Fodder for Optimists: Monarch Butterfly on Goldenrod Blooms

Monarch Butterfly on Goldenrod photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14

This photograph is the fuel I need for recharging my optimism. She’s a fresh Monarch Butterfly and she’s taking in nectar from Goldenrod blooms in Raccoon Creek State Park’s Doak Meadow. It was early September, and the lovely Monarch was gorging on as much carbohydrates, proteins and lipids as she could, before her thousands of miles flight to Central Mexico.

This view is so uplifting for me. We complain of this and that, most really not too significant. This lady Monarch, ready to fly from southwestern Pennsylvania to the conifer-covered mountains of far away Mexico.

Makes you think. What’s her motives? What’s in it for her?


Don’t You Love It When . . .

Banded Hairstreak Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

This tiny Hairstreak butterfly charmed me when I discovered it on a trailside leaf in Doak meadow in Raccoon Creek State Park, southwest Pennsylvania. I knew it was a new one for me, a species of Hairstreak I’d never seen before. Just as good was its calm, unbothered response to my patented robotic approach. When you shoot Macro- you must be close, very close. Closer yet when your subject Hairstreak is as tiny as this.

Glassberg’s Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America revealed this beaut to be a Hickory Hairstreak (Satyrium caryaevorum) and cites it as “R-U” (Rare to Uncommon).

Our new home has 5 hickory trees in front, one of them the much beloved Pignut Hickory. Ach! Hickory Hairstreaks generally fly no further south than north Georgia, so we’ll probably never find one flying at our front door!

Don’t you love it when you’re on that trail, and you see a butterfly you’ve . . . never seen before! With our move to a new home now done (‘cept for lots of unpacking/planting) the coming weeks just energize me, Social Distancing assured, y’all.


Georgia Wood Nymph

Wood Nymph Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Cloudland Canyon State Park, GA

I ‘grew-up’ on Wood Nymph butterflies. They were among the butterflies I saw most often back in the 1990’s when I took to this pursuit gangbusters. They were abundant in Doak field (meadow) and the forest edges surround Doak.

I counted them among my favorites at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Why? In the mid-1990’s I took a several day outdoors course at Raystown Lake in central Pennsylvania. There, near lake’s edge, I saw a Wood Nymph butterfly with screamin’ baby blue in its forewing eyes, that surrounded by a large field of butter-yellow. I saw it, but minutes later, after following it, I had not a single image. I wanted an image of such a Wood Nymph, and I have come close. Try to approach a Wood Nymph, and you’re more than likely to be treated rudely, very rudely.

This one here, seen in July 2018 at Cloudland Canyon State Park in very northwestern Georgia counts as one of my first southern Wood Nymphs. True to form, I had to bloodhound this one, until finally, one of us cried ‘Uncle’ and we agreed to take a moment’s rest, just so long as we both kept our ‘word.’

The blue pupils in the forewing ‘eyes’ are replaced here with tiny white ones. All the 3 ‘eyes’ seen on the lower wing surfaces have those white pupils. The yellow washes of the northern Wood Nymphs are a bit smaller, and less intensely yellow.

I think that they are still among my favorites, still.


Friday for Coral Hairstreaks?

Coral Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

This morning at Raccoon Creek State Park set the table for me, so to speak. The huge Doak Meadow (100 acres +/-) was green and lush, with frenetic male Great Spangled Fritillaries flying non-stop in their desperate search for females. I did see two females, but they stayed low to the ground, flying under the upper stratum of meadow grasses, perennials and shrubs.

There was a near total absence of Bergamot (had a big display in 2014), common milkweed plants were in the minority, even dogbane was not as numerous as years gone by. Joe Pye Weed was present here and there along the forest that edged the meadow, but here another puzzling minimal showing. Goldenrod was coming along, but it too appeared to be reduced in concentration.

The big find of the morning were a handful of Northern Pearly Eyes, looking fine, and probably pleased with the rains that we had a few days ago. One Northern, with what seemed like a smile, offered a swell pose, if, if I set my foot into a small puddle. I did, and my boot sank 4″ into mud! Absent were Wood Nymphs, and the Little Wood Satyrs were all (?) worn and very pale in color. One Little Wood Satyr gave me a full, unhurried photo opp of its dorsal surface, but it was quite worn, with heavy scale loss.

Before I called it a morning, I found this clump of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). It’s the same group of plants that this image shows. They were a day or two away from opening. The Coral Hairstreak butterfly you see here is usually difficult to find, and these blooms are their very favorite. You know I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could cop an image of Coral and Butterfly Weed that surpasses this one?

That means returning those 37.2 miles in 2 days, on Friday, June 24th. No guarantees, and if I can return to this spot, it might also mean bringing my tiny folding seat, and waiting patiently for the Corals to show up, if 2016 is a year when they do. There are no guarantees, only perseverance, tenacity,  enthusiasm and . . . a dab of Luck.