Bet You’ve Never Met a Leonard’s

Leonard's Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Leonard’s Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Please form a single line, and get your betting cash ready, for me thinks that almost None of you have ever seen a Leonard’s Skipper. Hesperia leonardus and I have met only once. It was the most unlikely, improbable meeting!

The odds of seeing her on this trail were about as good as the odds of being there, and . . . along comes Cindy Crawford!

I’d visited this same southwestern Pennsylvania park, Raccoon Creek State Park, dozens of mornings that summer. It was a summer with lots of butterflies, quite the contrast to this summer of 2016. I scored many, many excellent images. I was pleased with that. There was no reason to return to Raccoon Creek, now that September had arrived.

The day before this day, the forecast was for a sunny, beautiful day. Tempting, very. But it was mid-September, y’all were back at work, kids back to school, and . . . I didn’t need more images!

That night I decided, OK, expect nothing much, butterflies in decline or gone, spring ephemerals a faint recollection, just expect a sea of goldenrod, and not much more. Even the Monarchs should be expected to have left.

I went, LaDeDah, it was so nice there, not a sole about, and so comfortable . . . and Then, then, something  flew out from the cut meadow edge, onto the trail in front of me, and my eyes, my eyes sent what they saw to my brain, and my brain, it responded, Huh? What is this???

I had never seen this before. It was a butterfly. It was super fresh. It was a skipper. It was a Big skipper. It remained on the just cut grassy trail, with its dorsal surface in perfect form.

I made my robotic approach, I sllllooooowwwwwllllllllyyyyyyyyy got down on my belly, and I shot away (Fuji film, Velvia 50). I moved some, changed film rolls, and took almost 50 exposures.

I learned something very important that day. There are butterflies that are “our only butterfly with a single brood in late summer (Butterflies of the East Coast by Cech & Tudor, Princeton University Press)” I also learned that I have nothing to complain of, for Cech and Tudor continue, “A strong, rapid-flying skipper, Leonard’s is notoriously difficult to approach.” This babe stayed and posed for me for what seemed like a lifetime, or almost 4 minutes. Leonard’s are said to be steadily disappearing from their known eastern range, making this even more incredible!

I learned: Don’t discount the possibilities when you go out there, never underestimate what you may or may not see.

Oh, I hope you read along here to this end, for I Love retelling this,Truth be Told.


Baltimore, Begosh!

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

They’ve eluded me for many years. I kept my eyes open, for their wetland hostplants, Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), and I’ve found them, many times in many places. But these spectacular checkerspot butterflies, no such luck.

During a visit to the Jamestown Audubon Center in Jamestown, New York, I enjoyed the friendliest, warmest reception that I’ve ever gotten from the staff of an Audubon Center. Relishing the experience, I left the Visitors Center building. Standing at the edge of their cultivated Butterfly garden, my eyes, always keen to spot butterfly movement or color, signaled Stop! Look! There on the ground cover was a Baltimore checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas phaeton). Would it flee? It didn’t, and I took photograph after photograph.

So many years since my last encounter with a checkerspot at Powdermill in Rector, Pennsylvania. I was as happy as . . .

I count this photograph as one of the most satisfying images I’ve photographed. It’s a real American beauty.


Southern Pearly-eye Butterfly with Cane

Southern Pearly-eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Rose and Jerry were spotting for me, in this dimly-lit Piedmont National Wildlife Swamp. It was difficult going, with each step either sinking in the soft terrain, or almost sending you, slipping and sliding.  Time and time again, it was an almost Plop! Onto your back. So many of the Southerns, Northerns, Creole Pearly-eyes, Gemmed Satyrs and Carolina Satyrs fled before I could respond to Rose’s or Jerry’s “Come look at this!”

This Southern Pearly-eye cooperated. Resplendent in its gentle colors, it was a treat to see it, among the canes and river oats.

August 2015, with the locally respected Paynes. Jeffrey, with the Satyrs. I was indeed a Happy Boy with extraordinary folks and exemplary butterflies in Georgia.