Tracking Erato Heliconians

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Our “Rare” Erato Heliconian Butterfly remained in that vicinity for some time. There were just a few of us that caught a glimpse of it in the National Butterfly Center’s Mission, Texas reserve. It riveted the gaze, for those red, broad streaks were red-beyond-red.

Each time it flew, it flew to a new perch, never much more than 15 feet from where it had rested before.

Some time later, the gawkers left to find other Wow! butterflies. I too left, and soon returned. I descended down into that crevice-like trail. When I came within 10 feet of the Erato, it flew. I eagle-eyed that flight, wondering all along . . . how many here in the U.S.have ever seen the Erato’s flight manner?

The Erato flew away on that trail, a straight trail that did not meander left or right. It flew some 4 feet or so above the ground, in a perfectly straight trajectory. No dips, no dives, no meander left or right. I’m thinking that whole time, that the numerous predators around, bird, reptile, insect, mammal . . . ? would have no difficulty snatching this Erato out of the air.

That was when it struck me? Throughout the 100 feet or so of observed flight, those shocking-red streaks remained in sight. The red was visible 100% of the time.

What did I think? That totally visible, bright red must serve as a bold, critical, cryptic warning to any and all: I am toxic, very toxic, and remember what your mother taught you or bide the genetic warning bells your’re hearing . . . for I might just give you a mouthful of hurt!

Like I said before, I could’ve used such a jacket, cape or shirt when I was a kid on those Brooklyn streets: You don’t want to even try it . . . !

Jeff

Erato In Diminished Light

Red-Rim Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

I’ve spent some 2/10,000th of my life in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. That was the very last week of December 2017. Talk about unforgettable! We kept seeing butterflies I’d never seen before. Several times, here at this National Butterfly Center, we saw butterflies, the handful of folks nearby put out cell alerts, and folks actually drove to the NBC, just for the chance of seeing our rares.

This was one of our Wows!! An Erato Heliconian Butterfly. A “Rare” stray to the USA from Mexico, some less than a handful of miles away.

Yes it’s flown to shade, and yes my Fuji Velvia 100 film was seriously challenged, but . . . the color that we caught here is just fine. That streak across the cells of the hindwing is a sweet yellowish-white. The broad burnt orange streak across the forewing does sing, no?

We enjoyed this Erato, rarely seen in the USA, and usually seen once every few years!

Jeff, a Happy Boy! again and again eye feasting on G-d’s winged beauties.

Jeff

Cassius Blue Butterfly (NBC)

Y’all know by now that we went to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in the closing week of 2017. We’ve shared many butterflies that were new to me, and new to so many of you. Here I was, just a handful of miles (or less) from Mexico, and you just never knew what would come flying in here, at the National Butterfly Center in Mission.

This was the Tiffany of Butterflies, with new deliveries every hour, with the display cases changing as you watched!

Comes this one, nectaring on Mistflower. I expected it would be a snap to ID, and after scouring Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America (The Princeton University Press, 2017) I still cannot tell what it is?

It’s almost surely a blue? Or is it. Ventral wing surface are good, and the upper wing color sure look blue.

Might I dream that the premiere butterfly experts, Jeffrey Glassberg, Mike Rickard, Curt Lehman and/or Robert Michael Pyle might help here?

Update! Nancy Asquith and Mike Rickard reached out to us to confirm, Cassius Blue ( Leptotes Cassius Cassidula ). Thanks Nancy and Mike.

Jeff

Reflections On Seeing A Malachite

Malachite Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

I’ve been to Tiffany’s flagship store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue many times. I’ve been to Pre-Sale Exhibitions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s as well. Frieda A”H would try on solitaire diamond rings, jade rings, earrings, necklaces, extraordinary broaches, and bracelets at these sales of magnificent jewelry. I toured exhibitions before sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Doyle and more back then. I had an itch for fine porcelains, American and Flemish oils, Homer watercolors, Bierstadt, Salymon von Ruisdael, Hudson River School paintings, and so much more.

I worked in New York City in the ’80’s. Folks were dressed well back then, very well. Madison Avenue was the end all of end all’s for well dressed women and men. People watching at the Met, MOMA, Brooklyn Museum, and all of New York’s museums was special, very special.

I also changed in the 1980’s and G-d became important to me. My Biology degree, teaching High School Biology in the ’70’s and then from 1994 to my retirement reaffirmed my love for botany and fauna. Then came my increased interest in butterflies and wish to capture and share their beauty on this blog.

This image of a Malachite is from the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. This wild beauty exceeds the finest I have seen in all the places listed above. It mightily underscores my awe when I am blessed to encounter living beings of extraordinary beauty, as this Malachite.

This is why I do what I do. This is what eludes the comprehension of most who know or meet me. But that’s OK.

Jeff