Winter Antidotes III

Desert Orangetip Butterfly at White Tank Mountains, AZ
Disregard the slightly cold weather outside your door. It may be 9F this very moment in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but, soon all that will change. Do you question me? What do I have to support that? Spring is on its way, have no doubt about it. The $800,000,000. industry that sends dozens of catalogs, catalogs offering myriad choices of perennials, seeds, bushes, vines, and trees began mailing their offerings at the stroke of midnight on New Years. They are not one to waste money. If you’re getting those catalogs, then Spring ’15 is on its way.

Examine this Winter Antidote. It was March, and central Arizona had above average rainfall January and February. The desert was abloom, seas of wildflowers, all exuberant because moisture was suddenly abundant. Me, I was there, visiting family and keen to get my camera to work. Temperature was in the mid-80’s F, comfortable for Arizona.

Whom did I meet, at White Tank Mountains Regional Park, none other than this Desert Orangetip butterfly (Anthocharis Cethura). Not all that surprising, because this beauty is known for making an appearance after winter rains. A common Arizona species? No. Considered uncommon and unpredictable. A desert butterfly of the southwestern corner of the U.S..

So linger here just one more moment. A desert butterfly, met in March, west of Phoenix. A precious gem of a flyer, enjoying near ideal conditions in a desert that for the moment defies the criteria of desert.

Nursery catalogs, longer days, desert butterflies flying anew. Spring will be here, in the East, soon. Jeff will take his macro- from his backpack, load his Fuji slide film (ASA’s 50/100), and G-d willing step onto Colorado, Georgia, Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Ontario and Israel. Hey, maybe even get to Dolly Sods and Buzzard Swamp. Seems I have some friends in fantastic places!

If you know that butterflies exist, then I tell you, Spring is a ‘comin!


A Man Can Dream….

Arizona arroyo habitat photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Tank Mountains Regional Park, AZ

Forgive me, but at this very moment it is +/- 14F here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with flurries occurring here and there. The cars moving outside my windows are doing so tentatively, and many of those drivers are driving through the snowy boulevard with much apprehension.

Skipping through our images poised for posting here, I HAD to stop and soak in the warmth, or actually the heat shooting out from this enticing scene, in an arroyo in the White Mountains Regional Park, 25  minutes or so southwest of Sun City West, Arizona. Umm, umm, umm! We are observing this spot at 9:30 in the morning during the first week of March, in 2008. The winter that had just ended was an unusually wet one, and in the 90 degree morning, the wildflowers blanketed the Park.

It was a good morning for observing butterflies, a good morning for drinking in the diversity and beauty of this wonderfully arid region, and it was personally a very good morning for me…very recently widowed.

Very soon, we and much of the rest of the United States will see this frigid blast end, and we will dream of arroyos, and bogs, and trails through sylvan woods, and just as we see here, wildflowers…everywhere.


Arizona Thriller

Arroyo Wildflowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Mountains Regional Park, AZ

There are so many startling views when the boy from Brooklyn cum Pittsburgh hikes through the low mountains of White Tank Mountains Regional Park. This Ain’t Beaver County, Pennsylvania. The sense of excitement rises and falls as I make my way around the boulders that floor the arroyo that I’ve traversed on at least 3 trips west. We have Black bear and bobcat here. Truth be told I’ve never seen either in these last 13 years in the field. After successfully navigating Brooklyn in my teens and NYC later on, you do kind of get a little cocky, kinda like Mr. Pesci of the movies.

But here in the arroyo, there could be mammals and reptiles and insects and birds and arachnids that I’ve never gone toe to toe with. That added real spice and expectation to this region. Many years ago I visited a refuge roughly  northwest of Sun City West. It was in the  desert, but was unique, with a small stream running through it. That available moisture sustained an unusual community of plants and animals. That morning I had it in my head that I wanted to photograph peccary, native smallish wild pigs. I chose an open spot on the bank of this stream, because across the stream, opposite me was a small beach-like embankment. If peccary came early that morning  to drink, I’d get them with my long lens.

So I sat there for about an hour, motionless,  waiting. It was just luscious there, beautiful. Then my thinking (I’m  always thinking) moved to OMG! Isn’t this Arizona? Haven’t I had my back (in my formative years in Brooklyn, you always had to know who/what was behind you) to thousands of acres of wild Arizona for about an hour. I remembered the very recent news stories, reporting tragic cougar incidents in not too far away California. A CHILL shot down my spine. I sprung up from my claimed spot. Forget peccary. This is new territory, son.

Now this image has tickled my memory for some time. I should have marked it when the slide was developed. It was March, my wife’s battle with Cancer had worsened. I was a Mess. This was much needed change of scenery. So much here was brand new to me. Did I see butterflies nectaring on these blooms? No. Back to that same note. I was there to work to reconstruct myself and photograph butterflies in arid Arizona. This wildflower introduced itself to me. I was much impressed with its beauty and form. I shot away with fair result. Beauty is very therapeutic.


Arizona Arroyo

White Mountains Regional Park in Phoenix, AZ photographed by Jeff Zablow

Southwest Airlines flew me from Pittsburgh to Phoenix, Arizona. Depart from the temperate eastern United States to the southwestern desert that’s most of Arizona. Oak and maple slip away from my view, replaced soon by cactuses and a host of plants that are new to me.

Here in the White Mountains Regional Park, I park my rental car and hike to this arroyo (dry river bed). I’ve been here before. It is a source of fascination for me and here I’ve found a large number of butterflies.

That’s the wonder and mystery of this habitat. Hiking in an arroyo is generally not promoted. If there were to be an instant storm above, there is Big risk of raging floodwaters surging down through the bone-dry arroyo, and you’d risk being swept away. Gone. So the element of distant danger, even on such a day as this, is understood.

We’ve noted the relative abundance of butterflies in earlier arroyo posts. I’ve not studied arroyos. Are there aquifers resting below? Is that why plants endure the dry arroyo bed? Do the steep banks of the arroyo carry down the morning dew? Is there morning dew? Let us hope that we will find answers to these questions, from Comments made by our Arizona friends.

Working the rock strewn arroyo, you are constantly reminded of the presence of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, spiders and more. They peek out at you, or dart away as you quietly traverse the rocks. There is scat here and there, both tiny scat and sightings of considerable scat. I found both herbivore scat and carnivore scat. I walk this arroyo in the morning. Who and what move in it during the black night?

I like the arroyo. It never disappoints.