Viceroys Beckon

Viceroy Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

I think about butterflies, alot. These more than 25 years of butterfly seeking have produced many epiphanies for me. This riveting image of a Viceroy Butterfly in Traci’s Kelso Swamp in southwestern Pennsylvania evokes one of those durable thoughts.

Just as I’ve been a fan of Elvis, Paul Robeson, Johnny Cash, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Bing Crosby and Kelli Pickler, there are butterflies I cannot see enough of. That especially when the one I’ve ‘found’ is fresh and richly colored/patterned.

Viceroys are in that select group. When I’m in a wetland, I find that I am particularly alert to the likelihood that a Viceroy will fly in. See a Viceroy, and I stop whatever I was doing and follow it, for I want, I really want it to be fresh, richly hued, and with a thick, dramatic black line across the back expanse of the hindwings. It I see such, I will stalk it for as long as necessary. Usually it decides to avoid this new nuisance, and as they are skilled at doing, execute some elusive maneuvers, and are  . . . gone.

This one was a Looker! and all of the above applied. You see what I see, a fine specimen of a Viceroy with so much to admire, perched and resting in Kelso Swamp, smack next door to Traci’s lot!

Jeff

Is It Polite To Stare?

Viceroy Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

Me? Not really. I’ve never much been too impressed with celebrities or famous people. I don’t know whether I’ve seen more or less than most other people. New York City, with its published 8,000,000 or so residents ( I’ve no doubt it’s always been more like 14,000,000 counting those who are not documented) has lots of famous, but I’ve not much seen them. Who’ve I seen, Diana Ross in that elevator, Kirk Douglas in a Broadway theater, Mike Tyson with a blonde looker on each arm strolling in midtown New York and a couple of others. I don’t look for them, so I suppose that’s why I don’t see them.

I do admit to remembering especially beautiful women I’ve seen, and I think that has some credible connection to my attraction to fresh, beautiful butterflies.

Now I don’t know the gender of this Viceroy butterfly, seen during its time out resting in Traci’s Kelso swamp in southwestern Pennsylvania. Fresh and magnificent, it riveted me. I so hoped that it was a female, for that would be just right. She remained there long enough for me to make a decent approach, and males usually don’t tolerate approach. I shot away, staring all along at that very pronounced black line across each of her hindwings, as well as her fine wing margins, black with those broadcasting white dots.

I was once in midtown Manhattan ( NYNY ), a young man, and a young woman of stunning looks, red hair/green eyes, reached the corner when I did. We waited for the traffic light to turn green for us to cross, and I was so taken with her G-d given looks, that I must have gaped, or certainly stared, and the words would not come out (“Hi, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .).

This one is of such beauty, and the words did come, with my whisper, “Thank You G-d.”

Jeff

 

Predictable, But Viceroy When?

Viceroy Butterfy concealed in Foliage photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

Traci’s Pocket Swamp was all that she said it was. Best of all, this Fayette Township, southwestern Pennsylvania swamp, that she calls Kelso Swamp, featured the wetland flora and fauna expected. Great blue heron, duck, sedges, Typha, all there.

My first visit, and the Salix (Willows) bordering the open water was the clincher. Viceroy butterflies surely must be here too. Willows are their hostplants, so you’d think that Viceroys should be right there, right where you want to see them, throughout the morning.

Except . . . field experience teaches that Viceroys are unpredictable, except, you can predict that once you see them, they will be difficult to approach, and will remain in place briefly, very briefly.

With Viceroy on my mind, I searched this navigable east side of the swamp, finding lots to examine, and shoot.

Boom! In swooped a Viceroy, and it headed to the low grass, just steps from the open swamp, and about 15′ from me. Daddah! Hmmm. Would my approach startle this beaut? Would it stay there long enough for me to get close to it? Could I get close to it? Would . . .?

You know I was Happy!, very Happy! I shot, shot, shot. A fresh, vital, vibrant wetland butterfly, yes, as beautiful as those baubles in the jewelry  store windows on fabled East 57th Street in NYNY! Well not as beautiful, more beautiful than . . . .

Jeff

August Argiope

Argiope Spider photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

These things catch my attention each and every time. This female was in Traci’s Kelso Swamp in FayetteTownship, southwestern Pennsylvania. In September 2015 her OMG! web was stretched between non-woody plants. She was just about 10 feet from the swamp, patiently waiting for some insect to fly to or away from the swamp, and into her sticky, amazingly resilient web.

I stopped, stooped down, and respectfully kept a discrete distance from her. I’ve walked into spider webs, right into the bulls-eye center, too many times. I know they aren’t aggressive and don’t retaliate, but . . . they do look bigger and scarier than they should. Black and Yellow Argiopes remind me of those guys in my Brooklyn neighborhood who you just didn’t mess with.

We had a good laugh that day, when I DID walk into one of their webs. Back recently from Georgia, I shared our readers that southern US webs and northern spider webs taste the same.

Like I’ve said before, all the Carnegie Mellon U, Cal Tech, MIT, Berkeley, Georgia Tech engineering and robotics departments combined shouldn’t even try to outdo this beast, engineered by the B-st.

Jeff

Petite Wildflower at Traci’s Swamp (At Risk)

Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

Sure, Traci’s Swamp at Kelso Road and Pattridge Lane is a neat, pocket swamp. Fayette Township is just 7 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Beavers likely created the swamp, and hundred of animals and plants are now forever in their debt. The swamp is privately owned, and Traci can’t get the Western Pennsylvania Nature Conservancy to come and consider conserving the swamp and Traci’s Meadow. The Conservancy is too busy to visit, and with much more important fish to fry. Traci? She lives a stone’s throw away, and she’s a consummate naturalist.

At Traci’s invite, I visited the Swamp, and was delighted. Butterflies were all about, and the Viceroys were fresh and deeply hued.

During one of those breaks in the butterfly action, I notice this tiny wildflower. My wildflower guides haven’t helped me yet. It’s pert, self-confident and very optimistic. It grows in very wet soil, in between rivulets of water seeping from the swamp.

Soon after sharing this post, two of our friends got to work identifying it. Here we have Small Flowered Willow (Epilobium parviflorum). Native, no. Rare here, yes. It is a naturalized european transplant. Thanks Pete and Barbara Ann.

Jeff