This is why I photograph butterflies, alot. There are moments that thrill, as when I find a rare butterfly, resplendent in extraordinary color, and itself fresh, just days out of its chrysalis. Unexpected moments when I come upon a butterfly that I’ve shot before, but those earlier exposures just did not satisfy my quest for ever finer images.
Then there are times like this, at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, in Eatonton, Georgia. There I am witnessing, witnessing beauty that just about takes my breathe away! A fresh pair of Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies, both just hours out of chrysalis, coupled together, motionless. The thoughts that run through my head? Many. Splendor in the Grass. ‘Under the Boardwalk.’ Inexplicably, ‘Oh Beautiful, For Spacious Skies, For Amber Waves Of Grain, For Purple Mountains Majesty Above The Fruited Plain, America, America, G-d Shade H-s Grace On Thee . . . . ‘
We have a Presidential Election here in the U.S.A in a few days, and its been unpleasant and full of vitriolic activity. This Swallowtail look? It relaxes me, and reminds that their job is to nurture, conserve and foster the expansion of our American G-d given riches. That’s the job of the President. So many before have neglected that responsibility. Teddy Roosevelt. Didn’t he model such thinking?
Here I was in Mission, Texas, when a rare butterfly had been spotted at the “Wall.” This scene was repeated a few times those 5 days. Know that such was almost unknown to me. Those 15 or more folks present at the time, and more coming after their telephone chain spread the word that a heretofore almost never seen in the USA butterfly was feeding on natives, was only the second time in my life that I’d been other than alone when I shoot and watch butterflies.
They were there because almost all of them now live nearby, drawn to relocate by the presence of the North American Butterfly Association’s National Butterfly Center near the border and the Center’s excellent staff. It didn’t hurt that friends and acquaintances have resettled nearby.
Me? I’ve been searching for butterflies for decades and wingedbeauty.com has been active for more than 9 years. I have been a member of NABA for years, though I cannot say that this closely knit group has ever done much more than accept my membership and its dues. Those unpleasant experiences years ago, when I sought to shoot the Regal Fritillary butterfly, almost begging the leadership to help me . . . and receiving zero response time and time again, have bristled those old Brooklyn street sensitivities.
I’m in central Georgia now, and continue to hunt for butterfly images alone, never encountering such a scene as you see here. It must be all for the good, for I barely leave a trace where I tred, mar nothing there and with the near infinite silence I work in, often achieve opportunities that just bring Joy! to me, and I hope at times to you.
This is the one that sent dozens of folks dashing to their cars. As they sped to the “Wall,” to those native bushes planted around Retama Village in Mission, Texas, many aware that their blood-pressure was heading up, most were euphoric, awaiting a chance to see this hairstreak, a Gold-Bordered hairstreak.
Why? The Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, U.S.A counts this one as a Rare find, one that is almost never seen in the United States.
Me? I appreciated my good fortune, meeting such a rare butterfly during Christmas week in Mission. I’d experienced this a handful of times that December week, a rare one is spotted, Mike and others send the word out via cell, and dozens and dozens of enthusiasts rush to see it.
This was the time the Brooklyn boy watched as I worked through the ring of watchers, my Macro- lens needing to get within 48 inches or less of the butterfly, unlike the rest, who all worked with long lenses. Yes, I did hear that I was felt to be “Selfish.” That? Brought this kiddo back to recalling my interesting youth, when we had to live amidst many potentially menacing guys, as in “Connected.” Truth be told, I’d sized up that mini-crowd, and as men will be, knew I could take them, one way or another.
Gold-Bordered hairstreaks unleash a flow of thoughts, for me at least.
My extensive research indicates that only one out of 180,000 Americans have ever even seen this one, the Gold-Bordered Hairstreak. For Brazilians, the French, Rumanians and Thais, the numbers decline precipitiously. The same is true for Sri Lankans, Guatemalans and North Koreans, that is the viewer numbers plunge to near one in 8.5 million.
I was thinking about this, as I recalled how men and women sped to the “Wall” entrance Retama Village, in Mission, Texas, when the text blast went out, super rare Gold-Bordered at “The Wall.” Folks expert in the butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley actually jumped in their cars to insure that they got a look at this Mexican native, in the United States.
What is it that made me fly to Texas to see new and rare insects at the National Butterfly Center near the border wall? What drives retired doctors, physicists, CPA’s, RN’s, teachers and officers in blue to dash over to catch a glimpse of a rare butterfly.
That most are esthetes, does that explain it? Yes? No?
This trail looked sooo promising. But, the border with Lebanon is not a benign boundary. Almost every minute on these Upper Galilee trails brought fresh, exciting butterflies. The temptation to think like a teenager quickly teased my thinking, i.e., What can really happen if I go some 200 feet past this Warning sign? Well, among other possibilities, violating this warning, and seeing a rare butterfly on that March 2015 day, could lead me a few steps off trail, to . . . a land mine! Or a kidnapping into the hands of Hezbollah. What’s a grown-up kid from Pittsburgh, ne’ Brooklyn worth? Brings to mind the Ransom of Red Chief, ’cause I’d be a lousy hostage.
I didn’t go past it. I’d been shooting butterflies since I arrived in the area, and had done well, with lots of images of those Protected Israeli Parnassians, Allancastria Cerisyi Speciosa.
Truth be told, I don’t speed, avoid narrow mountain roads, and am wise enough to stop at border signs, warning that a hot border is just ahead. Some butterflies live a charmed life, flying at belligerent borders and not seeing hikers or photographers, ever.