Singing Auld Lang Syne


Here’s one I’ve not seen for more than 20 years. A Striped Hairstreak Butterfly. We met in the butterfly garden at the Powdermill refuge in Rector, Pennsylvania. This field station of the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History, established for the study and conservation of birds, was just 1 hour and 25 minutes from my home in Pittsburgh.

These sylvan 2,000+ acres were home to a host of threatened species, including that Eastern Timber Rattlesnake that I met up with there. It was under a tree, in the shade, that 90F+ morning. I see it there, and now when I look back these years later, Frieda A”H was right (again). How did I get those closeup images of the rattler, when I should have know the risk that a father of 4, and husband, works to get closer and closer and closer to . . . ?

This “R-U” rare to uncommon (Glassberg, A Swift Guide to Butterflies) hairstreak was doing what most hairstreaks do, resting on a leaf, being very territorial, when I spotted it. It didn’t take more than a nanosecond for me to realize that this was a new one for me, and I shot away. As Stripeds do, it met my slow, robotic movement with no alarm, and I shot away. What a stunning butterfly!

Its been decades since, and I’ve not met another . . . I think. Their range is said to be Maine to northern Florida, the Atlantic coast to west of the Dakotas, but rare, Oh so rare.


Expendable Butterflies?

Meadow Fritillary Butterfly at Rector, PA
The Holidays, the beautiful, meaningful Holidays are upon us. New Years Eve, days away. Petra and I take our long walks through Frick Park, and old and new friends ask which of my family is coming in to Pittsburgh? A new year is approaching.

Have a second look at this Meadow Fritillary (Boloria Bellona) butterfly. Many are concerned that their numbers are steadily plummeting. Farms going fallow, fields abandoned, and going through the succession that leads to forest. Monarch butterflies an even bigger concern, Coral Hairstreak butterflies becoming tougher to find, Regal Fritillaries still present in one locale in my own state, but no one wants to enable me to photograph them (?).

Ya know, back in P.S. 244 in Brooklyn, I remember my teacher telling our class that Castor Canadensis (the Beaver) and wolves (timber) would all be gone one day. I don’t think she ever heard of the river otter, or she would have mentioned them in that same sentence.

The thing is, with ’14 ending, what are we going to do about all this? I want us, those who come here, to pay attention, and register their concern, line up with the heroes, the ones who restore a Briar Patch in a corner of Georgia. Don’t need a horse or a banner or pointed lance. 2015 needs our vigilance, and voice.

James Fisher, traveling with Roger Tory Peterson in 1953, couldn’t get over how beautiful America was, and how much of it was still wild. Enough of it is still left, to warrant our love and affection.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you!


Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Rector, PA

I find that Lobelia Cardinalis is quite disarming. Working my way along a small pond in Rector, Pennsylvania, there it was. I don’t know about other men, but a certain red lipstick and these spectacular wildflowers evoke the same OOOh!  I also notice that all heads turn when a handsome male Cardinalis Cardinalis bird posts itself on a nearby branch.

A wetland plant, this relative of the Lobelias that we might buy at the local excellent nursery can be found in most states.

The flower’s nectar must offer a cocktail of nutritious sweets; as hummingbirds favor these brilliant red blooms. Do butterflies? I have seen Eastern Black Swallowtails drink the flower’s nectar, and are able to overcome the challenge of the length of the tubular flowers. One day I must return and park myself on a folding chair and photograph an Eastern Black on a cardinalis  bloom.

The above is solely a clinical observation of the flower’s physiological effects.



Maryland’s State Insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, on a Black-Eyed Susan

Baltimore Checkspot Butterfly photographed in Rector, PA

I cannot ever forget when this beauty flew from I know not where, to this black-eyed susan wildflower. I was just a few feet away and I’d never before seen Euphydras phaeton. I robotically lowered myself down onto my stomach and shot exposure after exposure, again and again. Moments went by and I was able to shoot out nearly an entire roll of slide film. Then it flew away, purposefully and soon it was out of sight. Happiness is . . .

This Rector, Pennsylvania field was full of nectar filled wildflowers on this July morning. Excellent habitat for Baltimores because it was a short distance from ponds that had turtlehead wildflowers at their banks.

A favorite in the state of Maryland, ranked officially as the State Insect.

We’ve posted that black-eyed susan wildflowers are infrequent landing places for butterflies. Here of course we are reminded that these observations are general and not meant to be all inclusive.

This was one of my very few encounters with a Baltimore Checkerspot. I’ve forgotten much of what happened yesterday, but I remember this encounter. I can’t remember seeing the tiny caterpillar which shares the flower.


A Bull Thistle Habitat is Perfect for Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly at Rector, PA

Rector, Pennsylvania is in one of Pennsylvania most beautiful regions, the Laurel Higlands. It’s morning and our Papilio troilus is feeding on the sugars needed for today’s flights.

July 28th for this winged beauty offers the very same objectives needed each and every day, remain active and healthy, securing the abundant nutrition produced by Bull thistle and other suitable wildflowers.

Bull thistle habitat is perfect for Spicebush swallowtails, pastures, and disturbed ground along roadsides and trails. Cirsium vulgar is a bonafide nectar pumper. Post yourself between 8:45 and 9:45 A.M. at a Bull thistle in peak bloom and you’ll expect to enjoy several species swallowtail, skippers galore, fritillaries, bees, many fly species and another treat, Ruby throated hummingbirds.

Do a little reading to learn the complex behaviors of Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars and pupae. Very impressive.

The orange spots and blue fields become easily recognizable. They are easily enjoyed for their beauty.

A summer butterfly and another that you intercept as you hike trails through the forest undergrowth.