Why Do More And More People Seek Butterflies?

People viewing Gold-Bordered hairstreak butterfly at “The Wall,” photographed by Jeff Zablow in Mission, TX

The number of people who seek butterflies in the USA is growing. Some have made bold changes in their gardens, uprooting the tired traditional shrubs that can be traced back to Asia, and replacing them with butterfly hostplants and plants that produce the nectar beloved by butterflies. Others have begun to look for butterflies here and there, and have began participating in local annual counts. Many remain on the lookout for speakers at their local Audubon Centers or Native Plant Societies.

The joys and thrills of nurturing have caused thousands to collect caterpillars in their gardens, and raise them in protected enclosures . . . that to avoid heavy losses to predators and disease.

This group had sped to the “Wall” at the entrance to the Retama Village development community, when the call went out (on their cell network) . . . that a rare Tropical Greenstreak butterfly was seen in those tall shrubs, and was still! there, nectaring methodically. Many of these folks retired or relocated to this Lower Rio Grande part of Texas, just to be near friends who also pursue butterflies, and they move there to ogle the great variety of rare butterflies than fly up from Mexico.

Why are the numbers of butterfly enthusiasts swelling?

My thinking?

  • Butterflies appeal to our desire to protect and nurture. They are tiny, delicate and vulnerable. So many want to help them, benefit from the satisfaction of enabling their ongoing survival
  • Butterflies are compellingly beautiful. Unlike Tiffany’s, Cartier, the riches of Christie’s & Sotheby’s, butterflies are within reach, not subject to the barrier’s that money throws up
  • So many of us have known butterflies all our lives, in our neighborhood, nearby undeveloped land and in our literature.
  • We know that butterflies, many species of them are being seen in reduced numbers annually. Some, like the Monarch are thought to be at great risk. We worry that we may be the last generation to . . .
  • Birders have been searching for birds for many years now, many have almost ‘seen them all,’ and butterflies’ convert’ them, draw those birders, presenting new opportunities to open up a whole new world of fliers.
  • There is a sublime appeal in this butterfly pastime. Monied or near broke, butterfliers don’t need fancy hotels, tony restaurants are not needed either, dress is relatively inexpensive, as are binoculars and cameras.
  • Those who want to spend money wantonly, can find butterfly seeking tours to Costa Rica, Brazil . . . well to many corners of the world
  • For those who don’t go boating, golf, and have tired of sitting on this or that international beach, butterfly hunting is a whole new pursuit, and an active one at that.
  • There’s a sense of newness here, and a Big factor is, You never know what you might see, as these folks demonstrate in Mission, Texas. For sure you might see one not seen for 10 years, now that’s a rush.

I pause at this punchlist, noting that I could have gone on, again sharing my experiences at Pre-Sale Exhibitions at New York City auction galleries. That’s what launched me. Frieda A”H would try on multi-million dollars rings, broaches, necklaces, bracelets, just a foot or two away from me, that in the 1980’s. I have never seen Magnificent Jewelry  more beautiful than a Monarch or a Malachite or that fresh Common Mestra that flew just before I could cop my first exposure! A fresh Mourning Cloak sends me into a near swoon, Cathy, Kenne, Barbara Ann, Patti, Virginia, Marcie, Beth, Jim, Angela, Ian, Sylbie, Deepthi, Ginny, Laura, Peggy, Susan, Leslie, Laurence and . . .

Jeff

Macro- Shooters Wait Your Turn?

Tropical Greenstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at 'The Wall,' Mission, TX

While we were at the “Wall” (the entrance to the Retama Village walled development in Mission, Texas) the word went out, “Tropical Greenstreak!” A cell network exists, and the cars began arriving, more and more cars pulled up on the grass. This is a ‘stray’ to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Hundreds of folks have moved here from different parts of the U.S. Fortunate to retire healthy, they chose to resettle here, and enjoy the squadrons of common, rare, and very rare butterflies that show up here.

A squad of enthusiasts surrounded the bushes that this tiny Gossamerwing chose to nectar on. They all formed a semicircle, most some 10 feet from our star here. All were using long lenses. Uh oh! Jeff shoots . . . Macro-. It got interesting. I cannot focus on this beauty from 10 feet away., Macro-, for such a tiny, tiny butterfly can produced images 1:1 . . . as long as you are no farther than say 24″ (inches) from this Tropical green streak.

So, the kid from Brooklyn went low, and kind of duck walked under the enthusiasts, and approached, too low to block their cameras. I asked G-d the whole time, please don’t let this gem fly because of me!! Sure many of you have seen me in photos shared here on wingedbeauty.com. I’m in my majority, it’s true. But like many guys, I think young, and truth be told, the scrapper of a street kid is still to be found within.

I sensed that the small crowd behind me was, how can I say, “upset.” Me, I was as careful as if I was trying to snatch raw wildebeest from a napping lioness. This hairstreak did not flee, and continued off and on to nectar.

I stepped back as carefully as I had gone in, low and robotic. I stuck around there for many minutes, the crowd continued to change as some came and so I went. I went in again, for with film, you never know what you reap. Again my old street sense told me that the folks behind me were the other side of upset with me. Macro- folks are just not what the locals have much patience with. I shot-out again, and once again backed away, low and pleased.

Later I asked someone who had been there, what the folks were thinking, when Boy Brooklyn made his approaches? “Selfish” is what they were thinking (sharing?). That bit, because I don’t ever want to be thought of that way.

Why did I do what I did? 1) I had to if I wanted to see this butterfly (I don’t carry binos, too much weight, bulk). 2) Our audience here grows, steadily. I want You to see and examine and admire these butterflies, and to do that, Jeff went in low and straight, and if this sweetie had been a lioness, I’d for sure have a good 18% chance of surviving for another day.

Brooklyn stokes the anger of the Retama vigilantes.

Jeff

Tropical Greenstreak in the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Tropical Greenstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at 'The Wall,' Mission, TX

Again there was excitement in the air, at the ‘Wall’ that forms the entrance to Retama Village in Mission, Texas. An uncommon butterfly, a hairstreak, was nectaring.

Many of you saw the crowd that surrounded this Tropical Greenstreak, in an earlier recent post. Some whispered that even though it was not 100% fresh, it was exciting to finally see one.

This Gossamerwing was very tiny. Once again I went in low and close with a Macro lens and risked who knows what? This Tropical Greenstreak did not flee while I was close to it. It stayed put, and I didn’t have to face the “Lords of Flatbush’s” wrath.

It can be dangerous shooting photographs in a crowd.

Two miles from Mexico, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Whoda thunk it?

Jeff

Gold Rush Butterfly

Gold-bordered hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at 'The Wall,' Mission, Texas

I was the ‘new kid’ at the ‘Wall’ that today. It seems that we were at the National Butterfly Center, seeing a paucity of butterflies, when a blanket alert was received, that a very, very, very special butterfly was spotted nearby, at the ‘Wall.’ To the Budget Rental car we rushed, and drove the mile or so to the ‘Wall.’

Background is called for here. There is such an abundance of amazing butterflies in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, such that hundreds, maybe thousands of folks like you or I has moved here over these decades, and made the LRGValley their home. Several developments have been built, especially for such butterfly fans. One of these developments, Re________ (I somehow did not memorize that comfortable name) shrewdly landscaped with butterfly friendly natives, shrubs and trees. The development is walled, all around. The entrance to the development was very wisely planted with excellent choices for nectar craving butterflies. This entrance is locally known by hundreds as ‘The Wall.’

We rushed to the Wall, parked, and joined several people encircling a butterfly that one gentlemen, Mike, well known here, said he had not seen here since 1968!

As we watched this Gold-Bordered Hairstreak, more and more cars arrived, and the circle grew.

The backstory? I shoot Macro- and all the rest were armed with long lenses. They stood their customary 10 feet away from the tiny miracle of a find. Me? 18 inches would have been ideal, but I didn’t want to make that approach, for if it I caused this uber rare butterfly to bolt, there’s no knowing what that crowd would have done to me.

I made my approach, very low to not block anyone’s view. I carefully retreated after. Cars kept arriving, with new and excited Lepidopterists. Minutes later, the Gold-bordered Hairstreak was still there, moving about the bloom, leisurely. I decided to go in with my low approach one more time. As I did, I asked the Ab-ve to please keep the sweetie in place, because at this point in time, the Kid from Brooklyn can no longer take on 10 at once! G-d listened, and I a second time slowly stepped back.

The postscript? I was told that my actions disappointed those there, and those who were on their way to see this miracle at ‘The Wall.’

Me? I really made an effort to come in low and slow, to not approach as I normally would, and to bring home an image of a butterfly seen in the USA once or twice every 2 decades, or less. I had you in mind, honest.

(This episode did pique the Joe Pesci in me, more than a tad.)

Jeff