Panhandling, Finally

Wildflower with Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

I retired in February 2007. I Loved teaching high school Biology. My Vo-tech students weren’t college bound, but together we enjoyed teaching/learning Biology. The administration of that school often made my teaching life hellish, something about me being from “New York” and more. They continued that although they knew that my dear wide Frieda A”H was in the later stages of her battle with Cancer. When the Oncologists told us that Frieda would need a caregiver going forward (?), she suggested that I retire and put on my caregiver hat. I retired, ‘though it did not end well.

After, after the shiva (sitting and receiving friends and family) I took stock = what did I want to do with my life, to contribute something substantive? I wanted to continue photographing butterflies on a modest budget, on my own time. Should I bust-out to Bolivia, Costa Rica, Senegal, Mongolia, the Rockies? No, that was not my thinking. No getting kidnapped, no gut wrenching gastrointestinal diseases, no Bolivia bus going over the edge, with me in it. The USA was my focus, and east of the Mississippi at that. Israel too, once a year, to see Rachel and Hillel and Boaz, and to head-out to the Galilee/Golan and to come home and tease my Christian friends, that I stopped in at Capernum and drove past.

Florida, especially northern Florida was a 25 year destination dream for me. When NABA published their first Destinations article, with the wonders of Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, that was that, I was going there. There.

Here I am in the Spring Unit of Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, near Perry Florida. The Hampton Inn was OK. Big Bend was 20 minutes away.

Oh, the wonders of that place! I worked the trails, alone (again naturally) and there was so much to see, so many new butterflies and wildflowers. Liatris was just beginning to open that late August 2016.

Native, wild Hibiscus (correct ?) were eye candy. That this little Skipper obliged and flew in to nectar bespeaks of the richness of the Florida Panhandle.


I’ll Bet You Can’t Top This!

Head Start Class, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

“Pennsylvania man,” as I’m called in the fantastic March 9th front page newspaper feature story ( Eatonton Messenger newspaper of Putnam County, Georgia), urges all lovers of beauty and butterflies to visit the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton. Why do that? ? You have visited wingedbeauty for reasons: beauty, butterflies, eye-candy, nostalgia for images captures on  . . . film (real-time superior color), you like being an esthete and have to feed that habit, etc.. Some visit because they love and support Virgina C Linch, Bartow, Kelly, Cathy, Stanley, Sylbie, Lisa, Jim, Jim, Lynn, Susan and they love Eatonton, and hope that Eatonton’s leaders continue to support the Habitat.

Me? It’s the Best Place to see southeastern butterflies between Maine and the Florida Panhandle. My morning record was scored there last year, i.e., 29 different species seen in a single morning. The nectar bar for butterflies is so rich there, that hundreds fly, free and wild at any given sunny morning moment. I get it! I know and see how hard these handful of earnest supporters work there daily, to nurture it, water it in and husband it along, so that the word can go out: Virginia’s plea to plant native wildflowers in our home gardens, advancing the success of our sometimes beleaguered winged beauties.

Virginia (C Linch) always shoots for the future. Insure that our youngsters meet, watch, learn about butterflies. The good farmer that she and her Bartow are, she is ‘seeding’ the future, growing the legions of oncoming homeowners, who will remember that their hard earned home lots should, will, must, can have extensive flower beds with beautiful, hardy native blooms that bring butterflies, bees, beetles, flies and the birds, lizards and other animals that come along, too.

I’ve been there, photographing, when buses of school kids visit. It is too much fun, watching the children Ooh! and Ah! and watching dedicated, responsible teachers and teaching assistants enthusiastically show the kids butterflies, caterpillars, chrysalises and . . . eggs, often so easy to find in this extraordinary oasis for butterflies, blooms and wildlife.

Imagine the sheer magic! of this moment in time, a Headstart class, at the Habitat! Hey the scientists among you out there, quantify for me the excitement, awe and energy expended in just this one capture moment?

Virginia (SHHH! she is very modest/humble) does all this on a shoe string budget (SHHH! again, for . . . tho$e dollars often come out of her own . . . . . .!) I’ll bet you can’t top this!


Little Wood Satyr Posing

Little Wood Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, August 2014
I thought that it was too late in the season to meet up with the Satyr butterfly, but here we are together, on an August 2014 morning. They are sooo predictable, flying just above ground, just where forest meet trail. They almost never fly onto the trail, always moving along the outer tree line.

When you see Megisto Cymela and you’re like me, camera at the ready, there’s that predictable debate = Jeff (to myself), you already have several good images of this satyr, save your film (Fuji slide, ASA 50 or in this case ASA 100). You see the result, the boy in me wants to capture those eye spots, besting any in the slides in my Neumade slide cabinet.

Time to vote? OK, Yes, I love this butterfly. It’s brown reminds me of the delicious hat store I used to frequent on Madison Avenue in NYC, in an earlier life. You know those eye spots transfix me. Thirdly, this is a very comely butterfly. Guilty as charged, magistrate.

Cech and Tudor, in their superb Butterflies of the East Coast, share a happy bit of new, that Little Wood Satyrs are “a successful species.” Good news that, no?


Variegated Fritillary Butterfly

Variegated Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland

It’s October at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland, and we’re looking at eye candy on the wing.  This Euptoieta Claudia would certainly raise the eyebrows of the artisans in the Cartier studios.

He is sipping nectar at the Butterfly Garden at the National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, and is treating us with just the right background blooms.

Fritillaries are exquisite when they are young. This male offers the full menu of color and patter for this species: rich orange-brown, yellow central banding on all 4 wings, orange spots surrounded by a black border in forewing cells of each wing, black veins and submarginal black spots.

Their nectar diet is not limited to a single flower. So, these generalists drink nectar from passionflowers, pansies, violets, and a menu of other flowering species.

We’ve posted other Variegated Frits. They are generally intolerant of my approach with a camera. Each of our posted images is the result of many, many attempts to score premium images.

Euptoieta Claudia is best known as a southeastern U.S. species. We have many fritillary species here and in the western United States.  It will be awhile before I have western ones safe and secure in my Neumade cabinet of slides.