Parnassian Butterfly East of the Mississippi?

Allancastria Cerisyis butterfly (Protected), photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

Irony that. I flew 7,000 miles, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Israel to see my first Parnassian butterflies. The continental USA has 2 species of these wondrous beauties, the Phoebus Parnassian and the Clodius Parnassian, as few as some 2,000 or so miles from Pittsburgh. Finding the HolyLand Parnassians turned out to be a tad easier, for Israel is a tiny little country, the western USA is enormous, and I would not have a clue as to where to search.

That said, you may be a bit surprised that America does not have Parnassians butterflies, closely related to our swallowtail butterflies, east of the Mississippi River. That may well have something to do with the parnassian’s preference for higher elevations.

This Allancastria cerisyi was a learning experience for me. I wanted to find them, and find them I did. They are rare, protected butterflies. The learning curve for me was, determine which rare butterfly you want to shoot, pinpoint the limited range (in this case, a narrow strip of Mediterranean shoreline at Israel’s northwestern corner), learn what you can about your objective, and go there. I rented a room in a nearby SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel) field house, and started out that morning early, very, very early. Several fruitless stops later, I noticed a nature park on the outskirts of the little Moshav (village) of Hanita. I parked, suited up for my field work, and within minutes . . . I found them, some nectaring and some still stationary, warming themselves in the morning sun. Bingo!

This play of yellow, black, red and yes, blue tickles my fancy. Better yet they are rare, but not rare once you time it right, and you located them in their certain habitat.

I cannot expect to ever forget that morning. Mission accomplished, mission electrifying.

Jeff

 

Middle Eastern Parnassian (Israel)

Allancastria Cerisyi butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

How many species of Parnassian butterflies are there in Israel? There are four of them. This is Allancastria cerisyi speciosa. It flies for a brief time in June, along the northwestern coast of Israel, with the Mediterranean Sea just miles away. It is a rare Protected species, and I played a hunch that I might find them in Hanita, a moshav in that seaside strip. My timing was perfect and here’s one of these beauties. He had just left his night-time perch, and we met as he bathed in the strong rays of the Israel morning sun.

So Israel sports four Parnassians. How many Parnassians are native to the U.S.A.? Remember the U.S.A. is what? 500 times bigger than Israel? Answer? Three Parnassians fly in the U.S.A. and of the three, only one flies only in Alaska. Then, two Parnassians fly in continental U.S.A..

I have never seen an American Parnassian butterfly. What say you?

Jeff

Me? I’m Dreaming . . . of 2017

Allancastria Cerisyi butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

Here we are in late October of ’16. We here in southwestern Pennsylvania now see an Orange sulphur butterfly here and there. Maybe a worn Mourning cloak butterfly in Frick Park or in Raccoon Creek State Park. Virginia and friends daily share on Facebook, Monarchs, Swallowtails, Gulf Fritillaries and American Ladies. We are checking where we left our snow shovels, Virginia, Stanley, Nancy, Cathy and Marcie are stalking butterflies.

Somehow that got me to thinking of my next trip to my grandsons in Israel. Two hours waiting for my Pittsburgh flight to New York, then some 3-5 hours wait for my El Al flight to Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv. Meet my daughter Rachel at the beautiful airport, then we rent a Hertz car and drive the 1-hour plus to her home, north of Hadera, not too far from mysterious Caeseria.

Three, perhaps 4 weeks as Rachel’s guest, in their bomb shelter equipped 3rd bedroom . . . and at least 2 long drives north, to the Upper Galilee and north Golan regions. Objectives? #1 Butterflies. #2 Wildflowers and especially rare Orchids and Irises.

In the Galilee and Golan, I pass, see, photograph next to Christian sites that would so excite so many of you. Yet, to date, not a single taker, to my suggestion, book when I do, and let’s roam . . . .

Oh, and what the Media scares you with, that Israel is dangerous, is a whole lot of Hooey (whatever Hooey is).

On a recent trip, I set out to find an endangered swallowtail-relative, Allancastria cerisyi. Well here he is. I found them near a small Galilee village. They fly wildly, and then, unexpectedly, stop, and well, pose. 10-15 exposures, and Zoom!! gone. Then I went on to find the next male, and repeated this minuet. The females, well they were mostly hiding, but when I found one, she usually stuck around a bit, as I softly whispered to her. Totally Fun, and very Rewarding that! Funny, quite rare, but if you find them . . . there they are. Amazing I think.

Jeff

 

Reflecting On A Wow! Year: 2015

Allancastria Cerisyis butterfly (Protected), photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

No guide, no tips from experts, just field guide and maps, and in March 2015 I found these Protected Parnassian butterflies in Israel, minutes by foot from the border with Lebanon.

With the guidance of a local expert, I savored Lady Slipper orchids in the southwestern tip of New York State. No Brooklyn this! Then Clay Pond, and Ackeley Swamp in Pennsylvania. On to the Jamestown Audubon Center, where the Welcome! door is swung wide open! And, JAC’s reserve has . . . butterflies!

Accepted an invite to visit the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia, and was rewarded with an ongoing mob of gorgeous southern butterflies. Met new friends, and soon was swamping with Rose and Jerry in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, chasing rare Satyrs in the swamp. Phil, a Ranger at Hard Labor Creek State Park introduced me to cane wetlands and other extraordinary habitat. Georgia, a butterfly destination.

Back on my own, I resourced an article in NABA’s magazine, and drove down from Eatonton to Perry, Florida. Big Bend Wildlife Management Area was some seven miles from my Hampton Inn, and  love at first sight.

Then it was walking with a local expert who introduced me to Kelso swamp, 18 miles from my home, created by beavers some time ago, and looks to me that if it is not conserved by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, it will one day, not too far away . . . be developed. Then no herons, no beavers, no frogs, no snakes, and . . . no butterflies.

Those of you who visit regularly will taste some more than 120 images, soon to be posted, one by one.

2016? G-d willing will be . . . !

Jeff

Palestine Pheasant’s Eye . . . an Israeli Wildflower

Adonis Palaestina wildflower, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hanita, Israel

It was one Oh! after another Ah!! on those trails in Hanita, Israel just months ago. There were dozens of wildflowers and butterflies that were new to me. Happy as a duck, in the northeastern corner of Israel, in the foothills of the Upper Galilee. Less than a U.S. mile from the Israeli-Lebanese border. Not a care in the world, despite bloody Hezbollah so physically close. Ever had millions of people wanting to stick you like a pig, just because of your ancestry? Savagery, despite the efforts of so many loving people, never seems to completely disappear.

This darling wildflower, Protected, was present in abundance. Like many flowering plants in this world, its habitat is steadily eroded, in the name of progress, homes, and such. Hilly land like this faces less threat.

Well friends, I’m booked to fly to Israel in late February ’16, and return home to the States in late March.

My present plan is to visit different SPNI field schools in the Upper Galilee and the Yom Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) area. Wow!

Sharp knives are now the weapon of choice for the butchers of women and children in Israel. Funny, when I attended college in New York City, I rode the subways daily, from one end of the city to another. Those were dangerous times on the subway, and . . . I always could feel the cold presence of long steel on my person. Grew up on the streets, and He looked over me during those 4 years of riding New York’s grand subways. Knives?

Anyone like to join me on 2016’s exciting HolyLand trails?

Jeff