Br’er Rabbit, Brooklyn & the Briar Patch

Briar Rabbit statue photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, Eatonton, GA

Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch II will soon be entering its 2nd year at the Eatonton, Georgia site. Virginia Linch and her band of volunteers, by necessity, had to move this Butterfly wonderland from the other side of town to this new, much larger location. Many, I included, were reluctant to make that move. I’d driven down from Pittsburgh in 2015, 2016 and 2017 just to shoot butterflies there.

Y’all showed sign of tiring of solely northeastern USA butterflies, even with a sprinkling of Israeli, Mississippi and Arizona Leps thrown in. The challenge was how to travel to 7 different Southern U.S. states, and without anyone to guide me, find dozens of southeastern U.S. butterflies. When I came across Virginias’s Facebook page, and learned of the 2-acre Wonder, I visited the Briar Patch Habitat. OMG! Two acres with several hundred butterflies aloft at any given time. Imagine that.

Virginia took this once thriving aluminum factory site, now a brownfield, and converted it into the best butterfly destination this side of the Mississippi River. I’ll not go into how she did it without any significant grants or financial Big Daddy, how they acquired hundreds of hostplants and who/how they got planted.

Br’er Rabbit here, greets you as you enter Briar Patch II. He hand carved from carefully chosen Florida swamp trees. Joel Chandler Harris’ series of childrens’ books tell the tales of the denizens of the old-time Briar Patch, right here in Eatonton. Written before the Civil War, he writes of the wit and cunning of this Br’er Rabbit, of the challenges presented by Br’er Fox, the lovable lumbering Br’er Bear and the lesson offered why Br’er Tortoise.

How do I know this? Back in Brooklyn, New York, I sat on my Mother’s lap, as she read me the Br’er Rabbit tales penned by that same Joel Chandler Harris. I’m told that I made her read them to me over and over and then again and again. Now when I pull into the Habitat’s Eatonton parking lot, there he is larger than life, Br’er Rabbit, and that evokes the good memories, back up there, some 840 miles north!

This Butterflies & Blooms Habitat will be exceptional in 2019, once those 7.7 million seeds sprout, and they put in an additional 359 hostplants and wildflowers.  Give me a call before you head out, won’t you?

Jeff

Gulf On Liatris

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Liatris photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife, GA

That August trip to Townsend, Georgia was fantastic. I photographed butterflies and more in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge ( a national birder destination ) and at Ft. Federica on St. Simons Island.

Go back in 2019? Oh, I hope. Little Metalmark butterflies and Eastern Pygmy butterflies eluded me, and I so miss these tiny winged beauties.

The coast of Georgia features a ‘necklace’ of very special refuges, and I never did get to Sapelo Island, Jekyll Island and  . . . .

My life will be forever richer for the sights and critters that I saw those 6 days, alligators, wood storks, egrets, great blue herons, green herons, rails and maybe 1,680. butterflies.

This was a big year for Gulf Fritillary butterflies, like this one, nectaring on resplendent Liatris blooms.

Good for you Georgia, successfully preserving so much of your Rich coastal habitat!

Jeff

Bergamots Now!

Bergamot Bloom photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania 7/31/14

Bergamot Bloom photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania 7/31/14

Bergamot is in bloom now. Raccoon Creek State Park in Hookstown, Pennsylvania has a more than 100 acre meadow that features a large stand of them. Be there at the right time in the morning, and you’ll enjoy the show: Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Great Spangle Fritillaries, Silver Spotted Skippers, Monarchs, Pipevine Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails will visit Bergamot for its nectar.

Those stands of Bergamot are so sweet to the eye. The sea of pinkish purple (?) is a crowd pleaser, though I’ve never been there to hear what others think of that view.

If you’re there between about 9:45 A.M. and 10:40 A.M. the butterflies arrive from all directions. I’ve long wondered what’s in the nectar that is obviously being pumped in those 55 minutes? I’d think it included several sugars, some proteins and trace hormones, pheromones and fragrant hydrocarbons. Got a degree in Biochem? What’s in the nectar of a Bergamot bloom? Jerry?

Jeff

Evermore Milkweeds

Rare Asclepias photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

This one was spotted in Lynx Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio. Angela and Joe served up its name, but I can’t now recall it. It’s a milkweed (“Whirled?”), though after decades of seeing Common Milkweed, this one defies and disrupts my formula for recognizing a milkweed. Butterflyweed, OK. Swamp milkweed, Sure. Just weeks ago I met my first White milkweed, and after minutes of ogling it, and got used to the reality of it.

This one though remains an enigma to me, as if G-d sought a milkweed to fill the role of ‘Clown’ of the North American milkweeds, and this one was summoned to center stage, and that was that, assignment filled, the Clown of the milkweeds . . .

Jeff