive, a stay in a hotel the night before, getting up bonkers early (I am slooooow in the morning), and joining some more than 149 people that next morning . . . with a forecast of a rainy early June day ahead.

I pushed myself to sign-up on line for that prescribed tour, led by naturalists employed by the military post. I made the drive, got to the hotel with time to spare, slept like a b-a-b-y and found Ft. Indiantown Ok. That large crowd began down the trail, led by the naturalists, and soon we all began to spread out on the trails. The more than 100 acre meadow enabled the crowd to thin, to where I was alone with another visitor and a very eager naturalist.

Rain? as forecast? No! Sun, no wind. Asclepias was in bloom, as were many other nectar magnets. Regals were nicely abundant, and just like you see here, they were very happy with the perfect butterflyweed.

Me? I was guardedly ecstatic. The Regals were beautiful, good size, flew with grace and poise and when they nectared, they pretty much tolerated careful approach.

Then why Regals? The effort, the money, the time, the indifference when I got home, the enthusiasm of some dozens of wingedbeauty.com followers and friends (when me thinks that thousands should have whooped it up!! knowing that Brooklyn got to see and shoot Regals)?

Truth be told, I loved it, I was super pumped, I was focused and I still remember that day, for a Fine Day It Was,

Jeff

,