Human Sacrifice . . .

Gulf Fritillary shot at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR), North Carolina

She is resting along the trail on one of the many dikes at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, in southeastern South Carolina, some 30 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia. Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanilla), fresh, exquisite and posing contentedly for Jeff. Yes. There is a but a major but here…but, meanwhile, I was being swarmed by dozens (?) of crazed mosquitoes. Our ‘Technique” feature (Have you seen it?) warns of the need to move robotically, slowly, to insure that the butterfly is not frightened and spooked. Hard to do there and then, with my hands lathered in several species of mosquitoes.

Few bites were made. I had sprayed myself with Off! when I arrived at the Refuge. With my jeans securely  tucked into my Red Wing boots, with the aid of blousing garters (Ft. Dix, NJ issue, thanks to the US Army), I sprayed my jeans, front and back, I sprayed the sleeves of my green, long sleeved shirt (LL Bean, cotton), I sprayed my neck, heavily, all around, my ears (exterior only), and the top of my cap (the university that my daughters attended sold a green hat, with just the right green tint to minimize startling butterflies). Yes I sprayed the backs of my hands, reluctantly, but later I was glad that I did. I didn’t spray my faces or forehead. Nor do I apply sun screen to my face, each year causing my dermatologist to give me a good talking to. I don’t apply anything to me face or forehead because…those creams and chemicals soon work down or up into my eyes, causing irritations, and that invariably occurs just as a fantastic butterfly enters my life space!

Many of you may prefer other purchased or home concocted insect repellents. Off! works well for me, very well, in the heavy strengthed aerosol spray can.

So this day I came away lucky, but miffed. I had to stand there and take it from the mini-insect-savages. I would have liked to somehow kapop! them right back, onto their teeny, weeny little backs.

Not the time to discuss, chiggers (Ugh!), biting deer flies (stealth biters!) or horseflies (ambushers, always reminding me of that one that kamikazed me at Black Moshannon State Park in central Pennsylvania).

What have I left out. Never been introduced to fire ants, or africanized bees or….enough,  Let me outta! here!


Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Habitat

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge photographed by Jeff Zablow

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a rich and robust habitat. The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge was teeming with wildlife in August 2012 when I photographed butterflies every morning during a week-long vacation. Located in the southeastern corner of South Carolina, the Refuge is an 18 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia. Readers might be interested to know that it was once a rice farm. If you drive another 20 minutes you’ll see beautiful Tybee Island where we stayed.

I saw alligators, herons, turtles, frogs, gulls and richly colored butterflies. The Viceroys were especially striking, with breathtaking contrasts of orange next to black. I was not satisfied with the photographs I came home with. You guessed it, those viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) were especially leery of my approach. They are a wetland species, and Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is home, sweet home to them.

I’m planning to return in mid-August with the determination successfully photograph the Viceroys!



Clouded Skipper Butterfly

Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Savannah, GA Butterfly Garden

In the Savannah Garden Club’s beautiful acreage, it was a bed of zinnias  that attracted this Clouded Sulphur Butterfly (Lerema accius). As with many of the little skipper (Hesperiinae) relatives, it took some time for me to review our field guides and comfortably determine which skipper it is. Until we learn otherwise, we’re going to call this butterfly a Clouded Skipper.

We don’t see them in Western Pennsylvania. This southeastern U.S. species does work  its way up the Atlantic coastline, reportedly as far north as Connecticut. The butterfly is not believed to be winter hardy, and for most, it’s a one-way flight north. Rich Cech and Guy Tudor suggest that some may in fact winter over, but these may be of very limited number.

They are  Grass Skippers, so their caterpillars build leaf shelters and then consume the exposed leaf within. Pretty neat stuff.

All of this reminds me of how little we still know about the butterflies in the U.S.. Let’s ask our international followers, “How much is known about your country’s gossamer wing residents?”


Variegated Fritillary Butterfly

Variegated Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Mosquitoes were wolf-packing me as I moved along the dikes of this one-time rice farm. I was paying the price for my adventure. Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, is just a 25 minute drive from Tybee Island. I spent my mornings at this lush refuge, followed by lazy August afternoons at the beach, and then evenings exploring Savannah. If OFF had been 100% protective, this trip would have been perfect.

We’ve posted dorsal images of Euptoieta Claudia. This shot offers a view of the ventral wing coloration and form. The seriousness of this butterfly’s focus on eating nectar is one of several reasons for concluding that it’s a female. The wildflower is likely a Verbena. Clarification from one of my readers would be greatly appreciated.

Variegated Fritillaries favor the same habitat as do Gulf Fritillaries. Both butterflies are strikingly beautiful; bejeweled, if you will. I was so busy moving with my camera from one Variegated Fritillary to an equally comely Gulf Fritillary that I only later realized that my shield against mosquitoe bites was partially successful.

That’s what I love about Fritillary Butterflies. When the table is set with nectar-pumping wildflowers, these Brushfoots can be easily approached and photographed. They value the sweet nectar, and single-mindedly devour it. So find a fresh Fritillary, follow it to a nearby suitable bloom and follow our suggested Technique approach. It’s all worth it when eye-candy such as this butterfly is yours to enjoy and remember.



Georgia’s Beautiful Display of Brown and Yellowish-Orange in a Whirlabout Skipper Butterfly

Skipper Butterfly at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, SC

Good. This Whirlabout Skipper is absolutely “fresh.” He sports the “vivid” coloration described by Cech and Tudor in their wonderful book, Butterflies of the East Coast.

Where did we happen onto this beautiful display of brown and yellowish-orange? We found him at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina, just 15 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia.

I’ve always favored brown shoes, suits and ties and now, gorgeous brown skippers.

Polites vibex is a Southern species, so we had to come enjoy Savannah, Tybee Island beaches and this Natonal Wildlife Refuge to make its acquaintance.

Cech and Tudor describe how Whirlabouts prefer hot, sunny, exposed open spaces. This guy was in exactly such a place. The sun was powerful that morning, the mosquitoes were not especially shy and the ‘gators were lazily swimming along the extensive canals that bordered the trails of the refuge. At one time a rice plantation, Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a superb place to seek butterflies. The Viceroys, Gulf fritillaries, Variegated fritillaries and Skippers are so richly, sharply colored. I had one of those Thank you G-d moments. Albert Bierstadt and Ansel Adams and their ilk surely had such moments. And to think that such experiences are still possible, without jetting to Mongolia or Madagascar!