Identifying Bugs ‘n’ Butterflies at the Briar Patch Habitat

Using Georgia Guide James Murdock and Virginia Linch photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, GA

You’ve read of my ‘discovery’ of the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat. Yep. That incredible 2 acres enable me. It enabled me to meet and greet the butterflies of the southeastern USA, right there. Saved me drives to Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Alabama. That because the Briar Patch Habitat’s thousands of hostplants have attracted dozens of different species of butterflies. This 2017 proved that, with the appearance and everyday reappearance of Zebra heliconians!

What can you expect to see on a typical morning there? 20, 25, 30 or more species of butterflies! All aloft in this open, wild Habitat, in, yes, in the town of Eatonton, Georgia. Fresh, active, strikingly beautiful butterflies.

Virginia C Linch launched the Habitat, supported it, planted, mulched, weeded, watered it, promoted it around town and beyond, and, on occasion, defended it, when folks who should have known better, acted in any way that jeopardized this unique jewel in a pretty town, in the welcoming Georgia Piedmont region.

Virginia here is smiling, though you have to know her to know that. She just showed James Murdock the recently published Georgia fold-out photo guide to Georgia butterflies. James, a Georgia state naturalist and writer for local newspapers, paid a visit to the Briar Patch Butterfly Habitat, wanting to know what all the buzz was about! This was June 2017, and I was there, watching him, transfixed as he was, with the air lanes in the Habitat full, full with beautiful sylvan wings aloft!

The Big New News? The City of Eatonton has agreed to move the Habitat to a new, much larger location in Eatonton. Once Virginia and her stalwart band of friends move the thousands of perennials, shrubs and trees, know that Eatonton’s name and fame will spread. 2018 will be good, Very Good for any and all who favor beautiful, gorgeous and fascinating . . . butterflies.

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!

Jeff

Recipe For A Butterfly Oasis

Long-Tailed Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Have you ever visited a Butterfly Oasis? No, no not an enclosed space. Try instead a real, dynamic, thriving habitat, with wild butterflies flying in all the time? In 2015, I read Facebook posts, sharing snippets of news, about the creation of a butterfly habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. Seeing Southern butterflies was high on my list. I contacted the Founder (she is, no matter how she disclaims that) of this Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch. I received a hearty, Come on Down, and see for yourself!

In April 2015 I drove down to Eatonton, about 1.3 hours east of Atlanta. Putnam county was beautiful, lush green. Lake Oconee had already attracted national developers, and many hundreds of fine homes have been added not to far away from the briar patch habitat. The whole area is eye-pleasing. Folks there are friendly and pleasant. I visited 3 more times in 2015, and every visit was the same, positive, upbeat.

Virginia C. Linch is that Founder, unflappable, hard-working and a magnet for the project, attracting people in the community to weed, plow, bulldoze, construct, plant and donate botany.

The Recipe for the Creation of a Butterfly Oasis in a municipality like Eatonton (the county seat of Putnam county) became clear:

  • Have a Vision – Virginia’s was that of a site full with native wildflowers and hostplants, good to the eye and very attractive to butterflies
  • Tirelessly campaign to achieve broad community approval and awareness – Insure success by involving local people who enjoy doing and helping and sustaining
  • Set the Example – Virginia leaves her job each day and heads straight to the habitat. She weeds, often for hours. She cajoles, straightens and tweeks the thousands of plants, and that induces others to do the same
  • Share the Wish Lists that will end-up improving the habitat
  • Nudge the site, add a water source, as Virginia’s cadre did, to get moisture to the habitat during bone-dry stretches in July and other months. Truck in top-soil, mulch and more.
  • Involve children – Virginia beams with delight when children visit, and get involved. They will  bring their adults, and they will put the habitat on the map, so to speak
  • Urge all to bring what they see and learn to their own home gardens, i.e., plant hostplants for caterpillars and flowering plants for adult butterflies.
  • Let’s finish this bullet-list with Virginia’s perhaps most important attribute: She does not give up! She confronts challenges, and finds ways to overcome them, by one way or another.

This Long-tailed Skipper butterfly is blissfully sipping nectar from a very fresh Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) bloom. I could not have seen it in my own Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is a southern U.S. butterfly. There was that one morning in August where I saw 29 different species of butterflies in the habitat. Ok, ready? WowButterflies that came from miles away, just to enjoy the sweet nectars offered there. Many, many deposit their eggs while there, and the magnificent cycle continues.

I am not sure how many other U.S. cities and towns have such a habitat. My guess? Not enough. I have shared my observations with you, for, truth be told, I remain very . . . impressed. This is for sure an American model that should be emulated.

Jeff