My Northern Pearly-eye Butterfly

 

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

Here’s one that folks rarely share. When I do see a posted image of a Northern Pearly-eye, that little smile appears. I was fortunate to have met this individual on Nichol Road Trail in Raccoon Creek State Park, some 40 minutes west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

When I spotted it, I was immediately juiced, for it was a magnificent Northern Pearly-eye, and it was perched so majestically on that leaf. They prefer to be at the edges of trails, and almost always very near to water, usually a small stream/creek. All that applied here.

I approached, sooo slowly, all the time asking, of G-d I guess, that this remarkable butterfly stay, not bolt.

I shot away, maybe some 40 exposures (Fuji film, Velvia 100), and these 3, well I found it too difficult to choose one from among them.

Whyi? The colors, though not bright ones, are rich and attractive. The pose of this one is excellent, on those leaves with their deep, becoming green. The background, reduced light, so evokes the favored habitat of this bruishfoot Satry. The outer rims of those forewing eyes are as gold as gold. The hindwing eyes shoot out flashlight white at their centers. The bands on the wings are stark. The eyes are good, the legs seen, the clubs have black, and much more.

I am forever appreciative that I was there, then, and met a gorgeous, understanding butterfly.

Jeff

Ode To Harvesters

Harvester butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

My English profs would be disappointed in me, if they opened this post and found that I no longer remember what an Ode is. What I do recall is that an Ode was often melancholy, written for something missed.

Well I so miss seeing Harvester butterflies. Those tiny gems that startle you when you see a puddle in the middle of a favorite trail, and at the edge of that puddle you see a geometric form, always the first indication that you have seen a butterfly, usually hairstreaks on a leaf or a very tiny skipper or blue butterfly.

I spotted this one on the Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. I loved that trail, rich as it was in habitat and butterflies. On that trail I experienced a trifecta, over the years seeing Mourning Cloaks, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and Compton Tortoiseshell. MY eyes registered something, a triangular shape at a tiny puddle formed. by the rain the night before. What’s that?

I made the most robotic of all approaches, and knew that was something special! I every so carefully got down on my belly (Park vehicles do sometimes use this road!), confirmed Harvester!! and crawled inches closer. Not wanting to spook this Harvester butterfly, I did not make a full approach and I shot away.

The original Pookie, this butterfly is a favorite of field guide writers, for its caterpillar is the only known carnivorous caterpillar in North America.

Ode to Harvesters? Truth be told, I’ve seen 2 of them, on that stretch of trail over the years, I’ve not seen another in some 20 years. Twenty years! I so miss the Rush! when you meet a Harvester.

Jeff

I Am Still Puzzled: Tale Of A Monarch

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

These 25 years of seeking butterflies has taught me alot. My work has not been focused on the academics of butterflies. I have sought to share eye pleasing images of butterflies, to evoke recognition of their beauty and a certain mystique, and to provoke, so much so that you are more aware of them, and spend more time looking for them, whether in Eatonton or on the peak of Mt. Hermon (Israel).

I may well have approached and seen 10,000,000 by now. Much about these butterflies is predictable. I find that in the field my ‘senses’ are finely attuned to their behavior, and that’s a great aid in my pursuit of them.

I now know much of them, but of course that’s a bit too smug, for there’s lots I don’t know.

The Monarch male here, stunned me some years ago. Over those 25 years, I never seen a butterfly do what he did. Never.

What did he do? I saw him at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, USA. He was perched on these dried flowers. Motionless. We were in Doak field, an open, 100 acre meadow in the Park.

I made my patented robotic approach, in a crouch. My Macro- lens needed to be within some 18 inches of him. He did not flee, staying still, in place.

When I was there, close to him, with lens facing him, he did it. He turned his head to his right, now facing the Canon 100mm/2.8 lens. He looked at me for some 4 seconds or so, as I repeatedly shot exposures of him. After those 4 seconds, he fled, at some speed.

I have never seen a butterfly turn its head, ever. Never.

What say you of this?

Jeff

I Prefer Females

Tiger swallowtail butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

I managed to get there early, very early. The road to Raccoon Creek State Park, that 36.8 miles drive, took me through downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through the Ft. Pitt Tunnel, and then through miles of what’s known as “Parkway West 376.” That morning I sailed through the entire route, with hardly any need to slow down or come to a total stop.

Parked my Tundra truck at the Rte. 168 entrance to the state park, and hiked Nichol Road trail, my favorite stretch of park. It was still not 8:30 A.M., and I’d already seen male Eastern Tiger Swallowtails flying at full speed along the trail. It’s been decades since I began photographing butterflies, and time has taught me that most male butterflies are not worthy of the time it takes to approach them, and then chase after them. What’s their rush? They spend 95% of their time flying fast, searching for receptive females. It’s a fool’s errand to chase after them, hoping in vain that they might stop for a moment to rest.

Then there she was! Resting as females do, she on a natives plant, just 3 feet or so above the trail margin. She was spectacular. She was in no rush to leave that perch. I prefer photographing female butterflies. They are often gorgeous and they dislike wasting time and energy, flying desperately here and there, as those males do.

At this point in my work, spotting a fresh, undamaged female butterfly is cause for a smile. They often agree to pose, are less likely to bolt, and their rich beauty means I might score a wonderful image.

A winged beauty, willing to model for you and me.

Jeff

What Am I Shooting For?

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

I smile when I look back on those first what?, 10 years of photographing butterflies. Film was cheaper then, Fuji Velvia slide film. Processing the exposed film was less expensive, and scanning too didn’t break your budget. I went out on a typical morning, and returned home with 10 or more rolls shot. I just about chased and photographed any butterfly that I found.

Nowadays, things have changed. My film is very expensive, processing and scanning the slides has also become more expensive. I have also changed. I no longer follow or stalk butterflies that are worn or bird-struck. When I see a spectacular Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (female) or an OMGoodness! Question Mark, I pause, gather my thoughts, and move on. My sizable collection of slides happily includes excellent images of same. Once in a while, I wonder what will happen to that collection, that includes many rare and declining species?

I’ve also given up on waiting for the Butterfly cognoscenti (how do I explain that to y’all?) to come along and visit. As on the streets of Brooklyn, back with ‘them,’ no names. That puzzle awaits I don’t know what.

What, then am I shooting for?

I’m now near ready to share that. I continue with the same energy and anticipation this 2019 . . . for us. For me and for you. I want to find and capture on film the finest, freshest butterflies. They must be of excellent color and form, male and female, if we can determine such.The color of my work must be exactly as it looks in the field, real-time. Film continues to be used worldwide because the color it delivers accurately reveals true field color. More than 25 years in the field confirms that. I shoot rolls of 36-exposures, and cull those slides out, usually keeping 2 or 3 per roll, at the most.

Once Katie Funaki has scanned them, I want you there, and me here, to pause for a sec, and whisper, “Wow!” Then, me? I hope you think G-d has really created boundless beauty.

This Northern Pearly-eye Butterfly met me at Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania, USA. That about 380 miles west of where Benjamin Franklin printed his newspapers.

Jeff