When You Capture Images of Rare HolyLand Butterflies

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

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

Twenty five years of photographing butterflies has left me with rich memories, and a treasure trove of images. Many of those images are much like yours, fine captures of relatively common butterflies, here in the USA.

Several of my own are of butterflies that are found only in inaccessible, challenging and little travelled places. This is one of those, a Melitaea Persia montium Fritillary butterfly on the peak of Mt. Hermon, Israel, the HolyLand.

Down the road, I have no idea where my slide collection and scanned images will find a home, but here, now I am pleased, very, that I have some very rare, unique and can I say beautiful images of butterflies in the HolyLand, where They walked and stopped to admire these very same winged beauties?

Jeff

Metullah Mystery

Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Iron Falls, Metullah, Israel

During those many trips to Israel, the HolyLand, fritillary butterflies usually eluded me. I hadn’t seen too many of them. There were Frits that were commonly seen there, and there were Fritillary butterflies that were uncommon, rare and super hard to even find, much less photograph.

Back in 2008, I was fortunate to have found and photographed a Frit that is uncommon, and found only on the peak of Mt. Hermon. That cable car up to the 7,000 foot tall peak of Mt. Hermon was difficult for me, especially since my guide, Etan, razzed me for keeping my eyes closed much of the ascent and descent. Heck, getting in the moving skip lift seat was trouble enough!

2017, April, and back in Israel (2 grandsons!!), I wanted find find other uncommon Fritillary butterflies. Up to the Galilee-Golan I drove, with a border town, Metullah, my destination. Border town with Lebanon, a sad country that has been overtaken by some one hundred thousand Hezbollah terrorists. It was extraordinary to stand in a parking lot at the border, and look into Lebanon, where you and yours should not enter.

I didn’t find Fritillaries, and decided to roam a bit. I found a city park, Iron Park they called it. I entered, parked my rental car, and spent several hot hours working their trails. Almost no butterflies to be seen, and those I saw were jet-propelled.

Discouraged some, I hiked back to the entrance to the park, sat on a picnic bench, and proceeded to open and enjoy a Coco Loco bar. Incoming! A butterfly flew in at great speed, and landed on the ground, just 8 feet from me. A Fritillary!! Forgot the Coco Loco, grabbed my Canon with its Macro-ISM equipped lens, and s-l-o-w-l-y made my approach. Still good. I shot. Moved closer and shot and shot again.

Adrenaline. I had given up, had not expected that day to yield anything more, just a day of some familiar butterflies, and then, this promising one rocketed in, near my snack bench. Mama-Mia!

After she fled, I returned to the bench and reflected on what I do, why I do it, and how it can provide such a Rush to a guy who’s seen soo much in his life.

Yes, this, good image, is a bit of a tease, but I want to think that she is Melitaea Arduinna Evanescens. A rare, uncommon Protected species, found only in 2 areas of Israel, and only in April and May!!

A Metullah mystery . . .

Jeff

Shooting Coppers

Lycaena Thersamon Butterfly Nectaring photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

No, not those coppers back in New York, Jersey, Boston or Chicago. These Coppers, Lycaena Thersamon, fly in Israel. This one is probably the most common Copper in that Part of the HolyLand.

She was in a field, surrounding a village on the slope of Mt. Hermon. There were dozens of them those mornings in March, and she was one of the most stunning of them all.

I have a fondness for Copper butterflies. I’m especially taken by that rich burnt copper hue, and how it plays against the black spots and wing margins.

Israel has 4 HolyLand Coppers, I’ve seen 2 of them. I’d love to return to the peak of Mt. Hermon and find the other 2, they rare and ‘Protected.’ That will have to wait, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) are up there on the top of Mt. Hermon, and have been there for the last handful or so of years, protecting Israel from the carnage that has been going on on the other side, the Syrian side of this 7,000 foot tall mountain.

Jeff

Exotic Blooms in the Land of Milk and Honey

Just One Hour To . . . Capernum

Winged Beauty Butterflies

Scilla wildflowers, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Society for the Protection of Nature Hermon, Israel

Two Unforgettable flower stalks, perched on a rocky hill edge, overlooking the verdant (OMG! green) northern border of Israel. I was determined to save my film for butterflies, but c’mon, how could I not succumb to this temptation? March 2015 in the Golan Heights region of Israel. A wet winter insured the arrival of a Spring with flowers blanketing the land, and rare wildflowers determined to capitalize on the excellent growing conditions.

These Hyacinth Squill blooms (Scilla Hyacinthoides) dotted the sides of these hills, on the SPNI Hermon Reserve. They enjoy a short growing season, and are listed as a Protected Species. The expanse of view looks to the northwest, into Lebanon. Lebanon, a country wracked with violence. A pastoral view then, with bad-boy land to the horizon.

Yes, this is primarily a butterfly blog, but . . . the camera made me do it!

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2019? Peace?

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

The memories stream back to me. We, Eran, my guide and I were on the peak of Mt. Hermon. Standing on the extreme northeastern border of Israel, Hermon has us looking into embattled Syria. You are seeing perhaps 180 miles of southern Syria. When was this image taken? June 2008. The cow was owned by Syrians, and it wandered to the peak of Hermon, 7,000 feet, to graze.

I was searching for butterflies, endangered ones. The views take your breathe away ones. Never to be forgotten. June it was there in Israel, and we hiked with temperatures in the mid-90’s. Eran was a huge man, and he carried liters of water for us, on that mountaintop. Few others were seen up there, and all the time we were under the surveillance of Israeli Army security.

That bovine and its 15 or so companions wandered up there, to I suppose, graze. The landmine Eran found, chastened me, and made me wonder how she manages to avoid them, or do they?

We sure found special, rare butterflies that day, drank drank drank, and managed to avoid other land mines.

Now, the farmers and Syrians who lived down there are all dead or gone, replaced by soldiers and spies and ISIS crazies from Iran, Russia, North Korea, the Syrian Army, Hezbollah, People Republic of China and other crazies. You see a pastoral landscape, but what actually followed was . . . a killing field. Men, women and children.

I’ve sought to return to this extraordinary mountain top since this day in June 2008. Each year I tried I was forbidden from going up there. The Israeli military control it, and they are ever diligent.

Did you stop back where I shared that the Syrians who lived there just a decade ago are all gone or dead? When I think of that, on this day that reminds us of so much, I have trouble grappling with what happened down there, less than a decade ago.

I was there for the butterflies, some 10 or so species found nowhere else in the world! What happened down there soon after, just stuns me. This mountaintop, back in 1967 was a bloody battleground. It now is the borderline between Israel and Syrian forces, Hezbollah forces, Russian forces, our own U.S. forces, North Korean advisors, ISIL savages, Pakistani advisors, Syrian ‘Rebel’ forces and who knows who else.

That region is gorgeous, rich in wildlife and desperately needs a rest, say 100 years of Peace?

Jeff