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.”


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.


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’s Believe It Or Not

Hiker with Emperor butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

What a near perfect morning. I was there on Nichol Road Trail at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania (see our New Destinatons feature for more about this superb trail). Got there early, and conditions were perfect: sun, just the right temperature, and recent rains left the little creek flowing, no wind, all just right for butterflies.

The best of all? No hikers or horseback riders on the trail, to jeopardize my good butterfly looks that morning. And the butterflies were diverse, fresh and aloft. Good, very good.

Suddenly, along came 3 people, talking animatedly, walking with bouncy, buoyant gait. Two men and a woman. Well, OK, if I ever see people on this trail, on horseback or not, they almost never do more than say ‘Hi.’ They almost never divert me from my search for butterflies on this wonderful stretch of trail, that has been kind to me since 1995.

They greeted me, and they we’re curious, I guess. What, when, why, where, how. And, they were interesting, very. They were a married couple and a visiting friend. The couple had moved not too long ago from Virginia, to a homestead nearby, and they have established an organic truck farm. The 4 of us were enjoying sharing, and I must say, I decided to relax that little voice in me, telling me to get back to this morning’s burgeoning opportunities. I decided to enjoy these folks, so upbeat, so universal and so interested in all and whatever.

Then it happened! . . . . A Hackberry Emperor butterfly flew in from ? and landed on the woman. You see where he landed. Now the men were clothed as I, fully with long sleeves and long pants. She was dressed to be cool and comfortable in this 85F degree weather.

Now all 3 of my new acquaintances were buzzed by this buster of an Emperor. They wasted not a millionth of a second, insisting I capture this magical moment! I just as fast explained that I was shooting Macro-, and could only get this by a close-up shot. Me? I’m say traditional, they, for sure are Hip! (I managed property in SoHo and the East Village and Chelsea in NYNY = my creds for ID’ing cool folk). They pleaded, that I not hesitate, Get this surreal moment on film!

So I move in, feeling kind of ??? And I shot away. Both were worthy of the camera lens. Sometimes the trail provides real Believe It Or Not Moments. They, pleased, wished me well, and hiked on. I stood there, wondering what to do with the images, if any of them merited saving.