Who’s Seen A Regal Fritillary?

Regal Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

There surely were 30,000,000 or more Regal Fritillary Butterflies when George Washington was President of the United States. That’d be 30 million Regals flying east of the Mississippi River. I have no doubt that they flew in my old neighborhood, East Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York in 1770.

Today, they fly only on 2 military reservations from the Mississippi to the Atlantic Ocean. The first is in central Pennsylvania and the other, is in the State of Virginia. In those places, expansive pristine meadows grow, protected and nurtured by the U.S. military.

I can’t even guess how many Americans have ever seen this handsome butterfly, once found in the tens of millions, and now rare, with perhaps 2,000. eclosed each year.

I’d been determined to see Regals, and when I finally saw them at Ft. Indiantown Gap, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, they were even more beautiful than I expected. Really.

Why now? This Butterflyweed, a milkweed, is now in bloom just about everywhere, and this is the week that Regals Fritillaries make their appearance.

Jeff

A HolyLand Yellow

Large Salmon Arab Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Binyamina, Israel

We here in the USA have a butterfly that we see nearly everywhere, one that is so familiar that we hardly notice it. The Orange Sulphur flies in meadows and gardens. Seeing a fresh one? A real pick me up, no?

In the HolyLand (Israel)  a closely related yellow flies, the Large Salmon Arab butterfly (Madais fausta). It too loves to nectar on wildflowers and on garden blooms.

This male was seen north of Tel Aviv, in the village of Binyamina. I was visiting family there, and took a walk along farming roads, along the edges of orange, tangerine and grapefruit orchards. He was intent upon nectaring, and tolerated my Macro- approach some. Was it hot? Yes, some 91F Middle East hot, but the rewards for me were real and loved.

Jeff

That Urban Disadvantage

Common Wood Nymph Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Clay Pond, NY

It came to mind today, as it occasionally does. That growing up in Brooklyn, New York, in the city of New York. Our street, East 58th Street, was at the very edge of development in the 1940’s. North and west of my street, was fully, 100% built, nearly all with small brick row houses, one after another, like forever, until miles away, you gaped across the East River, at the Manhattan skyline.

At the edge of development meant that just around the corner from me, just past Lenny Oliker’s house, was an unbuilt lot, maybe 20% sylvan, the rest of the botany in that lot was alien botany. Across the street from there, Clarendon Road, was more undeveloped land, where (Believe it Not!) we once chased cottontail rabbits and found Black Widow Spiders.

Accelerate to now, 2019, and I reckoned today at the Great disadvantage all that meant for me, that Urban Disadvantage.

I now live in the town of Eatonton, 2 blocks from the county courthouse. Yesterday, Eatonton celebrated their 60th annual Dairy Festival yesterday. There are working dairy farms less than 2.5 miles from our house. Most here grew up on the parents’ farm or their grandparents’ farm. Many worked on farms while they were in high school. On their own lots, they grew up amongst butterflies, deer, raccoons, water moccasins and copperhead snakes, opossums, black vultures, wild hogs and boars, armadillos and . . . butterflies. Grandma often had a garden that was unforgettable to my friends today, and it was regularly visited by . . . butterflies.

My childhood? I have much difficulty remembering butterflies in those ’empty lots’ back in my childhood. Very few came, for 80% of the botany was aliens, and Doug Tallaway famously teaches that our butterflies and moths and bees just don’t know alien species, no matter how many decades those plants coexist with our butterflies, flies, moths, bees and wasps.

Those of you who grew up rural learned of and saw butterflies their entire life. They’ve developed foundational experience with their names, habits, preferences and life cycles.

Me? True I taught high school Biology in New York City’s Queens borough and in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,but . . . all that I know off butterflies had to be learned more recently, and still lacks the rich experiential familiarity of the so many of you who grew up in such as the Briar Patch. That Urban Disadvantage, unknown and a negative, here.

A very attractive Wood Nymph butterfly in the high wet meadow at Clay Pond in Frewsburg, New York, home of the famous naturalist, Barbara Ann Case.

Jeff

Imbibing Sweet Nectar In The Briar Patch

Male Black Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

The Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) achieved enormous growth there in the Briar Patch. Virginia’s tiny seeds produced 8 foot tall Tithonia. She’d tell you that yes, they were not native to Georgia, but, they were strong, robust sunflowers, easily tolerate the Piedmont’s long bone-dry summers, self-seeded and nourished legions of butterflies, year after year.

I’ve planted Mexican Sunflower here in my own Eatonton garden, and their vigorous growth and absence of pests enables them to provide nurture for butterflies from June to November. For the price of a packet of seeds, you get Tithonia that neatly fills whole corners of your sunny garden spots and summons squadrons of swallowtails, brush foot butterflies, hairstreaks and many skipper species.

I suppose that they must also make fine cut flowers for your home vases, and if grown in your front garden beds, they’ll have your neighbors asking, “What is that gorgeous big flowering plant you’re growing there?”

This Eastern Black Swallowtail is fully involved, methodically working this Tithonia flowerhead. His golden yellow flashes, blue patches and shot of red/red, against black wings and black body handsomely fitted with white spots, works nicely here with the developing Tithonia bud and sweet Tithonia flower, all set in a clump of Tithonia, that blocking the sunlight that brightens the rest of the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat.

The richness of plants and butterfly here is real and as with all we share, the color of it all, real-time.

Jeff

Why Get Down With This Blue?

Eastern-Tailed Blue Butterfly II photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

We see this ultra tiny blur of grayish-white, on a trail somewhere, or in our garden here in the Georgia Piedmont. Don’t we brush off the tendency to disregard this tiny butterfly, for almost each and every time this happens, we gather ourselves together and crouch down to see more. Is it an Eastern Tailed-Blue, or an Azure or maybe maybe an uncommon Blue butterfly?

While we are concluding that this one is an Eastern Tailed-Blue, we’re at the same time examining it for: fresh color, that pair of ‘tails,’ those pookie eyes matched with that snappy pair of striped antennae, those incredibly tiny legs, that look way strong enough to support such a diminutive body, and as here, a pair of very shmeksy! reddish-orange spots.

Next is the decision, with several fine images of Eastern Tailed-Blue Butterflies in the slide cabinet. Do we expose rather expen$ive Fuji Velvia 50 slide film, to try for quality, usable images of this comely beaut?

We were at Lynx Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio, and I sure did. Conditions were excellent, this butterfly posed so well, you never know when you will once again meet up with such a fine Blue and, who here has the strength to not try for a good shot of an exceptional individual?

Barbara Ann? Kelly? Curt? Melanie? Deepthi? Laura? Virginia? Jim? Cathy? Beth? Peg? Roxanne? Deepthi? Ken? Phil? Elisse? Leslie? Melissa Misconstrued? Joanne?

Jeff