My Juniper Hairstreak . . . Well . . . .

Juniper Hairstreak butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Panola Mountain State Park, GA

On the trail ascending to the granite cap of this hill in Panola Mountain State Park, east of Atlanta, Georgia. Phil and his family leading the way, a Sunday hike, all for my benefit (well much to my benefit). The spoken goal to find and shoot Juniper Hairstreak butterflies. Phil knows this park like we know the palms of our hands, and I was psyched, truth be told.

I had never seen a Juniper before. Shortly, amongst a mixed granite surface, Phil spotted this one. Not up in a Juniper tree or bush, but amongst tiny little groundcover, bearing also tiny white flowers. Down to the ground I went, to make my first courtesy call to a Juniper Hairstreak! On the Restricted trail, in that Restricted portion of the Park, I met and was wooed by my first Juniper hairstreak.

This butterfly is not a nervous-type, rather they tolerate some approach and they move relatively slowly. After a bit of time they fly, but usually to a not too far away new perch.

Accept that I knew that this spot was to be a challenge, very low to the ground, somewhat shaded, and the angle to the butterfly was not the ideal parallel preferred (lens and subject parallel to each other).

I shot, shot, shot, and shot some more. Y’all see the result Bingo! fast. Me? Had to wait until I got home to Pittsburgh, then FedExed my film to Kansas, then waited until my slides were returned.

This is my best share. Pleased with the clear green in it, I am some reserved as to how the rest compares to other images I’ve seen. Remember, my goal has long been to match or better the images of butterflies seen in field guides. This one, well . . . But, but I’m in Georgia, on a Restricted site, with Phil and his terrific family, and here I am being entertained in the court of the Juniper Hairstreak. One pleased puppy I am, all things considered.


Reaping Rewards in Georgia

Phil Delestrez and his sons, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Panola Mountain State Park, GA

In 2015, Phil guided me through remotes corners of Hard Labor Creek State Park in Georgia. This is a very skilled, experienced wildlife expert, Phil. He pointed out Gemmed satyr butterflies, and they posed, I thought then that they were doing that with his wink and nod, so to speak.

This year, ’16, I contacted Phil and asked again, would he meet and guide me somewhere in Georgia. I was based in Eatonton, Putnam County, near Lake Oconee. His reply was well, OK, but it’d have to be on a Sunday, and he’d come with his family. Dada!

We met at Panola Mountain State Park, east of Atlanta. I held my breath when I saw where he was taking us. A Restricted Area!! I could not and would not have known it existed, or have entered there. What total Fun we had, hiking to the top of this rocky hilltop. This extensive microhabitat has not changed for 10,000’s of years, and with Phil’s keen eagle eyes, we found Juniper Hairstreak butterflies, a very rare grasshopper that eats lichens only, and a spider so rare, that it remains, unnamed.

His children, two shown here with Phil, were a delight, and adept at trail work.

Phil is with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He is a fine testament to the excellent job they are doing, at each and every one of the state parks I’ve visited.


Super Rare Grasshopper

LichenGrasshopper (Rare), photographed by Jeff Zablow at Panola Mountain State Park, GA
It’s special when you encounter an animal or plant that is extremely rare. We all pause, and approach, and examine, and show respect! We are obligated to consider how extraordinary this thing that we see is, how intricately it is constructed, how well adapted it is to its very special habitat. We may also fret, realizing how a pinpoint mega-storm can wipeout these small populations, living in their unique, threatened habitats. Me, I then remember to be Thankful for the opportunity to have met such special fauna or botany. You may know that in the ’80’s I was a NYNY realtor. I know that place, where every single square inch has been developed, and I think, Hope that unchecked development can be checked by you, who are along here, and who . . . care.

Phil, my friend in Georgia is a Naturalist, employed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He, with his family along, guided me that 2016 morning. We hiked to a very special, restricted habitat in Panola Mountain State Park. We were seeking Juniper Hairstreak Butterflies.

Here on this granite hilltop, we found them. And we found other hard to find wildlife. This Lichen grasshopper is a rare, very specialized insect, found in diverse, limited habitat. Phil’s eagle eyes spotted this one. I did all, all of the above, and then worked to photograph it.

Here we are, eyeball to compound eye, with a tiny, threatened grasshopper that depends upon the lichens growing on remote granite hilltops. Truth be Told, I felt honored to have made its acquaintance. If Georgia keeps up its exemplary work, future photographers will revel at the same opportunity.