Black Swallowtail Magic

Earring Series - Blackswallowtail butterflies coupled, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

I cannot ever forget the morning in 2016. I’d seen coupled butterflies in the field, lots of times. My favorite to date was that pair of Zebra swallowtails on the tiny beach at Mason Neck State Park, on Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline. They were super fresh, incredibly beautiful, and they unabashedly tolerated my presence, off and on for more than ½ of an hour. Paw Paw trees were nearby, and bald eagles were diving for lunch in the Bay. I was alone, naturally, and just beside myself with thankfulness, for the being there, then.

These Eastern Black Swallowtails above startled me, they did, when I noticed them  in the perennial bed at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat. I’d seen so much eye candy there, that I was just beginning to get a teensy bid jaded to it all. Then I spotted them. Fresh, awash in sharply defined color. What a jolt! of excitement that was. I began the special silent pleading I do when I happen onto butterflies that I absolutely want to shoot, something that happens a fews times each year. I am pleading with the Almigh-y Above ( That’s a me thing. ).

And look, I scored the image I wanted. This is before Sylbie Yon entered the Habitat, totally unexpected. What followed is highlighted in the feature at the top of your screen, “Jeff’s Earrings.” The drama/excitement continued, culminating in that Sweet! front page newstory in the Eatonton Messenger ( Thursday, March 9, 2017 edition ).

The female shown in full dorsal ( super) display is gorgeous, and the male, too is a buster!

Jeff has been to many pre-sale exhibitions of Magnificent Jewelry at New York’s Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Doyle auction galleries. My eyes have seen. Trust me then, please, that this is Black Swallowtail Magic.

Jeff

Splendor In The Sand

Zebra swallowtail butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mason's Neck State Park, VA. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

With our recent focus on Zebras, Zebra heliconian butterflies, I’ve included Zebra swallowtail butterflies, but did not share images of those zebras. Let’s remedy that here.

At a small sandy beach at Mason Neck State Park in Virginia, on the shore of magnificent Chesepeake Bay, was where I happened onto this! Zebra Swallowtail butterflies, motionless and locked together in embrace. They were both very shmeksy! Zebras, with reds, blues, that hard to describe whitish-yellow and black framing all. Not ever seen such a coupled pair since.

Funny this. After spending 13 or so summers as a boy with my Grandparents, the Polisars in their very sweet little bungalow just one block from the beach at Beach 65th Street, Arverne, Queens, New York (AKA Rockaway Beach), the beach etiquette was unwritten but universal, leave couples locked in embrace alone. Steer the widest berth, and move on. The world was complicated then too, and I guess time away from life’s ying & yangs was understood.

This pair of Eurytides marcellus remained this way for more than ½ an hour, barely moving at all. The memory of Splendor on the Beach when I was a kid, made me feel a mite sheepish about moving as close as I had to with my Canon 2.8/100mm lens. Truth be told.

Predators left them, vulnerable as they are here, alone, for those Paw Paws they consume earlier in life make them toxic to the mouth of any fool bird or insect or lizard that might have the opportunity. Amazing, No?

Jeff

Regal Fritillaries Mating

Mating Regal Fritillary Butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

What has disappeared from 99.6% of their original range? They have. Regal Fritillary Butterflies no longer are found in the 16 east coast U.S. states, with the exception of one colony in Pennsylvania and a semi-secret colony in Virginia. Gone from their grasslands, gone from their wet swales and gone from their boggy wetlands. Gone.

Last year I jumped at the opportunity to visit the Pennsylvania colony, not too far from the state capitol, Harrisburg. I have posted images from that day on wingedbeauty. They have generated solid traffic, for many know how rare Speyeria idalia is. Unable to skip work or responsibilities, so many of us can’t visit endangered butterflies, time does not allow.

I went in June 2015. Wanted to see them for more than 14 years. I went to this military reservation, Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, joined the huge group (130 guests!), and, and, it was wonderful. Just wonderful. Regals flew here, and there, and there, and here. The grassland (meadow!) was huge, and the large group began to break up, until I was alone with another guest, and a naturalist on the Post’s wildlife management staff.

Here is an image I was thrilled to capture. A male and female mating, coupled together in silent, motionless bond. Their ventral white spots shone. I shot away, Happy boy! was I, almost alone with Regals, beautiful butterflies whose ancestors flew from Maine to North Carolina, and are now counted as the rarest of the rare.

Blessed was I to go, to see, and as here, to share poignant evidence that we are not doing the best we can, with what we have been given. Native Americans? Their lands? Heck, the entire land mass that is the United States. Regal fritillary butterflies? Down to 0.4% of their native habitat.

I share a coupled pair of Regal fritillary butterflies with you. Will your grandchildren be able to go see them, and share their images of Regals?

Jeff