That Danaus Look

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Danaus plexippus won’t disappoint us. We know they won’t. As I’m writing, they are flying north, now hundreds of miles distant from their winter perches in fir trees in central Mexico. Virginia can expect to see them before I do. Barbara Ann, hours north of me, may well  see them before I do. Miriam may see these Monarchs first, but my turn will patiently come.

What do the statisticians report? That 94.81% of Americans love Monarch butterflies, and will stop what they are doing to marvel at one. The results are not yet available for Europeans, Canadians, Asians, Africans, Central and South Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, and the French (because they are in the News today).

This instant Danaus, nectaring on a Middle Eastern thistle flower, almost instantly identifies as a Monarch relative. Like our other U.S. Danaus butterflies, the Queen and the Soldier, this Plain Tiger butterfly (D. chrysippus) is large, bright orange with broad black borders flecked with prominent white dots, and black veins. Head and abdomen are striking, with sizable white dots set on a stark black background. Hostplant? Israeli milkweeds.

Monarchs will tolerate my approach when they are nectaring, but not when they are resting, or sunning on a flat leaf in the pre-9 A.M. hours. Plain Tigers? No approach is tolerated. I see a beaut!, decide that a shot from ground level would produce a Wow! . . . approach, s-l-o-w-l-y get down on my belly, do that basic training crawl to get closer, s-l-o-w-l-y raise my Macro-lens . . . Gone! Sped away, full throttle! Time and time again.

Know then that this, and several other looks at D. chrysippus, give much much satisfaction. Yes.


42 Rolls & Not One Of Them X-Rayed = Yay!!

Meliteae Phoebe butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel 

Hi! Shalom! Buenos Dias! I flew in yesterday morning, to JFK International Airport, from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. Four (4) weeks in Israel, including my First Passover there, ever. Rachel and Uri were the perfect hosts, and Hillel and Boaz were Too Much Fun!!

My field work took me to the uppermost Golan, Metulla, Ramat Hanadiv and the meadows that surround Mishmarot (north of Tel Aviv and Netanya). The butterflies and wildflowers amazed. Blessed by a wet winter, the land was a blankets of reds, purples, yellows, blues, whites and combinations of them. That nectar overload was accompanied by great flights of parparim (butterflies). Sun abounded, and the trails were magically emptied, I hope that done to increase my success with my trusty Macro- 100mm/2.8 Canon lens.

I saw several of these Phoebe Fritillary butterflies, though not yet sure if any can match the shmeksy! good looks of this guy.

I went with a large cache of unexposed film, and I Happily report that I succeeded in securing “Hand Checks!!!” for all of my Fuji film, at train stations, twice at Ben Gurion and twice at JFK airport in New York!!! Most of you have no idea how that slows you up at Security stations, and how earnestly ‘they’ try to convince you that their subatomic particle shooters will not “harm” your film. Nope, not even willing to risk an iota of chance that whatever I caught, will please y’all.

Today those Fuji rolls ship to Kansas, then they are returned and the slides spend several  weeks at Rewind Memories for scanning . . . then I cull, cull, cull, and hopefully soon, very soon, let’s see what we’ve got for you to see.


Reminiscing With The Milkweed Butterflies

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

The Danaids, or Milkweed butterflies are best known to Americans as the Monarch, the Queen and the Soldier. Right now, Monarchs are especially on the forefront of butterfly fret, knowing that recent reports have their numbers seriously down. That ‘fret?’ Will they return to us in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Ontario, in good number?

Examine these danaids. Have you seen them in your own South Carolina, Michigan, Maine or West Virginia? Well, no. This is the Plain Tiger butterfly, and it flies in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria (if that carnage has left any survivors). Cech and Tudor, in my favorite field guide, Butterflies of the East Coast (Princeton University Press) tantalizes with this: “The Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) was “described” as early as 3500 B.C., in a painting on an Egyptian tomb wall.”

I’m liking my photo here much, as I slowly begin my preparation for my flight in late March to Israel, for a reunion with Plain Tigers, a menu of Middle Eastern butterflies, and my daughter, grandsons and extended family. Once again, I pledge to travel throughout the north, and will not leave my bootprint on the hot borders that demarcate where Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Syria (Russia, ISIL, Al Queda, the Rebels, Hezbollah, Iran, and other despicables) begin.

Reminiscing wth the Danaids, whose flight is “elegant and gliding” (Cech and Tudor), whether at the Butterflies & Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia or within a short hike of Mishmarot, Israel.


Jeff Begins Planning for Trekking Israel in ’17

Meliteae Phoebe butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel 

Field work in Israel, the Holy Land, is well . . . a great joy for me. Knowing that few of you have walked that hallowed ground, I also know that most of you harbor thoughts of making that trip to Jerusalem, Capernum, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, and so many destinations you learned about in Sunday school.

I’ve been fortunate to go there every year since 2008. Frieda A”H passed, Rachel moved to Tel Aviv to her new job, married, and now has 2 sons. Fortunate I have been to make these annual trips. Rachel, and our extended family, refuse to allow me to stay in hotel$. These last many years I have stayed with Rachel and her husband, Uri. I love that, but we have an expression, that if you stay with family too long, ‘You begin smelling like the fish.’ So what I do is, I split my time. 5 days with them in Mishmarot, 5 days off in my Hertz rental, to the Golan, the Galilee, the Carmel region around Haifa. I photograph on those away trips, and mornings and afternoons in Mishmarot, I photograph in the fields nearby, or make short runs to Ramat Hanadiv, a superb nature reserve, just 15 minutes away.

This image of a Middle Eastern fritillary butterfly, Melitaea phoebe, was taken just a short hike from Rachel’s home. It was very early, perhaps 6:45 AM, and he was warming himself up in the early morning sun, before he began his nearly constant, frenetic flying, in search of mates.

I plan again now. My plan is to go there in April. 3-4 weeks. What to do with Petra during that extended time is another concern. My 82 pound Black russian pup is a handful, big, powerful and such Big love requires commitment. That part is not worked out yet.

The planning I’m now considering includes where to make my usual 2 extended trips. The Galilee region, way up around Mt. Meron always excites, never fails. The Upper Golan and Mt. Hermon (which by then should have lost its snow cap) also always produce. But then there is the Negev region, and the highly mysterious, very different area just south of the devilish Gaza area. Ein Gedi was OMG! several years ago, but that’s a long drive down, and a good stretch through hostile communities. I grew up in real Brooklyn, and hostile is something I no longer need, thank you.

Which butterflies are left for me to find? Believe it or not, quite a few. These fly now, those fly after, these fly after that, and those fly after all of the rest, then along show yet another these/those.

I trail alone. Finding hiking buddies is akin to finding gold. Though I’ve tried, my Christian friends, many, have bought the media crap that Israel is dangerous. Not. I knew where not to go in Brooklyn, and it’s clear where not to go in Israel. Same deal, just different crazzies.

Photographing butterflies? How many do it as I do? I do not know? I do  know that . . . I Love That Challenge, and I really enjoy capturing images like the instant one above. Oh, and I love seeing H-s handiwork, up close, and real.

Jeff . . .who went long here, but I believe you understand why.