Talkers & Doers

Searching for Caterpillars/Eggs James Murdock and Virginia Linch photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, GA

There are talkers and there are doers. A couple of years ago, I met James Murdock, shown here at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat I, with the Habitat founder and angel, Virginia C Linch. I followed them around the OMG! Habitat I, as Virginia introduced James to the hundreds of native Georgian hostplants and nectar-pumping plants she and the volunteers set in to make the Habitat I the success it was. James shared that he worked for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and would soon be a middle school science teacher at nearby Putnam County Middle School (PCMS).

It was one of those Georgia 93F mornings, and I took note of how these two, shown there that day, were totally unconcerned by that.

We in Eatonton have a real, excellent local newspaper, The Eatonton Messenger, and this week’s edition, out on July 4, 2019, today, features a very rewarding story on page one of its Community section B. Titled ‘Inspiration Camps – Growing Knowledge and subtitled ‘Putnam’s newest gardeners gain experience through summer,’ reporter Katie O’Neal shares pics of Murdock and his middle school kids at the Habitat II (the Habitat moved from its original site to this new, larger acreage, still in town) and Katie captures the excitement and enthusiasm that these middle school kids daily enjoy, as they work and improve their gardens at Habitat II and in the PCMS gardens.

James has a full beard now, but he is clearly the same in-the-bushes and doer that he was back when I captured them in this photo. His work with these youngsters is important and they’ll be still gardening in the year, what? 2069! Some of them may well be the next stewards of this Briar Patch Habitat, way down the road. Eatonton, Georgia has a real gem here, and they do not yet realize how it will impact on this city in the future (think Butterfly Festival!).

Virginia? Now that she has retired, the Habitat II is just alive with butterflies, botany, bees, dragonflies and visitors.

These here are doers. Brings a smile, no?

I hope that this news story, in the Eatonton Messenger, is available online.

Jeff

The Grand Central Station Wildflower

Large Clump of Butterflyweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Official? Not yet, but Butterflyweed certainly ought to be the official Grand Central Station wildflower. For those 37 or so years that I lived in my native New York City, Grand Central Station, in the heart of New York, New York (Manhattan) was a building, whose cavernous main hall was, well, breathtaking! Huge beyond the meaning of the term, you knew it was heavily ornate, but by the time I moved from Long Island, much of its beauty was either covered over, or covered with decades of grime. People by the thousands hustled and bustled and ran to catch trains. It’s been rejuvenated since I left, cleaned and restored.

Butterflyweed is the wildflower parallel. Gorgeous when it’s in bloom, as it is here in Doak field last year, late June, at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s the kind of plant that flourishes one year, and is nearly absent the next.

Here in western Pennsylvania, or in Angela’s Adams County, Ohio, or in Barbara Ann’s far western New York or in Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia, they light up meadow or a garden. My own experience with them, irregardless of where I’ve seen them, is that they. like Grand Central Station, remain unvisited, until sometime around 9:45 A.M.-ish, butterflies and bees appear, without apparent signal, and the butterflyweed is mobbed by flying animals: butterflies, bees, wasps & flies. Twenty five minutes later, all visitors have left, and the flowerheads are quiet again.

This is the very best place to find Coral Hairstreak butterflies, those tiny winged beauties that like young starlets or young models or aspiring Amherst grads, arrive at Grand Central Station shortly before 9:00 A.M., and. within minutes are all gone, off to wherever.

Butterflyweed is an Asclepias (Milkweed) and Monarch caterpillar thrive on it!

Consider it for that sunny, slightly moist spot in your natives beds.

Jeff

The Perfect Red Admiral?

Red Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Many get ‘hooked’ by a Red Admiral butterfly. Their high school Biology teacher (I was one, once) solemnly declares that soon, very soon species will begin to lose ground and lose habitat. She, dogmatically repeating the mantra pushed by some, is resigned to the loss of all kinds of native species, butterflies, until the time that only Cabbage whites, Painted ladies, Eastern tiger swallowtails and the lookalike skippers are all that’s left.

Me? That’s hogwash. I cannot forget when I taught at the John Adams High School Annex in South Ozone Park, New York City. My classroom was on the 5th floor of an elementary school. The classroom ceilings  were some 18 feet high or so, so the 5th floor was as high as most 9-story buildings.

We faced the west in that room. Some 19 or 20- miles away, we might have seen the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Huh? We couldn’t see them, for there was a permanent blanket of smog preventing us from seeing Manhattan and those fable skyscrapers.

New York’s electricity provider, Consolidated Edison, announced that they would be installing new “scrubbers” in their chimneys, to combat the smog. The federal government made all car makers install catalytic converters. Scrubbers and converters, token solutions. Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . the same old, same old. We were New Yorkers, those kids and I, and we didn’t buy it, zero. One summer later, and I returned to that room that I loved, awaiting those kids from every corner of the world, those big, strong, street tough kids. I looked out that wall of windows, to the eastern half of Manhattan and Oh My Goodness!! there they were, I was seeing the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers. That moment jarred me. Really. It can be done. Progress can be made. Slow as a snail New York City and bureaucratic Con Edison can work together and clean the air of that enormous city. Mamma Mia!

Lesson? Don’t buy the doomsayers. Keep your mind open to change and . . . For sure, that’s why I never bought the ‘Global warming/Al Gore’ pitch. Nope.

When jaded Nature lovers visit the State Parks or Wildlife Management Areas or such, the chance appearance of a Red Admiral, like this one, can startle. Wwwwhat was that? No Tony, there has not been a mass extinction of butterflies and more. Admire this gorgeous butterfly before it once again takes off to ??? Hey, if this is out there, what other Holy Cows? are there flying in a place like this, Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The several hundred times I was there flushed out a slew of OMG!’s including Goatweed leafwing, Red-barred sulphur, Harvester, White M hairstreak, Meadow fritillary, Pipevine swallowtail, Compton tortoiseshell, Milbert’s tortoiseshell  and a Bronze copper butterfly.

The perfect Red Admiral butterfly cannot be readily forgotten and jumps the curiosity quotient in one’s cognitive whatchamacallit. You’ve just gotta’ get back out there, away from that 97% that cobwebs you up, and find that rare, incredible, drop-dead-unbelieveable butterfly you had no idea was . . .

Jeff

Change Your Place, Change . . .

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

700 miles. That’s how far I moved last year. Family and friends know how much I enjoy this pursuit of butterflies, and they’ve heard of why I do what I do.

It’s 55 degrees F in my former home now, and its’s a whopping 80 degrees F in middle Georgia, the Piedmont region. Back there, in Pittsburgh, the Monarch butterflies were singletons, and you might see 3-5 any given year. They would be seen until mid-September each of those 27 years, and October might shake out a stray Cabbage White butterfly, maybe.

Today! Today in my 1-year old natives garden, I went out to give Petra some exercise, and there in Bed #2 of my garden, together on a group of giant Tithonia (Mexican sunflower plants) . . . were Five (5) Monarchs, males and females at the Tithonias, the nectar bar for thousands of butterflies this year. Five! I’ve never seen such a grouping together, ever.

I’ve driven down here, beginning back in 2015, and butterflies fly well into November. I L-U-V it!

Change your place, many Moms say, and you Change . . .

Jeff

Vesta Crescent in Mission Texas

Crescent butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

All those years of enjoying the antics of Pearl Crescents, and that handful of Phaon Crescents that introduced themselves to me in Mississippi, Georgia and Florida didn’t prepare me for this, my first meet-up with a Vesta Crescent.

She was taking a break in the National Butterfly Center, in Mission, Texas. Phaon? Pearl? a gentle mix of closely related Crescents?

I was more than pleased to much later discover that she was a Vesta Crescent. Places that Vesta butterflies call home are in Texas, Oklahoma and Mexico.

Another new butterfly for Jeff, and ongoing acknowledgement that the Cr-ator has been very busy.

Jeff