Red’s Unscheduled Stops

Red Admiral butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.comForget making an appointment to meet a Red Admiral butterfly. They just never show up! It’s futile to think that if you at a certain garden or trail, at a certain time, that you’ll meet up. Does not happen.

This is the butterfly of Unscheduled Stops. Seemingly no itinerary, they make fly in and nectar briefly, ‘though most of the time they disregard your blooms, and if do they show, they land on your garden walk, inspect that all  is as it should be, and are soon gone.

When they do make an appearance, experienced butterfly lovers recognize that immediately, what with those bright reddish-orange stripes crossing each forewing. There’s nothing like  them.

Me? Their name, Vanessa has always transfixed me. Vanessa, such a mystical name. Then my mind goes to that actress whom I have no patience for, Vanessa Redgrave, whose politics leave a bad taste in my mouth. Why did she have to get such an otherwise wild name?

I’ve not seen many Red Admirals this 2017. The last one I saw was in Lynx Prairie Preserve, in Adams County, Ohio. Of course I saw it for moments, as it  promptly left, as is their habit, leaving you abruptly, wondering, “What’s the rush?”

Jeff

The Butterfly of the Shadows

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

Along favorites trails we keep our eyes alert for butterflies that fly the forest edge. When the weather forecast fails, and clouds that shouldn’t, do appear, its drats! Butterflies almost universally prefer sunny to dappled sunny locales. Bring dark clouds, and butterflies disappear, as quick as that.

When it’s cloudy, or dark or slightly drizzly, there’s a strong temptation to no longer remain alert for random butterfly flight. Years of working trails has taught that when you are moving through moist wooded habitat, or habitat with active streams or moderate wetland, it’s important to not succumb to dropping your attentive radar, for  with wet conditions flanking your trail, chances are good that you will note these beauties, Northern Pearly-Eye butterflies.

Northern Pearly-Eyes are difficult to make approach to. They flee approach, not with jet-like speed, but just as effectively, as they fly their low, looping flight, and just about vanish from sight.

This magnificent Pearly-Eye was seen on Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. It was to my right on the trail, and the forest that began at trail edge was poorly lit, and humid.

I kept asking the Ab-ve to allow me to get my Macro- lens close to this one. It looked handsomely fresh. I approached, robotically. It held the leaf. Closer again, it remained. Slowly lowered my left knee onto my Tommy knee pad, it was still there.

I love this image, now one of my favorites. A butterfly that when seen looks bland, now revealed to be very shmeksy! when you close the distance from Pearly-eye to Macro- lens.

When I occasionally revisit this image, Oh, how I  appreciate the many features that it shares, so easily.

Jeff

Danaus Plexippus Stopped By

Look! Look! There she was in our very own ‘peanut garden’ this afternoon. What a rush it was to watch her, superbly fresh and lush, working this 2017  benchmark garden. I kept going to the our large window, again and again to see if she was still there. She was still there, and she worked these native perennials for more than an hour. Our very own garden, now in its 5th year, and full, verdant with nectar here there and everywhere.

She was chased off several times by an equally pretty Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly. Royal as she is, our monarch patiently allowed the frenzied fritillary to do its thing, and each time she floated back in. What kept her highness in the peanut garden for more than an hour?

The peanut garden is in our side yard, and our side yard abuts Frick Park, a heavily wooded Pittsburgh (city) park of many hundreds of acres. The natives and others in the peanut garden:  Common milkweed; Swamp milkweed; Butterflyweed; Monkeyflower; Celery (in flower), Bergamot, Balloon flower; Buttonbush, Shrubby St.John’s wort, Green headed coneflower, Rue and Chocolate mint. All 3 of the milkweeds (Asclepias spp) are in height of bloom, and buff! very buff.

The instant monarch butterfly shown here was not the flier today. This photo is of another female, who flew in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Today’s monarch’s colors were deeper, richer. She was . . . gorgeous.

How much do I hope that she rewards us with her eggs?

Jeff

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