Who Choreographs the Zebras?

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

Life when I was a kid? Tough. I was always thinking, thinking that there was no way that I’d ever not succeed in life. I would not ever have a house with empty cupboards. With no one to offer my guidance and direction as I approached my post-teens, I knew one thing, I’d alway have bread on my table, a roof over our heads, and savagely product my kids, should I be so lucky.

It all worked out, I married very very happily and we had 4 children. I was determined to smooth my rough edges. I read the Safire column in the Sunday New York Times magazine carefully, pursued my interest in fine art, and we purchased season tickets to the American Opera and the New York City Ballet, at Lincoln Center.

When Virginia suggested that Mike Barwick would agree to lead me to the Zebra Heliconian butterflies that lived in a grove of Passionflower near his home in Kathleen, Georgia,  I jumped at the opportunity.

I tell you, when we hiked to that place, and within minutes the Zebras flew in to nectar at those Passionflower vines, I was transfixed. Their gentle, elegant flight so evoked the memories of those operas, with Frieda A”H (Of Blessed Memory). The beauty of the dance of the ballerinas . . . It was as if they studied under the Zebras, and vice versa.

Frieda has Left Us, and it’s clear to me, W-o choreographs the flight of these mesmerizing butterflies, Cathy, Susan, Leslie, Virginia, Melanie Jim, Deepthi, Lois, Marcie, Anthony, Lauren, Sylbie, Debi, Margaret, Kenne, Roger, Angela, and Barbara Ann.

Jeff

Gulfs . . . No. 1 Or # 2 In The Southeast

Gulf fritillary butterfly sipping nectar on thistle, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

These 4 years shooting butterflies in Georgia have been a joy. So many butterflies, they flying in rich, verdant habitat, from Cloudland Canyon to Jekyll Island. Best of all there are so many of them.

Used to be that I’d struggle to find butterflies in southwestern Pennsylvania. That made finding a fresh butterfly a very exciting experience. In Georgia, the fraction of fresh, beautiful butterflies is so much higher.

Which southern butterflies are most numerous Jeff? Gulf Fritillary Butterflies and Cloudless Sulphur butterflies, so says my hundreds of hours in the field.

Do you get glazed over when you have seen dozens of Gulf fritillaries in a single morning? Nope. Huh? I am forever searching for fresh Gulf Frits, and that accomplished, I want to capture an image of the sunlight reflecting from the dazzling ventral white spots. Not easy to get. Not easy.

Here our Gulf Frit’s lower wing spots are 100% brightened by the morning sun, and the thistle flowers dazzle too. Oakey Woods Wildlife Management Area, guided by Mike.

Jeff

The Ballerinas of Kathleen

Zebra heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Kathleen GA

Just one week ago, Virginia and Bartow invited me to follow them from Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge (central Georgia) to Mike Barwick’s home in Kathleen, also Georgia. Deflated ’cause of the sudden fail of my long trustworthy Canon 100mm/2.8 macro- lens, I thanked them but instead headed back to Eatonton.

I did so much mixed feelings, for last year I made the drive south on I75 to Kathleen, and was . . . well transformed back to a time ago when we had orchestra seats at the American Ballet in Lincoln Center. Mike’s home led to a trail that took us to a magical spot. Mike assured me that Zebra heliconian butterflies were flying, right there, amongst all of those passionflower vines. We waited, and they appeared. Oh My Goodness. They fly with the grace and beauty of accomplished ballerinas, or should I reverse it and paint the picture of prima ballerinas crowding around a Zebra heliconian, studying its every move? Only the flight of a Monarch, in my experience, rivals this sensuous and effortless flight.

When I returned to Eatonton later that day, my hunch was correct, Mike’s small population of Zebras was just about where Cech & Tudor (Butterflies of the East Coast) showed “isolated colonies.”

When I chanced it, and went repeatedly into the thick growth to capture closer images of the Zebras, I suddenly felt, “OUCH!!” I rushed out of that spot, and enjoyed my first PaInFuL experience with fire ants. Tiny Mike Pescis, they.

Last week Virginia and Bartow did get to Kathleen, met Mike, but discovered that it was a  bit too early for the Zebras to be flying.

Heliconius charitonius. They who evoked such Sweet memories, with Frieda A”H . . . .

Jeff

Oakey Woods Darner Reminisce

Dragonfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

Winter is waning here in Pittsburgh, what with a spate of high 50’s predicted for next weekend. Facebook Friends show every sign of champing at the bit, anxious to see Winter ’17 ‘git, and Spring ’17 slide into place.

Add me to those roles, as I review my ‘Add Media’ library of yet un-shared images. This one jumped out at me, another fine memory of working the trails at Oakey Woods Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen (That name!), Georgia. Mike was my guide, that made possible by Virginia.

How I too await the trails! How much I look forward to see darners, many, many different species of darners, as I scan the trail’s edge for butterflies, as they taught us to do, back when it looked like we’d be sent to ‘Nam. They chose not to send us, but that method of searching the perimeter remains with me, and so do the memories.

I have goals for 2017, and hope that wingedbeauty shares a bounty of beauty soon, real soon.

Jeff

Giant on Thistle at Oakey Woods

Giant swallowtail butterfly sipping nectar from thistle, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

A frozen moment in time, caught at Oakey Woods Wildlife Management Area. Mike and I were working the trails, hot, dry trails through Oakey Woods, he focused on flora, I scoping for butterflies.

This patch of thistle showed up, and we paused there, anticipating the traffic you see in this region, at Krogers or Publix. Sure enough butterflies came in and left. This Giant Swallowtail flew in, and, as they do, nectared furiously on the thistle flowerhead. I split my time well, spellbound and again determined to get this compelling scene on film. Appraisal? Like the thistle here, and like the Giant, wings nicely played with translucent sunlight and that left eye.

In Kathleen, Georgia, 738 miles from my Pittsburgh home, with a butterfly that I have seen twice in 27 years. Pleased to be in tow with Mike, a very committed, very serious botanist, who enabled, with great patience, my dilly dallying, each and every time I stopped to see unusual butterflies.

I am enjoying these experiences more and more often this last few years. Making trails with top naturalists, some birders, some orchid enthusiasts, and others botanists. Way too much fun!

Jeff