Byssus Skippers get an A+ for Posing

Skipper on Liatris Blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

I captured another good image of our Byssus Skipper nectaring on Blazing Star, 850 miles south of my Pittsburgh home. If this Byssus appears to be happy, content and focused, you should have been there on ‘Old Grade Trail’ to witness another happy, content and focused being: Me.

That article in NABA’s Magazine, under the Destination title, was a rip for me. As soon as I opened it, earlier this 2015, my mind was riveted = Go Jeff go! I went, during my extended trip to the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch in Eatonton, Georgia. I tell you, I was one happy guy down there, AKA the kid in the candy shop.

I grew blazing star in my home garden in Pittsburgh in 2013-2014. In 2014 a female Monarch spent more than one September week installed there, feasting on that Blazing star (10 plants, 8 of which exceeded 6′ in height). After she migrated away, the deer and/or woodchucks decimated the Blazing star plants, and that ended that. Didn’t replant them, and no deer or woodchucks were harmed.

If and when I return to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, in the Florida Panhandle (seen in this image) next September, must I navigate those trails alone again?

Jeff . . . reminiscing with Irishman Gilbert O’Sullivan

 

Expect To Be Plenty Busy At Blazing Stars

Skipper on Liatris Blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

That was what stuck in my head, as I drove down US 75 to the Florida Panhandle. The busiest times for seeing butterflies at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, just south of Perry Florida, are when Liatris, or Blazing Star is in bloom. At the Spring Unit area in Big Bend, they bloom in early September. Arrgh! I could not be there then and could only go there in late August.

I’ve learned enough through the years to know that wildflowers often open a bit earlier or a bit later than prescribed. That’s what convinced me that I should head down there, even though it was a bit early for Gay Feather blossoming.

I went, and . . . Liatris had just started to open. Yay! And, my guides were right. Just stand a bit away from these eye-popping flowers, and watch the comings and goings of a whole menu of butterflies.

Now it was not that easy. The humidity was very real, and each day my sweatband would eventually get overrun by perspiration, sending moisture coursing down over my glasses. This didn’t stop my pleasure as I watched a waiting line (or so it seemed) of butterflies fly into and then away from these Blazing Stars.

This Byssus skipper butterfly didn’t care whether you knew the flowers as Liatris, or Gay Feather or Blazing Star. Either way, that nectary sweet secretion must rival the Cherry Cokes back at Sol’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, back when!

Jeff

The Monarch Army Triumphant

Monarch Butterfly on Goldenrod Blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14

Full sun, minimal breeze, and a morning with temps that reached no more than 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Doak field at Raccoon Creek State Park reminded me of a map of the world, with oceans and seas of goldenrod no matter where you looked. This 100-acre gem of a meadow, in southwestern Pennsylvania was a tour de force of yellow, bright, rich yellow.

It was a thrill to see female and male monarchs everywhere. Everywhere! We all spent winter ’15 and spring ’15 fraught with concern. Was Danaus Plexxipus destined to disappear? Would the monarch migration that grade schoolers learn about, become the tale of what used to happen in our cities, towns and counties?

Americans mobilized, and ripped and tore out tired, passion-less gardens, replacing them with new, vibrant beds of milkweeds, zinnias, blazing stars, ironweeds and more. Armies of compassionate gardeners descended on their Audubon Centers, county parks, and native wildflower nurseries, seeking to learn what to plant and how to take in and nurture monarch caterpillars. Facebook swelled with folks sharing suggestions. NABA (North American Butterfly Association) Chat boards lit up with discussions and queries. An Army of lovers of Monarch butterflies materialized.

Well, today in Doak field, I stopped counting Monarchs . . . at 80. Eighty!! Fresh males and females. Skittish to my approach, determined to bulk-up before the anticipated flight to . . . Mexico.

The Monarch Army of Regular and Irregular Volunteers, Triumphant. Virginia, Traci, Barbara Ann, Terry, Kim, Phil, you did it!

Jeff