The Elusive Southern

Southern Pearly-eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

The only Pearly-eye butterfly I’d seen was in southwestern Pennsylvania, and that was the Northern Pearly-eye. Nearly impossible to approach is the Northern. Over many years I’d found some Northerns that held fast to their leafy perches, and allowed me to make my Macro- lens approach. Many of you have seen my Northern images here on earlier wingedbeauty.com posts.

My appetite for Pearly-eyes satiated? No, because I wanted to find and shoot the other 2 American Pearly-eyes, the Southern Pearly-eye and the even more elusive, the Creole Pearly-eye. How to find them, go south young man!

Georgia! I made several trips to the Georgia Piedmont, middle Georgia that is, many miles East of Atlanta. There I made new friends, and it was suggested that I contact Rose and Jerry. The next thing I knew, I was to meet them at the Park Office at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. I did and I enjoyed a day I will never forget. Never!

Before we left that Park Office, a Ranger warned me, me!, that I must understand that the wooded bottomlands (wet) we were headed to sickened earlier visitors with several serious, chronic diseases, vectored by mosquitoes. I stood there, as those around me waited for my reaction and response. Me? I thought ‘Cr-p!” I’d grown up on the streets of Brooklyn, often with cold steel in my pocket, navigated a life of frequent risk and danger, been an artillery officer during the early years of Viet Nam, been a Dean in a New York City high school for nearly 6 years (guns, knives, gangs, riots, Connected guys, murder), and well, more. Am I really going to confront a stated risk, disease-transmitting mosquitoes (I think the Ranger told of at least 4 horrible diseases.) Kid Zablow made a snap decision, and we went to the swampy bottomland.

It was as a Hollywood set for a horror movie. Dark, muddy wet, mosquitoes constantly checking to see if my heavy covering of Off! (Deet-25%) was still potent) and all three (3!!!) Pearly-eyes bedeviling us by flying away each and every time we made an approach, forcing us to jump over logs, pull our boots out of the mud, only to find that our Pearly-eye had flown again. Rose and Jerry were selfless, with eagle eyes, always calling me quickly, “Jeff, come quick, a Southern” or “Jeff, over here a Creole, a Creole!”

I was soon exhausted, for I didn’t mention that the humidity there was some 115% and it was hard to breathe, what with the 90F plus heat in that darkened, dank lowland.

You’ve gotta know that none of us quit. They looked like they could have done another 2 hours down there. I must have looked like pudding . . . But, we saw all 3 Pearly-eyes. All 3!

This Pearly -eye is the Southern Pearly-eye butterfly. Forgive the image, for it was very dark under that tree cover, and as you can see, very wet there. I did stop some distance from this beaut, after having so many flee on closer approach. It is a fine looking one though.

I left that site at Piedmont beyond exhausted. Hours of mucking in dank, muddy dark, mosquito infested swampy habitat. Happy as a duck, for I saw and shot all 3 Pearly-eye butterflies. Rose and Jerry? My heroes.

The elusive Southern Pearly-eye captured . . . on Fuji Velvia 100 slide film, that film straining to reward Jeff despite real, dark, super moist light.

Jeff

Black Tiger on Buttonbush

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (Black Form), photographed by Jeff Zablow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, GA

August, and the Buttonbush were going strong, at the edge of Pond 2A at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, in Juliette, Georgia. I’ve become a big fan of this wetland wildflower, and I stationed myself here, to enjoy and shoot what might fly in.

Battlestations! In flew this Shmeksy! female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. She was not the familiar yellow/black Tiger Swallowtail. She was the less common ‘Black form’ female. I liked her from the start.

She shared large sweet Blue blazes, especially along the trailing edges of her hind wings. Those wings seemed outsize to me, and, she sported good sized orange spots. Though her forewings show that she eclosed days or weeks ago, her ‘tails’ are sizable and remain intact and there is some wear on her forewings, but not enough to diminish her beauty.

Favorites, together, on a near perfect sunny morning, in a very special National Wildlife Refuge in the central Georgia Piedmont. Best of all, I’m there to taste it.

Jeff

Skipper On Buttonbush

Unidentified Skipper Butterfly on Buttonbush photographed by Jeff Zablow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, GA

We were searching late in the season Buttonbush, growing at the edge of Pond 2A at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Juliette, Georgia. Buttonbush is a native wetland plant whose blooms are excellent nectar bars for many butterflies. It’s just as wonderful to see it growing in Akeley Swamp in far western New York State as it is to see it 960 miles south in the Georgia Piedmont.

I set it in my natives garden in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania . . . and just 3 days ago purchased some healthy young Buttonbush at Nearly Natives Nursery in Fayetteville, Georgia.

The skipper here? Wouldn’t it be nice if one of you shared a definitive ID?

Backwoods Beauty

Appalachian Brown Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, GA

Most of our favorite butterflies visit us, in our gardens, parks, roadside botany and fields. Those are the butterflies we know and enjoy. They accept our invite to come and nectar, on our coneflower, zinnias, fruit trees, buddleia and Mexican sunflower.

Show your neighbor/friend a photo you took of a less well known butterfly, and don’t they usually say, “I didn’t know we had these in _____________________ ( pick your state ).”

This is one of those “We have these in Georgia?” butterflies. The Appalachian Brown butterfly. They don’t know or care that you have a spectacular garden full of natives and nectar pumping plants.

This is none of the above, rather it is a Backwood beauty, found in swamps and wet meadows. This immediate one was seen in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in middle Georgia.

I’m long on record that I love subtle browns, Love those ‘eyes’ and being kind of a march to your own drummer guy, appreciate such stand alone self-confidence.

Jeff

Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly

Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, GA

When I meet a new butterfly for the very first time, a lifelong memory gets created. I remember this day, back in 2016. Rose and Jerry Payne were kind enough to meet me at the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. Happier than a duck!, what with the agreeable guidance of 2 accomplished lovers of butterflies, we headed to that swamp in the Refuge. Score! That’s where I met my first Southern Pearly-eye butterfly. Then there was my first Creole Pearly-eye butterfly. Triumphant, even after those hours of sloughing through dark, super-humid swamp, Rose asked: Is there any other butterfly that you’d like to see in the Refuge?

Yep. I’d be happy to see Silvery Checkerspots, Rose. Off we went. When they stopped and parked. Rose and Jerry spread out, and in moments, Rose called me over. This is my first ever Silvery Checkerspot! A very fine one, fresh and complete. Those white spots on the trailing edge of the hindwings sang to me. A Silvery!

What do I want to see in the coming weeks/months? Hessel’s Hairstreak, Elfins and Diana fritillaries. Yes, I know that’s asking a lot. The years have been kind, and now I can call many kind lovers of butterflies my friends. That so increases the odds for me. Happy, I am. I’ll return to Ohio in June and then to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in November.

Blame me?

Jeff