Caron 5

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto Canada

I’m counting, Caron, counting the many reasons that I select this image as one of my 5 favorites. This gorgeous Mourning Cloak butterfly. Where’d I meet this elusive beauty? Smack-dab! in a large park in the city of Toronto, Ontario. How I met it, I will not forget.

Mourning Cloaks are few and far between in southwestern Pennsylvania. They are solitary, and mostly fly in the Spring and in the Fall. Their preference is on or about trails that pass through dappled shade, near running stream and rivulets. I’ve posted earlier how that Mourning Cloak, months after I lost Frieda A”H, flew above my head, some 70 or so feet up, then disappeared out of sight. ???? It flew to my hat, and rested there. Next it flew up again, to about 70 feet, and flew down the trail some 100 feet, turned and flew over my head once again, at the same hight of 70 feet. Then . . . it was gone. I lost it all, and cried like a baby, I did. I had lost my love and best friend, and my whole being made a connect with that Mourning Cloak, in a way that defies explanation.

When I began to date, after that void in my life, I began seeing a new friend in Toronto. Six hour plus drive from Pittsburgh. On that certain trip, I brought my camera. We went for a walk in a pretty Toronto park, West Don Park, I think. I notice a modest break in the bushes that lined a walk, and told her I’d be back in a second . . . I pushed through that likely deer passageway through the heavy shrubbery and I entered a small meadow, one I will never forget. It was almost filled with Common Milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca). They bore round huge flower heads, and on those extraordinary blooms were squadrons of Mourning Cloaks, and skippers and other butterflies. Loaded. I was in a kind of butterfly shock. All, or nearly all were fresh and comely.

This is my favorite from that magical meadow in the center of Toronto. I had for Oh! so long wanted a Mourning Cloak image that boasted their rich color, the maroon of the wings, the eye-popping blue spots of the wing margins and the lemon-yellow of the wing edges.

And there is the very real Sigh! I feel, recalling a Mourning Cloak so beautiful that its escape, just as I was now down on the floor of Nichol Road Trail continues to sort of haunt me. It had flown to the perpendicular bit of rock at the side of the trail, and posed there, a sight for Happy eyes. I’m down on my tummy, raising my Canon, and . . . it flew!!!

A OMG! Mourning Cloak moves me, for sure it does.

Jeff

Oh Canada!

White Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Toronto, Canada, International. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

It’s been far too long since I’ve seen these beauties! This White Admiral Butterfly wowed! me in that amazing park in the middle of Toronto, Canada. I was there visiting a new friend, and when we went to that mid-sized city park, I saw this tiny path off of the main walk, dropped off into it, and entered a Shanghrai Lai. A pocket meadow filled with common milkweed and other blooms. Wowza! On them were more mourning cloaks then I had ever seen before, as well as other fresh butterflies.

Then this flash of sharp white, and my first ever White Admiral ( Limenitis anthemis a. ). Happy was I to add this to my life List.

These last 3 years have finally, finally brought me new friends, in diverse places, who actually answer my tentative: ‘What’s it like to seek butterflies where you are?’ with “What’s  it like? Why don’t you get your bahookee (hope that’s a civil word) over here and see for yourself!” That’s how I’ve gotten to shoot out Georgia, Ohio and Maryland.

Canada has many butterflies that I have never yet seen, or have seen once, worn and bird struck . . . but no one yet to show me a trail here, a meadow there, a swamp, rocky outcrop, fen or bog ( I hear tell that they have many bogs ).

So I wait. Oh Canada!!!

Jeff

Hello Again

White Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Toronto, Canada, International. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

Seven years is a very long time. Yesterday morning, June 3rd, I checked out of my cottage at Chapman State Park (in the Allegheny National Forest Reserve) before check-out time, and worked the trail that begins in the park and then continues in a State Game Land. Tiger Swallowtails (all male) flying at top speeds, Little Wood Satyrs, Pearl Crescents, then Red-Spotted Purple butterflies, almost all of them taking minerals on the trail floor.

Whoa! One of them is not a red-spotted purple, but instead their more northern relative, the White Spotted Admiral. Breaking my own rules, I continued photographing well  after noontime. To the end of that fieldwork, along came Jeff, geocaching. He rode a bicycle, and we stopped and talking. Both of us retired teachers, me city schools and he in a small western New York high school that graduates 20 seniors each year. He recalled Sally’s (a friend) sad battle with cancer, and I Frieda’s (A”H) sad battle with cancer. Then he biked on, and I continued finding white admirals.

I saw about 5 or 6 of them. I would approach them on the trail, robotically (see our Technique feature) and almost ever time it would fly low to another place, some 30 feet away, or fly in nearby bushes. Sometimes one would fly on a low hanging branch and that was much appreciated.

This image was taken in Toronto, Ontario on July 17, 2008. My new images from today’s shoot at Allegheny National Forest Reserve must first go to Kansas, then be scanned here in Pittsburgh. If I have captured any good ones, I’ll surely share them ASAP. Ah the joys of shooting Fuji slide film.

Jeff

Winter Antidotes I

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto

Bitter cold, bone-chilling wind, always the threat of snow flurries, or even more disarming, snow. This New York, cum Pittsburgh boy has known northeast winters throughout his life.

15 years of seeking butterflies, seriously, has added another negative to my winter list. No butterflies (wild).

Let’s share this as the first of a number of winter antidotes. After all, these Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis Antiopa) are generally the very first to be seen, and that’s often during the last week in February, sometimes with much snow on the ground.

So friends, for those go-getters who are willing, it may be just a modest 54 days plus or minus, until our first northeastern butterflies take wing.

How? Don’t most require a minimum of 60 F to fly? Yes, most do, but this butterfly flies when it is much colder than that. Then how can the manage without nectar about? Mourning cloaks enjoy sugary sap dripping from maples and other trees, and they food on scat.

54? OK.

Jeff

 

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto Canada

Toronto, Canada. I was visiting Toronto which is clean, welcoming and beautiful. Along with my wide angle lens, I often bring along my Macro- lens on trips which include photography. I try to keep my Canon camera as busy as possible, and I ask around if there are any nearby parks in the city, parks that might host a population of butterflies. Yes, I was told, why don’t you drive to West Don Park? It is an easy 10 minute drive from my hosts. I was blessed with light traffic and courteous drivers. My Pennsylvania license plates provided me with quite a bit of latitude once it was noted that I was a visitor.

West Don Park? Bingo! A gold mine of butterflies that particular week in mid-July.

In Western Pennsylvania I encounter Nymphalis Antiopa infrequently in the spring and even less often in the fall months. Often, the individual butterflies I see are worn and show evidence of failed attacks from predators. This morning in West Don was sunny, no wind and milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca) was in bloom. Three Mourning Cloak butterflies were eating nectar on a single milkweed plant. OMG! Back home I rarely see them nectaring, and those that I do approach, flee once I am within ten feet. Nymphalis Antiopa in Toronto allowed me to approach and photograph from just 18 inches away, and they were sizable butterflies. My heart must have been pounding! I was in a heaven of Mourning Cloak butterflies.

These butterflies had fresh colors and an absence of  significant wing damage. Their colors were a rich, rich maroon; carribean islands blue, and sunflower yellow. This image captures many of those striking hues.

Is this a candidate for being my favorite butterfly? I answer with a sheepish y-e-s. Our two earlier Mourning cloak posts do hint at my little secret.

Canada is the wildlife wonder that I long understood you to be. Mourning Cloaks photographed while eating nectar. Can you imagine?

August will soon be upon us. Can our Canadian followers suggest a suitable park, with a rich butterfly population, that is within driving distance of Pittsburgh, Pa?  Toronto was a 6.5 hours drive.

Jeff