The Middle Class Butterfly

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14

We saw dozens and dozens of Great Spangled Fritillaries last week in Adams County, Ohio. Just miles north of the Ohio/Kentucky border, they were just super! to watch. Butterflyweed was in full bloom, as were Black eyed susan, common milkweed, clover and just a menu of other native wildflowers. The vast majority of Great spangleds were totally fresh, few bird struck. Why, I asked of my new friends, were so few of these large frits bird struck? Largely because those open prairies were way too risky for birds to enter, what with so much open space, and the ever present danger of raptors, waiting along the treeline for hapless birds.

See, I noticed that my fellow hikers, determined to see orchids, wildflowers, butterflies and mushrooms took little note of this flight of Great spangleds. They went almost unnoticed. Several times over those 3 days I  mulled over this. Especially gorgeous Great spangled fritillaries were mostly invisible to my trail companions. They, like this instant one, treated the eyes, and really encouraged, for they were many, they were Fine! and that’s a good omen for this county, this part of Ohio.

It struck me then, that like red-spotted purple butterflies, and pearl crescents, and eastern-tailed blue butterflies, great spangled fritillaries were the ‘middle class’ of the eastern U.S. butterflies. That is, they largely get little attention and usually go unnoticed. We move right by them, not even breaking stride. We heed them not, and we don’t register that our hike past them will upset them and send them aloft.

Like us, they are beautiful, and at the same time, no light, no action, no cameras, no media, well just about like us, awake, get going, eat, work, and return to roost at the end of the day, with nary a compliment, and surely no  one to tell  us how good we look, how much we are appreciated, or how much our presence makes a whole lot of difference. ID one nearby as an Aphrodite Fritillary, and all come running, running past Great Spangled, as if the didn’t exist.

Great Spangled Fritillaries, the middle class butterfly.

Jeff

Who Loves the Red-Spotted Purple?

Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

America’s most beloved bird? It’s got to be the bald eagle. With tens of millions of birders, the bald eagle enjoys oceans of love. The Telegraph just reported that 20-somethings are increasingly taking up their ‘binis’ and looking for birds.

America’s most beloved butterfly? Easy again, the Monarch butterfly. Thousands of Americans are rearing them, visiting the central Mexico mountains where they overwinter, and planting milkweeds in their home gardens. Other beloved Americans butterflies? Eastern black swallowtails, Giant swallowtails and Pipevine swallowtails.

Why do blogs, NABA, Xerces and many state’s departments of conservation/environmental protection work most vigorously to protect monarchs and many swallowtails? I expect that we generally agree that they are large butterflies, very colorful butterflies, visit home gardens regularly and enjoy c that lend themselves to home development.

Chew on this? Why are butterflies that are found on moist trails, and rarely nectar on flowerheads, little loved? Here, a fine Red-spotted purple. Often seen on trails from New England to Florida and across the south to New Mexico, few hesitate to shower love and admiration for Red-spotteds.

Will tastes change, and the time come that sees the Red-spotted purple butterfly becomes the Golden retriever of the butterfly diversity? Or will Red-spotteds forever be “a butterfly.”

Jeff

Why? Asked A Photographer of Butterflies.

Tawny Hackberry butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Fond? Not strong enough. Really like? Not that either. This image evokes stronger for me, Love. I love this Tawny Emperor butterfly image. Comes the question, why? Why too, in a ‘Media library’ of more than 700 images, do a very few of them earn the ‘Love’ sentiment?

Seek/chase/search/scour habitat for butterflies, and you will be skunked (disappointed) much. It may rain when you reach your destination, or it may be too dry, hot, or devoid of critical hostplants or those very same hostplants may be set in a place that butterflies just don’t go to. It may be too windy, or bad weather may be on its way, and I often wonder if butterflies don’t pre-sense that. All this to understand that when we score a unique image, all of these negatives have not deterred.

Tawny emperors are not common, not usually encountered. The closely related Hackberry emperor is common. This particular Tawny was the first I had ever seen, what friends would call a ‘Lifer.’ That on that morning I shot out at least 40 or more exposures, reminds of how much I wanted to leave there with good stuff. Uncommon butterfly, sweet image = another reason that I ‘Love’ this image.

Aspects of the image? Fresh, fresh individual, with good color capture. Eye-friendly background (green leaves, blurred by the work of my Macro- lens (100mm/2.8 Canon). Near universal fine share of wings, body, head, eyes, antennae. To this add that this Tawny was comfortably sitting on the horizontal member of a wooden trail marker at Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Butterfly perched at a tantalizing angle with reference to that hardwood platform adds to the eye-fascination I have always had for this look.

Personal affinities? I love browns, and this is a study of browns. I have always thought that those 4 wings look way oversize, as if this flier could barely rise from the board (after it decided that more 40+ captures were enough, it shot away at shocking speed, in a direct path, some 5 feet or so off the ground). The near mystical. Had I arrived minutes before, or minutes later, I would Never have met this comely beauty. To that add that Miriam and others whom I admire have generously praised this photo, and well, that pleases me, alot.

A brief discussion of why? from someone who thinks about this, once again, alot.

Jeff

Agree or Disagree?

Years and years into photographing butterflies now, and you would think that I would be steadily approaching, well, saturation. If that makes sense to you, surprise! The challenges, opportunities and thinking continues, unabated, and not diminished. Here’s an example of a present new idea of mine.

I shot this exposure of an American Copper some years ago. When I light boxed the dozen or more images of it, I was very Happy with this one. Very. Some of you may think: I see things here that Jeff likes. Others of you may think: Why does this image stand out from the nearly 800 in wingedbeauty’s Media Library?

Me? I have always liked this share of the head. Michal has 2 Shih Tzus, and they used to refer to them as ‘pookies.’ Small, and very cute. Munchkin and Shnookie were, and are, even at 12 and 13 years. This head struck me at first sight as a ‘pookie.’ Eyes, palps and sweet antennae. The left wings, ventral sides, are clear, colorful and dramatically colored. Those wings are fresh and not bird-struck. The legs are nicely shared, and set in a way that pleases the eye. The plant stem that this Copper is standing on boasts those fascinating fibers over its length, and that stalk is set at a slight angle, adding personality to the image. The leaves toward the right of the image bear red borders/veins, further jazzing up the shot. Bonus to all is the background, a comely green, minty and persuasive to the eye.

Digging further, a Georgia friend recently shared that she had never yet seen an American Copper butterfly. As soon as she wrote that, my mind shot to this look, and that was the ‘seed’ that led to this very post. Thanks Nancy.

Sometime soon we will add a new Feature to wingedbeauty.com, Jeff’s 8 (10?) Favorite Images. This should be amongst those 8 or 10, for how many times I’ve scrolled down the Library, and stopped to smile at this one.

Do you Agree or Disagree that this photo deserves broad exposure?

Jeff