Anxious Monarch Watchers

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

She was the only butterfly that did that. As I approached her, on that spent wildflower head, I slowly raised my macro-lens toward her. She did it. She turned her head to the right, and looked at me. It never happened before and it hasn’t happened since. What do you make of a butterfly that did what 314,295 haven’t done? I was surprised, very surprised.

I haven’t seen a Monarch yet, this year, in 2016. When I travel to Maryland next week, will I see my first? Will that happen in Frick Park, my neighborhood park here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? Must I wait for the first week in June, when I will be in Chapman State Park and Allegheny National Forest and then, when I’m doing a field walk at the Jamestown Audubon Center on June 3rd?

Danaus plexxipus, has given us fits in recent years. Americans are concerned about our economy, our role in the world, jobs, job security, and the education our children are getting in our beloved public schools. We added to that long list, a legitimate concern that we could lose the inspirational arrival and departures of Monarch butterflies like this one. Social share a photo of a 4th grade class delicately handling monarch caterpillars, and hear a multitude of inspired sighs from millions who love this American butterfly and the Monarch caterpillar life cycle.

I’ve seen celebrities in person: Lloyd Bridges, Mike Tyson, Diana Ross and Kirk Douglas come to mind. Meeting a Monarch excites me as much or more. Honest.


Butterfly Opps . . .

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa - Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap. (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

At the front of this fraction of the 130 people who came from near and far (Maryland, at the least) to see and marvel over Regal Fritillary butterflies, I enjoyed (no, really enjoyed) every moment of this July 10th, 2015 field opp at Ft. Indiantown  Gap’s Annual Butterfly Tour. Joseph Hovis and Dave McNaughton combined to make this a spectacular outing. July 9th, stormy, tornado warnings out. The day you see, sunny, warm, no wind, moderate humidity. Their staff and volunteers shepherded all of us effectively. Jake Fronko, an Environmental Science staffer, provided much background information, and once there were 3 of us, often ahead of the others, Jake was a keen spotter. My images are back from Kansas, and include several good ones, including mating Regals. There are not enough of these opportunities available. If there are more than I am aware of, why aren’t they know to me, us? Done effectively, as this one sure was, there is minimal impact on habitat, and maximum field education of a whole lot of earnest supporters of the environment. American Butterflies (Spring/Summer 2015) arrived in the mailbox recently. This NABA magazine features Definitive Destination: Big Bend WMA, Florida by David Harder, Virginia Craig, Dean Jue and Sally Jue. It is now my plan to visit there in August. Three days there could expand my life list of butterflies big time. My only visits to Florida were in 1962, when I and another loco hitched from Binghamton, NY to Miami (and nearly got killed, lynched more than once) and in 1978 when I flew to Miami, drove my rental through the Everglades, and spent time in Naples. Butterfly Opps, opportunities to see, taste, smell and hear the siren’s song of Butterfly wonderment. ‘Hobby?’ Uh, uh. We need more of them, Thank You. Jeff