My First Queen

Queen Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Tank Mountains, AZ. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

That bone-dry arroyo was working just fine for me. I’d found this dry creek bed on an earlier trip to White Tank Mountains Regional Park, just west of Phoenix. I have a vague recollection of a sign posted near the arroyo, something about not entering the arroyo ever, for a flash downpour miles away could prove deadly here. In retrospect, I might have honored the sign, but . . . hours of searching White Tank produced almost nothing. When I drove to a 3-car parking area, and happened on the arroyo, that earlier year, I descended down to its bed, and Bingo! Butterflies, not lots of them, but there were plants in bloom here and there, and I tried waiting at a plant with flowers, and almost every wait yielded, drew butterflies.

This one flew in to these diminutive blooms, and I knew at once, my first ever Queen butterfly. We don’t have them in the places I lived in before (Brooklyn, Queens NY, Long Island NY, Sheffield Mass or Pittsburgh). He was a dashing Queen and I decided on not gambling, not moving in with my Macro- lens, to get the full benefit of those magical 18″ from this large butterfly.

I planted my feet, loved that this was a tall wildflower, and I shot away. This image was captured with Fuji slide film and yes, his color was as rich as you see. That deep blue Arizona sky added to my delight when this slide was returned to me.

The wildflower? I still do not know its name. How do they flower despite many weeks of xeric dry 97F weather? I think they have very deep roots, and take moisture several feet down in the arroyo bed.

My first Queen.

Jeff

Rare Arizona Skipper

Arizona Powdered Skipper Butterfly at White Tank Mountains, AZ

I so admire those who share rare butterflies on Facebook. I went to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in December 2017, and Whoopee!! I had several fantastic days, seeing butterflies that there’s no way you could expect to see, in a year or in a decade. Examples? Erato heliconian, Red rim, Tropical greenstreak, Malachite and Gold-bordered hairstreak.

Sharing images and anecdotes? I enjoy doing that. Especially when the butterfly’s like this one, a rare and little seen Arizona arroyo (dry stream bed) butterfly, the Arizona Powdered Skipper.

Where’d we meet? In that arroyo I found in White Tank Regional Park, 35 minutes southwest of Sun City West. Won’t discuss the advisability of those hours scouring the long arroyo, partly because working that boulder strewn bone-dry arroyo nearly cost me, everything.

Pleased to share one that you might never ever see, I am.

Jeff

Ever Seen an Arizona Powdered Skipper?

Arizona Powdered Skipper Butterfly at White Tank Mountains, AZ

That River Grand Valley trip, a week at the National Butterfly Center, Bensten State Park and the nearby ‘Wall,’ dished up dozens of butterfly species new to me. A constant rush-rush-rush of butterflies I had never seen before. I mean, as I work to recall what we saw, and without instantaneous digital feedback, I am now and then gifted with a recollection, like the one I had yesterday, that a mental vignette: Not only did I want to see the uncommon Mexican Fritillary, but my luck cashed in, when I saw and shot away at a fresh pair of mated Mexican fritillaries!

So now I spend good time recalling so many of the butterflies of the USA that I have been fortunate to have seen, and shot.

High on the list of what Jeff’s seen is this one, a fresh Arizona Powdered Skipper, met just where it should have been, some years ago, in a bone dry arroyo, in White Mountain Regional Park, west of Phoenix, Arizona. I found this one, on a boiling hot day in the desert, in these low mountains, and if you can keep a secret, in the bed of the arroyo (where I actually should not have been).

I count myself among the 0.0014% of Americans who have ever had the pleasure of a meet-up with the Arizona Powdered Skipper. Am I a Lucky Boy, or what!

Jeff

Arizona Arroyo

White Mountains Regional Park in Phoenix, AZ photographed by Jeff Zablow

Southwest Airlines flew me from Pittsburgh to Phoenix, Arizona. Depart from the temperate eastern United States to the southwestern desert that’s most of Arizona. Oak and maple slip away from my view, replaced soon by cactuses and a host of plants that are new to me.

Here in the White Mountains Regional Park, I park my rental car and hike to this arroyo (dry river bed). I’ve been here before. It is a source of fascination for me and here I’ve found a large number of butterflies.

That’s the wonder and mystery of this habitat. Hiking in an arroyo is generally not promoted. If there were to be an instant storm above, there is Big risk of raging floodwaters surging down through the bone-dry arroyo, and you’d risk being swept away. Gone. So the element of distant danger, even on such a day as this, is understood.

We’ve noted the relative abundance of butterflies in earlier arroyo posts. I’ve not studied arroyos. Are there aquifers resting below? Is that why plants endure the dry arroyo bed? Do the steep banks of the arroyo carry down the morning dew? Is there morning dew? Let us hope that we will find answers to these questions, from Comments made by our Arizona friends.

Working the rock strewn arroyo, you are constantly reminded of the presence of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, spiders and more. They peek out at you, or dart away as you quietly traverse the rocks. There is scat here and there, both tiny scat and sightings of considerable scat. I found both herbivore scat and carnivore scat. I walk this arroyo in the morning. Who and what move in it during the black night?

I like the arroyo. It never disappoints.

Jeff

Blue-Spotted Arab Butterfly

Blue-Spotted Arab Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow

This is our fourth post of Colotis Phisadia, otherwise known as a Blue-Spotted Arab Butterfly. Hours of travel and three mornings of dedicated pursuit yielded a good result. Residing in Wadi David at Ein Gedi, this is one dedicated butterfly.

The Blue-Spotted Arab Butterfly has spent much of this morning making his rounds, never flying too far from his starting point. In full rich color, he patiently waits for the opportunity to display his primacy and his genetic finery to potential mates.

The Wadi David at Ein Gedi was bone-dry. It’s inevitable that at some point we pause and ask, “How do these butterflies satisfy their need for water?” The sky drizzled rain drops the next morning, for just about five minutes.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen the three other posts of Blue-Spotted Arab’s, we photograph with a Macro Lens, using a hand-held camera. This is one tough butterfly to approach, especially in the Wadi. Our images were the result of much negotiation. The butterfly allowed us to approach within four feet, and we agree not to come one inch closer. A successful negotiation in the Middle East. Good.

Jeff