This Year 2015

Wild Bergamot wildflowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Oconee National Forest in Central Georgia, the Jamestown Audubon Center reserve in Western New York,  and the Allegheny National Forest in Northwestern Pennsylvania were joyous visits for me, new regions, new butterflies and new wildflowers. With 2015 fully in progress, I went to Doak Field in Raccoon Creek State Park last Thursday, July 2nd. As I worked those Southwestern Pennsylvania trails, there were surprises in store. Darners were flying in squadrons in 2014. I met few on July 2nd. Butterflies were many in ’14, I encountered relatively few this time, and didn’t fill a roll of Fuji slide film. Common milkweed are present in good numbers, but with the sun out, little wind blowing, I found no Monarchs and very, very few Swallowtails.

When I rounded the bend on a trail cut through the meadow, where hundreds of Wild Bergamot (pictured here) greeted me in 2014, there are very few to be seen on July 2, 2015.

No, Monica, we don’t get bored in the field, for each year brings its owns mysteries and surprises. The camera lens must be cleaned, for you Never know what’s to be around the next bend.

Jeff

Bergamot Bloom

Bergamot Bloom photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania 7/31/14
There were thousands of these flowerheads that day in August 2014. I returned to Doak Field, morning after morning. I was anxious to see who I’d find there. I also enjoyed being in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the irony that only one person was there to savor the color, aroma and peace of that place.

Winged beauties made sure that I was not alone. Butterflies, moths, bees, flies and ruby throated hummingbirds flew in good numbers. Wasps silently patrolled for unsuspecting victims. Praying mantises kept their statuesque guard, and spiders hid to await their meals. Continue reading

A Tree Full of Them

Moth Caterpillar photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania
They just don’t appear when I’m in the field. I want to come upon butterfly caterpillars, and I regret that I don’t have a treasure trove of images of this unique stage of butterfly metamorphosis. They remain in the shadows, or hidden from view, high up in trees, or unseen resting on the underside of ground hugging plants.

Those who have amassed field guides to butterfly caterpillars have earned my respect. Hard to do, for sure.

That explains my excitement when on September 27th I discovered a tree in Doak field, and on it were dozens of these chewing machines. Striking coloration, a pair of horn-like extensions just back of the heads, butterfly caterpillars? How could they not be? Which?

Checked my field guides for butterflies. No, no, no. These are moth caterpillars. Amazing critters they are, but . . . moth caterpillars. Back to square one, where, oh, where . . . why, oh why does my butterfly caterpillar cache not grow? ‘Tis not easy.

Jeff

Badly Needed Winter Antidote XIII

American Copper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, August 2014
It’s a problem. My Neumade slide cabinet already has quite a few American Copper butterfly images, and each time I go to cull out several, I end up keeping almost all. Culling is a dirty business, and I just can’t pitch good images to the trash. Can’t.

Then here I was, on September 4th, 2014 in Doak Field, Raccoon Creek State Park. Haven’t done a presentation there for, what is it now, 2 years? Nevertheless it is terrific for butterflies, has diverse habitat, I once saw a Goatweed leafwing there, and . . . I just love Doak field, all 100 acres of it.

This Lycaena Phlaes flew from the mowed trail, onto this very nearby shoot. 1/1,000,000th of a second internal debate, then decision, way too beautiful to not attempt a keeper of an image. Crisp, sharp spots, borders, contrasts. My loyal followers know that I am fond of this butterfly.

Winter antidote? Absolutely. Spring is coming, the ticking of the clock assures that. Winged beauties like this one will soon be on the wing. Love.

Jeff

No, I’m Not a Monarch!

 

Pearl Crescent Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, August 2014

Each day we learn more about animals. Dogs, we are now told, think. Cats do too. Those of us who spend considerable time amongst butterflies often wonder, do they, can they think? Problem solve? Do they flee because of instinct, or do they decide when and if to go?

Butterflies certainly might, if they can reason at all, exasperate, because we lavish so much attention upon Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Coral hairstreaks, Giant Swallowtails, and pay little or no attention to the likes of this stunner, a shmeksy female Pearl Crescent butterfly  (Phyciodes Tharos). She was warming up her wings on a sunny August morning along a trail in Doak Field,  Raccoon Creek State Park, on the western side of Pennsylvania.

If she thinks, then she must puzzle over why she sets there, very attractively lounging on a verdant leaf, while anyone who goes by asks, ‘Hey, have you seen any Monarchs yet this morning?’

Jeff