Fabriciana Niobe Philistra (Protected) (Mt. Hermon) … 1 in 5,000,000,000,000 ?

Melitaea Persea Montium butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow on Mt. Hermon, Israel, 6/16/08

Wonderful! A working image of this rare, protected butterfly on… Mt. Hermon, at Israel’s northernmost border. He was not approachable … until he spotted these groundcover blooms on the mountaintop. So irresistible their aroma must have been, for he sped to these blossoms, and spent precious moments on each, taking in the sugary nectar.

This is another image that I am sharing, taken in June 2008. I had experienced a life-changing personal loss months before, and my daughter had relocated from Washington, D.C. to Tel Aviv. As I planned to visit her, I pushed myself to go for it, do something radical with my camera. Eran Banker was contacted, and off we went from Tel Aviv to … the peak of Mt. Hermon! Quite a few of my photos from Mt. Hermon can be seen here on wingedbeauty. Never, never will I forget that trip. Eagles flying by us as we took the lift to the mountaintop, butterflies like this one, found nowhere else, a landmine (where there were not supposed to be any), OMG! views of Syria and Lebanon, the cattle, grazing 7,000 feet plus on the mountaintop, and the knowledge that we were being watched, surveillance was watching us.

A rare Fritillary this one, flying May through July, on a mountain that you and I cannot visit because of a certain civil WAR, in  Syria.


Plebejus Pylaon Nichollae (Mt. Hermon)

Plebejus Pylaon Nichollae butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel, 6/16/08

I read yesterday that 150,000 are estimated to have been killed in the carnage that is going on in . . . Syria. That’s 150,000 men, women and children. That’s why the Israeli IDF would not let me near the peak of Mt. Hermon, 8 months ago, in June 2013. Three days ago, 2 rockets landed on the mountain.

That mountain peak, Mt. Hermon, is home to numerous rare and endangered species. At a nexus where 3 continents meet, it is an important wildlife focus, for the tens of millions of migratory birds that fly over it, and for rare, exquisite butterflies, like this one.

One of the species of blue butterflies, tiny, purposeful little jewels that those of us who have read this far love to find and follow, this male has flown for days or weeks, and shows evidence of several interactions with predacious birds, insects and or reptiles and perhaps even mice. But, just look at him! Lost lots of his tiny scales as well as wing edges, yes. Still gorgeous? Absolutely. These blues and purples bedazzle, even then.

Vladimir Nabokov was to his death the world’s expert on blue butterflies. How he would have been fascinated by this one.

Found only on Mt. Hermon, and, as we’ve posted earlier, not to be seen by you and I and them . . . for a very long time ahead. Those lethal weapons on  the other side of the mountain, in Syria, will assure that.


Azanus Jesous (Mt. Meron)

Azanous Jesous butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

She was seriously nectaring just steps from the trail. I knew that I had seen this species before, doing just about the same thing at agricultural roads north of Binyamina, Israel. This immediate beauty flew several hours north of Binyamina, along the slope of Mt. Meron. As throughout most of Israel her overall experience was beautiful weather and zero human conflict.

When we posted this species earlier, we were impressed with the eye-popping number of visits that followed. Lots of folks wanted to see this one, first identified and named by Guerin in 1849. He named it A. Jesous. Today is December 25th.

A tiny butterfly, they sport many black spots on their hindwings, and a curious brown streak on their forewings. Their caterpillars are tended/protected by ants. Seen in early June. Some species maps show their northern limits to be just south of where I was, but there she was on the mountain.

What’s in a name?



Common Blue (Mt. Hermon)

Polyonattus Icarus butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

There are 3 Polyomattus blue butterflies found in Israel. I was hoping that this fellow was P. icarus juno, very uncommon and found only on Mt. Hermon, at the northern extreme of Israel (Golan region). That would have been good, very good. Working with my 4 field guides to Israeli butterflies, I have concluded that he is instead P. icarus zelleri, found from central israel (south of Jerusalem) all the way up to the peak of Hermon. The 3rd of the 3 is P. loewii, seen from the Dead Sea south and in the Sinai (Egypt).

Our Common blue is found then in Jerusalem, Gaza, Tel-Aviv, Petach Tikva, Haifa, Tzfat and on Mt. Hermon. Explanation? Butterflies that frequent a wide range of locales and habitats should be considered generalists. Adaptable species that can enjoy a variety of habitat and depend on a wide range of nectaring flowers for their food.

Even though we took the cable car up to the peak of Mt. Hermon, and 7000 feet above sea level searched for the rare Leps of this breathtaking mountain, here we record a butterfly identical to those that fly from shrub to shrub in the gardens fronting the beautiful Ben Gurion Street (Rehov) in Tel-Aviv.

P. icarus in the big city? No way. They stay up on their Mt. Hermon. No impetus to go down to the Mediterranea Sea, or tour Lake Tiberias or visit exquisite Ramat Hanadiv . . . or even to see what humbles most of us, the ancient city of Jerusalem.

Jeff singing the blues on Mt. Hermon in June 2008 (Reminder: Military only at this time).


Blue-Spot Hairstreak (Mt. Meron)

Blue-spot hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron

This is too much! Moments after I left my quarters at SPNI Mt. Meron, the trails through the field station/refuge challenged me with butterflies, everywhere I went. We know the problem this happily brings, How do I manage…? Wait a second. Almost none of you shoot film, and many of you have never shot film… Well, the challenge is conserving the film that you expose, because you will be abroad in Israel for 10 more days, and you want to be prepared for the unexpected, for butterfly opportunities that are unexpected, and that could be the chance of (almost?) a lifetime. A very recent post of the Israeli swallowtail is a good example of the need to be ready!

Strymonidia spini were almost everywhere. I had to put a limit to the number of photos that I took of them. Look for only those that are handsome and all positioned. That’s what I did. This male wanted me to photograph him. He had good pose, tolerated my approach and cooperated during this ‘photo shoot.’ Some time ago, in New York, we approached a portrait photo shoot of me. I was amazed then that the fellow who photographed me (arranged through a SoHo acquaintance) insisted that he must have a serious number of shots of me. The one finally selected was excellent, but oh, so many taken, and it finally became tiring.

Found from Jerusalem north to the Mediterranean and then along the northern tier of Israel to Mt. Hermon, this hairstreak flies from April to June. Syrian thistle (Notobasis syriaca) can be seen above and to the left of our Blue-spot. These butterflies fly low along the ground, and when they flee, it is only to some 10 feet away. Wait a minute or three, and the males return to the same perch where they were first found. The females’ flight is to a more distant place, usually more difficult to be seen.

I probably saw 75 to 100 Blue-spots that morning. A ‘tail’ on each hindwing, pleasant markings of white, black, blue spot and hindwing red. Like most hairstreaks, you get few looks at their dorsal wing surface. Little sweeties.