If I’m Correct . . . This Is The Only . . . .

Melitaea Persea Montium butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow on Mt. Hermon, Israel, 6/16/08

Just finished searching the internet for another photo of a live Fabriciana niobe philistra butterfly, on the internet. I could not find another. None. Ummm. We were on the peak of Mt. Hermon on June 16th, 2008. I was with Eran Banker, my guide. The objective: Scour this peak for any and all of the very rare butterflies found on it. Found nowhere else, in the world.

It was Very Very sunny, very hot . . . and very exciting. We saw some of the rarest of the butterflies that inhabit the peak. Most flew without enabling my approach, so no images of many. This one came in to nectar on these tiny little blooms. Ouch! A fritillary. There are endangered fritillaries on this mountain. Was this one of them?

At this time, utilizing the field guides available, and the internet, I come to conclude that this is a male Fabriciana niobe philistra. Not found down the mountain in Syria, or further west in Lebanon, or further south in Jordan. Only found on Mt. Hermon, in the summer!!

Is this the only image of a live Fabriciana niobe philistra? That would please me, much.

Jeff

2nd Dibs At Rare Butterflies?

Levantine marbled white butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

Jackpot! is how I felt when the very rare cousin flew to this wildflower. This tiny nectar pump of a bloom must have delivered enough nectar to keep this Parnassian there long enough. Long enough for me to shoot her out, and earn several good exposures of her. There at the peak of Mt. Hermon, with my hired guide, I relished these moments, knowing how much I wanted to see and photograph Parnassius mnemosyne. If I had found one at all, I would have expected it to be a male, for male butterflies are much more active then females, most spending 91.83% of their times flying, searching for hidden female suitors. That she came out when I was nearby, well, that was super terrific.

Doesn’t it take some reckoning to accept that she is closely related to swallowtail butterflies? More akin to a tiger swallowtail butterfly than to a cabbage white? How’d I get to the only place in the Middle East that P. mnemosyne can be found? A long drive up a mountain road that twists and turns, some of them nearly 90 degrees cut out of the mountain, and then a cable car ride up the mountain, challenging my, lets’s call it concern re: heights, and then a long hike across the peak of Mt. Hermon, arriving there on this arid peak, in 93 degree heat and unrelenting sun. And there was that land mine that Eran found, right where we were tracking butterflies.

Just back from Israel 6 days ago, this 2008 memory reminds me that we who search for butterflies, birds, darners, moths, cats, martens, snakes, . . . . probably all weigh a question. That question is: Though I have seen this Very rare butterfly some years ago, and copped some good images, . . . why is it that I keep thinking that I’d like to see her again? Is there any sound reason to search for her, and see her, again?

In this case the peak of Mt. Hermon looks down to the carnage of . . . Syria. A guide would again be needed, and even so, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) closes the mountain top to us, as necessary, and often without warning. Further in this case, there is the ‘icky’ knowledge that if you could return there, say 12 days ago when I was on the mountain, you would have been under near constant surveillance by the IDF, the UN, and Syrian, perhaps Russian, perhaps American and perhaps Iranian, and perhaps ISIL and perhaps Salafist . . . . Risky? All to see Parnassius mnemosyne and 10 or 11 other protected butterflies???

Jeff

Syria, Butterflies and 2008

Cattle on Mt. Hermon, Israel photographed by Jeff Zablow, 6/16/08

These cattle are doing what they used to do, for perhaps hundreds of years. Their Arab owners lived down the mountain, in Syria. Why they chose to climb 7,000 feet to the peak of Mt. Hermon, still puzzles me. When Eran Banker guided me across the top of this peak, at the northeastern edge of Israel’s Golan region, I was surprised to see . . . cattle. We came up on a ski lift, then hiked across the mountain top. The cattle climbed the mountain. City boy remains baffled by this.

I was up there to find as many of the very rare butterflies of Mt. Hermon as I could. Some of those species can be found nowhere else in the world, only on this mountain top. In one case, as of 2 years ago or so, my images were the only ones of a species of butterfly, on the entire internet.

It was June 16th, and very, very hot on the mountain. Eran, a bull of a man, carried many liters of water for us. No water means, they see your car down at the lift base, at the end of the day, and when they search for you up there, are forced to contact your family to . . . . It’s the Middle East, and mountain-top or not, it’s arid, drier than dry. How do the cattle endure it up there, I have zero idea.

Cringe at this. This 2017, the background of Syria is a killing field. I expect that the villages there are either leveled or full of murderous ISIL or Rebels or Hezbollah or Hamas or Iranian Regulars or Russian ‘advisors’ or Assad’s Army and/or all of them together. The farmers and ordinary folk who lived down there, as you look at those 80 miles of land, dead or fled.

The Middle East has long, long been torn by violence. It came in fits and waves. This is such a time, and when I fly there on March 28th, you need not worry for Jeff, for the reason that those barbarians do not cross that border, is a very strong, very well armed and very disciplined Israeli military. And, after many years, Israel’s Big Buddy, the USA has reaffirmed that in the ‘schoolyard’ of the Middle East, Israel has a very capable Big Buddy, who would prefer that no schoolyard bullies show their face.

Jeff

Rare Israeli Butterfly with American Cousins

Parnassius mnemosyne butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

I went there to see if I could meet rare butterflies. We took the lift (I am not good with height!) to the 7,ooo foot peak of Mt. Hermon. On the top of this Israeli mountain, success! I met and photographed several species of butterflies, only found on the mountain-top, at the northern border of Israeli and Syria’s bloody bones. Eran is a bull of a guy, and he lugged liters of water, enabling us to continue in that 93F Middle Eastern heat.

I share this today, January 1st, 2017, New Years Day, because I look to this ’17 as a year to extend my list of new butterflies seen and shot.

This butterfly is Parnassius mnemosyne, rare and Protected.

Is it one of the White butterflies? No. Would you have guessed that . . . its American cousins are the . . . swallowtails?

Where in the U.S. are our American Parnassians? You have to travel west of the Mississippi River to find American parnassians.

See, that’s the kind of 2017 I’m looking for, challenge, excitement, new, new, new and fascinating, interesting and compelling, very compelling.

Know this, I will give it my All. To 2017!

Jeff