Palamedes, Up to my Calf

Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly on Pickerelweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

August 2018, at Harris Neck. This National Wildlife Refuge is on the coast, not too far from Brunswick, Georgia. A near wildlife overload those 6 days. A stand-out trip, for I saw there many, many butterflies common to the southeastern USA and especially typical of southeastern wetlands.

The wading birds, waterfowl, anhingas, osprey and bald eagle were all so robust and handsome looking. In their rookeries, on the pond surface, exposed trees and light footed as they worked the pond edges.

I reached this pond edge, and was ecstatic (true!) to see the pickerelweed in full bloom. Vunderbar!! Now, I’m shooting Macro- and have got to get within at least 24″ to cop good shots. Decision time!

In I went, with the pond now up to my lower calf. My beloved Merrell boots submerged, and every step taken risky, for that water was feeling awfully slippery when my feet came down on pond mud.

Decision #2, which I dismissed maybe a bit too quickly, was an unknown = where was the nearest 8-foot alligator, 10-foot or 12-foot alligator? I thought back to those years on the streets, Brooklyn, and how G-d must have been especially kind to me.

This Palamedes swallowtail butterfly was having one fine time at the pickerelweed nectar bar. Must say, there, then, in that, surely confirms that real-time, up to my calves, y’all have got to take my word for it, there cannot be any global . . .

Jeff

Party Crashing Viceroy

Viceroy Butterfly on Sumac (Woody Pond) photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

That very same week, the Georgia Native Plant Society (GNPS) shared a FB post, letting us know that native Sumacs were just about ready to bloom. Back up in Pittsburgh, all one heard of was a “poison sumac.” Ellen of the GNPS sung of two native sumacs, and I was interested, wanted to meet them.

I saw them days later, along county and state roads, they just hinting of the telltale dark rust indicative color.

Sunday I drove to Townsend, Georgia, and arrived at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge the next morning. Coastal Georgia is wondrous, and Oohs and Aahs! reigned. Great blue herons, Wood storks, Glossy Ibis, Lots and lots of alligators, Clapper rails, maybe 3 species of snow-white egrets, Zebra heliconians, Palamedes swallowtails, Anhingas, Salt marsh skippers, the biggest spiders I’ve yet to see and the sense that snakes were at hand, but hidden out of sight. It was a dreamland for folks like us.

I think it was Wednesday, along the Wood Pond Trail that I saw it. One of those natives Sumacs, and its flower buds were beginning to open. A first for me, native sumac, in bloom, at the edge of Woody Pond, and those alligators seen and . . . unseen . . . ?

A shadow flew in. What! A fresh, deeply hued Viceroy butterfly. They are always “Uncommon” (Glassberg’s Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America), for I see them rarely, and always briefly, they with something more important to do, some other wetland away, that how it seems.

I shot away, lots of film exposed. It was a clever one, remaining within the inner bounds of the sumac. When it flew, I just stopped, and cynically laughed, at how, with all that was around me, this likable Viceroy came in and stirred the pot, the party crashing Viceroy . . . on a McLaren day in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

Jeff

 

Viceroy Butterfly At Woody Pond

Viceroy Butterfly on Sumac (Woody Pond) photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

The trail skirted along the edge of Woody Pond. Laura was right, Harris National Wildlife Refuge was rich, rich in wildlife. It’s on the coast of Georgia, and those 6 days there in August 2018 delivered, big time. It’s a national destination for birders, anxious to see hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of wood storks nesting in vast rookeries there. Egrets, rails, anhingas, warblers, it’s dreamland for birders.

This image was taken in the 3-foot strip of vegetation that separates the trail I was on from the pond. That’s all well and good. What you need to know then, is that Woody Pond, just 3-feet away, is the home of . . . maybe 100 alligators. 10-foot and 12-foot and 14-food gators.

Looking at this gorgeous Viceroy butterfly nectaring on Sumac blooms that opened the day before was an unexpected treat. Ellen Honeycutt, for the Georgia Native Plant Society had just shared on Facebook of the high value of native Sumacs, and here I was watching a shmeksy! Viceroy nectaring on day old Sumac blooms.

Know I was a big cautious (Well very cautious) leaning into the Sumac-Viceroy OMG! moment. Why? Because that planted me less than 3 feet from Very, Very Big alligators, something that the streets (mean) of Brooklyn never prepped me for, Truth Be Told. Proof? You want proof? Well, that was the day after the News Media of the Southeast reported the death by Alligator of a woman in Hilton Head, South Carolina. She was apparently walking her little dog on leash at the edge of an upscale development pond, and the ‘gator charged them, and dragged the woman in, to her death.

Shooting Viceroys at the very edge of Woody Pond . . . on native Sumac.

Jeff