Handsome Eastern!

Black Swallowtail photographed by Jeff Zablow in Traci Meadow, Fayette Township, PA

We were in Traci’s Meadow (Fayatte Township in southwestern Pennsylvania). At the top of the gentle rising land nearby, a new development of houses stood. Traces Meadow? You see it here, lush, vibrant and full of wildflowers. Traci shared that they developer of the nearby homes wanted to extend his building to this vulnerable meadow, but was for the moment blocked by environmental issues.

This male Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) few in, and he sports fresh, spectacular coloration. His yellow pm spot band is unusually extensive and bolder than most, and his sup apical yellow spots, at the front on that left forewing, are positioned somewhat differently. He is his own butterfly, adorned boldly to catch the eye of females.

I’ll need your help in ID’ing the wildflower he is on. It must be a fine nectar pump of a flowerhead, for he remains on it long enough for me to score an acceptable image.

At the time I told Traci that I soooo wished that some conservation group would jump at the opportunity to seize this meadow as a forever conserved refuge, for it was rich in butterflies and so much more.


Prime Meadow Habitat . . . Doomed? Partial View

Traci Meadow Trail photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fayette Township, PA

Some two weeks ago, we posted Prime Meadow Habitat . . . Doomed?  You saw the view to the north of Traci’s Meadow, looking to the homes built at the crest of the gently rising meadow. Here you can see the path cut through the west edge of the meadow, ending at Partridge Road. Traci, who lives just out of view, across the road, brought me to this gem of a meadow, presumably historically linked to a much earlier time.

We exceeded 120 views of this particular blog post that day. Folks from near and very far away saw and mulled over this doomed acreage, another doomed meadow.

Traci and I speculated if this would tickle the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy or some John Bears Firtipton, who would hesitate not 1 minute, and have their downtown Pittsburgh legal eagles purchase this sweet spot, just 8 miles from their lofty office windows.

Nah. It seems like everyone is resigned to lose more meadow. No Joan of Arc in sight. Sad is the word, isn’t it?


Prime Meadow Habitat . . . Doomed?

Traci Meadow with Development In Sight, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fayette Township, PA

This meadow, one I know as Traci’s Meadow, is just some 6 or 7 miles from downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Traci invited me to see it and marvel also at Traci’s Kelso Swamp, 700 feet down the road. This meadow was lush, full of wildflowers . . . and loaded with early September 2015 butterflies. Loaded.

There I was, my second day there. I remembered the day before and how Traci reluctantly explaining that those houses in the background were new. This lovely meadow would soon be destroyed. Houses are going to be built on it.

Meadows are vanishing habitats, steadily snatched from all of us, week by week, here and there. Now I know that this is private property, and I respect the rights of private property owners. But, we are a Rich country, these United States of America, and we can afford (Yes we can) to repurchase and protect vital habitats for our kids and our grandkids.

This meadow haunts me, and I loathe the day that Traci (who lives just across the road) emails me that ‘dozers . . . Ugh!


Preening Between Kills

Praying Mantis Preening photographed by Jeff Zablow in Traci Meadow, Fayette Township, PA

There were lulls in the butterfly sightings in Traci’s Meadow. Those breaks in the action usually sent me off the trail, into the meadow of golden goldenrod. September 2015, and the late summer killers were out in good numbers: Argiopes (large garden spiders) and Praying Mantises. A day or two before, I joked that Pennsylvania spider webs tasted just like Georgia spider webs. More truth than joke.

This Praying mantis (Mantis Religiosa) was slowly cleaning her mouthparts and forelimbs. She didn’t mind my close approach much. Supported by the sturdy goldenrod stalk, that first meal must have been OK for the moment, but she would soon assume the frozen statue-like position, for as long as it took to capture her next flying, crawling, jumping, wiggling prey.

Jeff the young boy tried to capture many such insects by hand, back then when development in Brooklyn had temporarily stopped at the end of east 58th Street. That invincible thing, that boys feel for that short stretch before adulthood. My report back after trying a hand capture a praying mantis, without harming it? Never try this, for believe it or not, those forelimbs close vise-like, digging its spikes into your fingers, and it hurts like . . . well it really hurts.

Fascinated by insect diversity,