Gemmed in the Dark

Gemmed Satyr Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Hard Labor Creek State Park, Georgia

It was wonderful, pinch-me-if-I’m-dreaming fieldwork, guided by Phil in Hard Labor Creek State Park’s many diverse habitats. We were looking for butterflies and botany in Central Georgia. Phil is an excellent point man for seeking and finding wildlife and difficult to locate wildflowers. He knows this particular state park well. His knowledge led us to all the park species we were seeking.

This Gemmed satyr butterfly flew its low, rambling flight near us. Phil saw it and we went after it. The challenge was to photograph in a heavily wooded area, with just dabs of sunlight peeking through, here and there.

To take a shot or not? Knowing that my Fuji slide film was ASA 50, and originally loaded when we had been in a sunnier space. Would taking a chance be worth it?

So here is the result of our attempt, a truly fine, long sought after Gemmed satyr. It is captured as it really looks, in its chosen habitat, the poorly lit lowlands and swamps.


Gemmed Satyr . . . Good

Gemmed Satyr Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Hard Labor Creek State Park, Georgia

Phil, Rose and Jerry worked so hard to introduce me to the Satyrs of the Georgia Piedmont. They hustled here and there. Their eagle eyes searched for these rich chocolate butterflies, with their jeweled ‘eyes’ on their wings. Oh, how Happy! was I too have such warm, generous sharing new friends. And tireless? They must have resorted to increments of stored energy! We mucked, hiked and climbed over falling timber, always searching, working the bush so that . . . Jeff can see and photograph. There was no way for me to know how to thank them, ‘though they seemed to reap their own pleasure those mornings.

Here in Hard Labor Creek State Park, Phil’s osprey-level vision roused up this Gemmed Satyr. It flew low and about, and might have been a response to my whispered plea, as it alighted on this leaf. Cyllopsis gemma is a very rare, elusive resident of the southeastern United States.

It’s a Gemmed satyr and is probably a male. It’s a good image, taken at a long-awaited meeting. This is a reminder of an earlier time, when I had the privilege to attend pre-sale exhibitions of Magnificent Jewelry at ‘ and at Sotheby’s New York galleries. So I saw the finest gems, very up close and personal. This butterfly evokes those memories.  They are sweet. They will always be, and that is Good.


Monardas Down South

Rare Monarda Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hard Labor Creek State Park, GA

Phil was bedazzling me with new butterflies and new wildflowers at Hard Labor Creek State Park and Camping Ground, in north-central Georgia. It was August 2015, and the park was both wonderland and new to me.

This rare Monarda, Spotted Bee Balm, stopped me in my tracks. Again and again I looked at these blooms, and thought that they would look more in place on planet Mars, or something.

You don’t get complacent when you’re at the Briar Patch (Putnam County) or at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge or here in Hard Labor Creek State Park. You can’t because there’s so much that is new and exciting for this Pittsburgh, ‘cum Brooklyn/Long Island guy. Virginia, Rose and Jerry and Phil and Dave W, Thanks for 2015! Now what’s on deck for 2016?


A Monarda Few Have Ever Seen

Rare Monarda Wildflower Plants photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hard Labor Creek State Park, GA

2015, fast slipping away from us, could be remembered as the year of the Milkweeds. Hundreds of thousands of us sought to learn more about milkweeds, asked advice about milkweeds, searched for them online, at nurseries and quizzed their friends: Do you have milkweeds that you are willing to share? This army of Monarch lovers planted milkweeds in their gardens and in promising other locations, by the millions. Did all this bring dividends? Sure looks like it played a role in the good numbers of Monarchs that took off and headed down from the East and Midwest, down to Mexico.

Milkweeds, in many US households, are now synonymous with Mom, Apple Pie and Santa Claus. They bring joy, fulfillment and a sense that America is working to fix itself.

Here’s another member of a worthy family of wildflowers. I know Monarda and I know Bergamot. Phil brought me to this exotic member of the same family that Bee Balm belongs to, here in Hard Labor Creek State Park, in central Georgia. Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata) I can say that I spent many minutes captivated by this Monarda, it looking almost otherworldly. A new one for me, and for almost all of you.

Monarda’s blooms nourish ruby throateds, fritillaries, swallowtailsskippers and a host of other butterflies. These Georgia blooms stuck out as different, and refreshingly so.

Thanks Phil and Thanks to the beautiful Georgia State Parks.


Georgia’s Skipper Butterflies

Skipper sipping nector photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hard Labor Creek State Park, GA

Georgia was a dreamland for me. After so many years of poking around different states and countries, I longed for finding a person who would take the time to show me habitat, and enable me to find new butterflies. I can share I spent lots of time and miles searching, and getting skunked (ending up with little success). Arriving at Welcome Centers, I would be told that a) The woman at the desk is the Naturalist Ranger or b) No one here has any idea where you might find that particular butterfly in the park, but it should be here!

Georgia was different. Virginia, Sylvie, and Stanley connected me with real people. Imagine that; real, experienced people. Dave, Rose, Jerry and Phil, plus several of Dave’s friends. I began getting calls, offering to help me, meet me and . . .  “Did I have the time to come out and look for . . . ”  OMGoodnes!

We spotted this skipper at Hard Labor Creek State Park, within an hour east of Atlanta. At the time, Park Ranger Phil’s encyclopedic ID-memory shared its name with me, but I don’t take notes when I’m out. Since then Phil reminded me that this is a Clouded Skipper on a Spurred Butterfly Pea.

Hard Labor Creek State Park, rich with wildlife, and richer more with helpful staff.