Beauty Almost Unrevealed (The Compton Phantom)

Compton Tortoiseshell Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in  Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Two decades of searching for Compton Tortoiseshell butterflies (Nymphalis vaualbum) came and went, and a butterfly I ached to meet eluded me, having seen it only 3 times. Compton Tortoiseshells are butterflies of the Northern North America . Those 27 years that I lived and worked in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania put me squarely in its range.

The problem was that they are ‘R-LU’ (Glassberg, A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America), meaning rare to locally uncommon. They are never seen in any abundance, and  . . . they deny any approach.

I adore (AKA Love) their good size and dramatic, handsome wing coloration. Hundreds of visits to Raccoon Creek State Park in those years, often arriving at 8:00 AM or so, and that paltry score of three meet-ups.

Please understand then that this image delights me, though I know it must give you pause, it quite a distance from my Macro-lens. Know too that a moment later, it was . . . gone.

Jeff

The Finest Tawny Emperor?

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

Decades of searching for butterflies, and by now I’ve seen a lot. I remember many of those encounters, and this meet-up continues to be among my favorites.

Why does one of 50 trips to find and shoot butterflies stand out in one’s mind? When I came upon this Tawny Emperor butterfly, very early on a Raccoon Creek State Park morning, I was stunned. I do not exaggerate. This butterfly, basking in that early morning sun, was so so very handsome looking, with its complex wing markings and seemingly over-sized wings.

Tawnys are not very common. Hackberry Emperor Butterflies are much more common. I have written of this encounter here, before. It moved me, much. I realized that I was shooting my 50+ exposures, working to capture one of the finest Tawny Emperors ever!

This very image adorns our dining room wall. It so reminds me of the beauty that G-d creates, for us to note, and acknowledge.

Jeff

An Early Chinese Import

Mantid egg case photographed by Jeff Zablow

I’d seen these in my empty lots, around East 58th Street in my childhood Brooklyn. Praying Mantis egg cases, I’d learned they were. Good for that, with their fierce, fascinating Praying Mantises developing within them, preparing to exit and perform their predation, as they’d done for thousands of years.

Fast forward, and now well grown Jeff learned that this egg case is NOT formed by them. Instead it is an alien egg case, hardened foam formed by a Chinese Mantid. It’s from China. It’s ancestors did not live here three hundred years ago! Now the Chinese Mantids that emerge from this egg case surely ate the native Painted Ladies, Pearly Crescents, Gray Hairstreaks and Great Spangle Fritillary butterflies in that Raccoon Creek State Park (Southwestern Pennsylvania).

I have come to discredit alien species, especially after living next door to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s 900 acre plus Frick Park. There, as Petra and I walked, I registered that some 70% of the plants I was passing were . . . Aliens! Natives should have been there, filling 100% of the parkland.

All this with the news of the Coronavirus just about everywhere I look. I hesitate to buy products ‘Made in China.’ I just as much disdain Chinese animals, plants and products of all types.

Jeff

The Only What? Butterfly

Harvester butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

I’ve seen them several times, those only on that Nichol Road Trail in Raccoon Creek State Park, Southwestern Pennsylvania. I remember those electrifying moments.

When I occasionally see someone elses Harvester Butterfly image, it awakens those way too few memories.

Meeting a Harvester butterfly, characterized by Glassberg’s A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America as LR-LU ( Locally Rare to Locally Uncommon ) does do that to me.

‘The Only What? Butterfly’ in North America because no other North American butterfly caterpillars are carniverous. Their consume aphids.

This image? I have always been in love with their plays of brown color and, I wanted to cop an image that I would be pleased with, before this winged beauty fled.

Jeff

‘When You Wish Upon A Star, Makes No Difference . . . ‘

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Had to be more than a decade, me working that productive Nichol Road trail at Raccoon Creek State Park. That southwestern Pennsylvania trail partly skirted a tiny, always moving creeklet. That’s where I ocassinaly saw Northern Pearly-eye Butterflies.

The trouble was, they almost never allowed me and my trusty Macro- lens to get close enough . . . We who do this have wishes, wishes of butterflies we’d like to photograph, REALLY want to photograph in all their, fresh, healthy glory.

My wish list? Northern Pearly-Eye used to be way at the top of my List. Others? Satyrs, Goatweed Leafwing, Metalmarks, King’s Hairstreaks and Giant Skippers. Oh, and Elfins, lots of Elfins?

When I was working Nichol Road trail, I spotted this spectacular Northern. My approach was especially cautious. I went down in my patented way, down to rest on my left knee pad. Good. I could have begun to serenade, with “When you wish upon a star, Makes no difference who you are, When you wish upon a star, Your dreams come true.”

Our star Northern stay in place, as if posing for me. Magnificent. Beautiful. Incredibly elegant, all these applied. The images? I prize 3 of them, they among my most beloved.

Happy Jeff.

Jeff