Pittsburgh to Macon, Georgia: The Big Switcheroo

 Jeff Zablow's Perennial Beds Pittsburgh, PA, 7/10/07

Today? Today we planted native trees into our new Macon, Georgia back garden. We’re doing the whole Doug Tallamy thing, full bent! The accompanying image is of my 2003 back garden in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We set out there to attract butterflies and to feast our eyes on beautiful blooms.

What’s there in that sweet garden? Irises (Dutch), several varieties of Salvia, Shasta Daisy, Buddleia (Chinese Butterflybush), Oakleaf Hydrangea, Crape myrtle (Frieda A”H (OBM”)) saw it in Georgetown, D.C. and loved it), Monarda in fantastic bloom, Hydrangea, Yellow irises, the circular rose bed that Frieda had always wanted and more, so much more.

Now we did the Big Switcheroo. We’re in Middle Georgia, a 13-hour drive south of Pittsburgh. Most everything is different, and  . . . as I did shortly before I left Pittsburgh, I went native. Catherine of Sylvania Natives Nursery recommended that I read this book by Doug Tallamy. I did, and I changed. It for one, explained why my butterfly garden in Long Island, New York almost never attracted any butterflies (the upscale community around us had manicured gardens, all landscaped by guys named Tony, Salvatore and Guiseppe, and 99% of their elegant plantings were . . . Asian, European & South American).

So this afternoon we relocated some huge azaleas in our new Macon garden, and we planted natives, for our native butterflies, bees, flies, moths, hummingbirds and more. What’s we add today, in those not so easy to create large holes? Today’s juvie plantings: Blackgum trees, a White Oak tree, A Sourwood tree and a Yellowwood tree.

Pots awaiting going in? Chokecherry, Viburnums, Asters, Rusty Blackhaw & Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium).

The Big Switcheroo. Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn’s concrete, asphalt and brick?

The butterflies flying in, in 2021? Oh my Goodness . . . .


June 3, This June 3rd

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Jamestown Audubon Center in Jamestown, NY.

When we spotted this Baltimore Checkerspot, I froze in place. Can this be real? Now how often does that thought confront you? I’ve learned to not hesitate, when a super-beautiful butterfly appears. No, hesitate not a 1/1,000 of a second. Act. Act quickly, but in that robotic slo-mo described in our Technique feature here.

This Baltimore is a butterfly high on everyone’s List. I hadn’t seen one for years. Not more than 25 feet from the entrance to the Jamestown Audubon  Center, it had chosen to stop (and rest?) on a small cut lawn, within several feet of the Center’s Butterfly Garden. I was introduced to the Jamestown Audubon Center last year, and quickly enjoyed the warmth and friendly greeting from its staff and volunteers. That welcome continued. I have visited other Audubon Centers. Jamestown’s might offer a Workshop = How to sustain an outreaching, friendly Audubon Center.

I was invited to do a Butterfly presentation and field walk at the JAC. Good. Very Good. That June 3rd program will include a PowerPoint presentation, field walk and brownbag lunch. Jamestown, New York is in very western New York state, east of Erie, Pa..

This NYC high school Biology teacher, and later Pittsburgh Public Schools high school Biology teacher comes with a full career of introducing youngsters to the living world around them. Our family photo albums include several photos of me, a child, hunched over, examining living things. I’m in, totally.

Euphydras phaeton (it’s species name) and its hostplant, Turtlehead are certainly not common, but, they lived side-by-side with this nation’s first residents, and they were probably there to greet the new, immigrants who came from abroad, to make this their home. Baltimore are still here, though a wee bit more difficult to find.

Oh, How I wish You could All join us for this program!


Sachem Skipper Butterfly at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge’s Butterfly Garden

Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in  Eastern Neck National Wildlife refuge, MD

On the lookout for Swallowtails, Fritillaries, Vanessa (Red Admirals & Painted Ladies), etc., I was doing what I usually do, avoiding the smaller, quicker and especially difficult to identify Skippers (Hespertinae).

Skippers are of many species, many species that closely resemble one another. Distinct species that have no difficulty identifying their genetic material or mates, but present real challenge to those of us who, field guide in hand, attempt to identify them. Fiery, Black Dash, Sachem, Long Dash, Peck’s or Hobomok? Perry Mason would have too much fun cross examining someone who testified that a Sachem did it!

So unless we are joined by authoritative NABA or Xerces folks, our female here is a Atalopedes CampestrisShe joined me as I worked the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge‘s Butterfly Garden, but didn’t stay long though. My approach interrupted her brief stop to rest. All on a mid-August morning.

Skippers are all about what the yelling is about. Their diversity is real, with hundreds of species of butterflies in the U.S. All, including this one, count. All, including those like this one, must remain here and about.


Uniquely Elegant Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly in the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Eastern Neck National Wildlife refuge, MD

I think I nailed it! Writers are cautioned to not use the exclamation point. I’ve tried hard not to work it into wingedbeauty.com, but it sooo hard not to spring that nifty symbol of emphasis. Here I use it and take full responsibility.

You see just before I was about to end my morning at the Butterfly Garden in the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, I decided to risk it and work my way down the path to the small platform built just before the water’s edge. As I worked my way there, I startled quite a few resting butterflies, without capturing any on film. OK. The best part was that they were especially young and fresh. Reaching the platform I found that it was surrounded by a bush, not known to me before. The bush had sizable flowerheads on it and Several Limenitis arthemis astyanax sipped nectar.

There was one of those Red-spotted purples that was spectacular. I’ve seen hundreds. These were very richly colored and that one was spectacular. As it worked a flowerhead, the sun overhead lit up its wings and I am telling you, the result was capital ‘I’ incredible. I thought to myself, Brazil, Costa Rica, National Butterfly Center (Texas).

Could I capture an image that exploded with those beautiful colors? I think that we captured her unique elegance. What think you?