That Danaus Look

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Danaus plexippus won’t disappoint us. We know they won’t. As I’m writing, they are flying north, now hundreds of miles distant from their winter perches in fir trees in central Mexico. Virginia can expect to see them before I do. Barbara Ann, hours north of me, may well  see them before I do. Miriam may see these Monarchs first, but my turn will patiently come.

What do the statisticians report? That 94.81% of Americans love Monarch butterflies, and will stop what they are doing to marvel at one. The results are not yet available for Europeans, Canadians, Asians, Africans, Central and South Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, and the French (because they are in the News today).

This instant Danaus, nectaring on a Middle Eastern thistle flower, almost instantly identifies as a Monarch relative. Like our other U.S. Danaus butterflies, the Queen and the Soldier, this Plain Tiger butterfly (D. chrysippus) is large, bright orange with broad black borders flecked with prominent white dots, and black veins. Head and abdomen are striking, with sizable white dots set on a stark black background. Hostplant? Israeli milkweeds.

Monarchs will tolerate my approach when they are nectaring, but not when they are resting, or sunning on a flat leaf in the pre-9 A.M. hours. Plain Tigers? No approach is tolerated. I see a beaut!, decide that a shot from ground level would produce a Wow! . . . approach, s-l-o-w-l-y get down on my belly, do that basic training crawl to get closer, s-l-o-w-l-y raise my Macro-lens . . . Gone! Sped away, full throttle! Time and time again.

Know then that this, and several other looks at D. chrysippus, give much much satisfaction. Yes.

Jeff

Beauty in Abundance

Giant swallowtail butterfly on tithonia, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Minutes, hours, days spent seeking butterflies. I leave the disappointedly dirty streets, litter in otherwise comely city parks, hustle and bustle of traffic. Detach myself from the tens, hundreds and thousands of people whom I pass, who do not offer the Hello! or smile or eye contact that . . . I think shores all (most) of us up. No bills to see before my eyes, no housework to feel obligated to attend to, and almost, almost no thought of family and all that family means to me.

This one? We’re here in the Butterflies & Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. If I had to guess, I’ve posted maybe some 100 or more images from this Gem! of a nature reserve. Even here though, there are signs of leaves that are on the wane, flowers that are spent (as they must be . . . ), insects sadly down on the trails (dead), predators about who do belong who do play a role but who still tug at our sense of life and death. And there are always those squadrons of butterflies, many worn, scales mostly lost, who tease me, until I see that bird-struck hindwing, or those punctures in a wing or more. Y’all don’t much like to see damaged butterflies, no matter how much you protest that you . . . do.

Then, as here, in zooms! a wondrous creature, resplendent in fresh, bright color, and Oh, so Complete! That’s the juice that sets me ablaze! Objective? Capture that beauty, so that its throws a weightless sheer cover over all the not so pretties vying for our attention.

A Giant swallowtail butterfly, young, fresh . . . Beauty in Abundance! Caught on Fuji film, and no cell phone used in the process. Really.

H-s work.

Jeff

2nd Dibs At Rare Butterflies?

Levantine marbled white butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

Jackpot! is how I felt when the very rare cousin flew to this wildflower. This tiny nectar pump of a bloom must have delivered enough nectar to keep this Parnassian there long enough. Long enough for me to shoot her out, and earn several good exposures of her. There at the peak of Mt. Hermon, with my hired guide, I relished these moments, knowing how much I wanted to see and photograph Parnassius mnemosyne. If I had found one at all, I would have expected it to be a male, for male butterflies are much more active then females, most spending 91.83% of their times flying, searching for hidden female suitors. That she came out when I was nearby, well, that was super terrific.

Doesn’t it take some reckoning to accept that she is closely related to swallowtail butterflies? More akin to a tiger swallowtail butterfly than to a cabbage white? How’d I get to the only place in the Middle East that P. mnemosyne can be found? A long drive up a mountain road that twists and turns, some of them nearly 90 degrees cut out of the mountain, and then a cable car ride up the mountain, challenging my, lets’s call it concern re: heights, and then a long hike across the peak of Mt. Hermon, arriving there on this arid peak, in 93 degree heat and unrelenting sun. And there was that land mine that Eran found, right where we were tracking butterflies.

Just back from Israel 6 days ago, this 2008 memory reminds me that we who search for butterflies, birds, darners, moths, cats, martens, snakes, . . . . probably all weigh a question. That question is: Though I have seen this Very rare butterfly some years ago, and copped some good images, . . . why is it that I keep thinking that I’d like to see her again? Is there any sound reason to search for her, and see her, again?

In this case the peak of Mt. Hermon looks down to the carnage of . . . Syria. A guide would again be needed, and even so, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) closes the mountain top to us, as necessary, and often without warning. Further in this case, there is the ‘icky’ knowledge that if you could return there, say 12 days ago when I was on the mountain, you would have been under near constant surveillance by the IDF, the UN, and Syrian, perhaps Russian, perhaps American and perhaps Iranian, and perhaps ISIL and perhaps Salafist . . . . Risky? All to see Parnassius mnemosyne and 10 or 11 other protected butterflies???

Jeff

No Anaphaeis Aurota, Irregardless

Caper White Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow

Years fly by, and as they do, we learn more, and understand more. Several years ago, I was charmed by a sizable flight of Anaphaeis aurota in picturesque Binyamina. This Israeli town is now much sought after by new homeowners, and houses are being built throughout the town. Found north of Tel Aviv, it is a short drive from Caesaeria ( with its Roman and Greek ruins, tony  restaurants and newly built villas ) and Netanya ( featuring a French Riviera type beach ), and with a train station there, Binyamina is an easy train commute to Tel Aviv.

Binyamina is located in a vast, fertile valley, that provides Israel with much of its beloved crops: oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, avocados, mangos and bananas. The government wisely has insured that extraordinary valley’s farmland remains agricultural, and that is good, for those same farmlands give nurture to butterflies and wildlife along its margins. This sweetheart of a male was seen and photographed along a dirt road amongst those Binyamina orchards.

Home just days now, , I so wanted to meet Anaphaeis aurota again, and get good looks at females, they slightly larger than males, and a bit differently marked.

But time has taught me that you can’t will that you see a butterfly, for . . . though your visit is finite, butterflies fly when they fly, and this one flies in Israel from the middle of June to early December. I arrived in late March and flew home to Pittsburgh on April 25th, departing from Ben Gurion airport at just 45 minutes after midnight.

Irregardless of your schedule, butterflies have theirs. They fly when their hostplants are about, and to see them, you must do the same, fly in when the plants that their caterpillars eat are in full vigor, and when the adult butterflies can do as this one is doing, nectaring on suitable flowers, or drinking available sap, or depending upon sufficient scat, dropped here and there.

Jeff

 

42 Rolls & Not One Of Them X-Rayed = Yay!!

Meliteae Phoebe butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel 

Hi! Shalom! Buenos Dias! I flew in yesterday morning, to JFK International Airport, from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. Four (4) weeks in Israel, including my First Passover there, ever. Rachel and Uri were the perfect hosts, and Hillel and Boaz were Too Much Fun!!

My field work took me to the uppermost Golan, Metulla, Ramat Hanadiv and the meadows that surround Mishmarot (north of Tel Aviv and Netanya). The butterflies and wildflowers amazed. Blessed by a wet winter, the land was a blankets of reds, purples, yellows, blues, whites and combinations of them. That nectar overload was accompanied by great flights of parparim (butterflies). Sun abounded, and the trails were magically emptied, I hope that done to increase my success with my trusty Macro- 100mm/2.8 Canon lens.

I saw several of these Phoebe Fritillary butterflies, though not yet sure if any can match the shmeksy! good looks of this guy.

I went with a large cache of unexposed film, and I Happily report that I succeeded in securing “Hand Checks!!!” for all of my Fuji film, at train stations, twice at Ben Gurion and twice at JFK airport in New York!!! Most of you have no idea how that slows you up at Security stations, and how earnestly ‘they’ try to convince you that their subatomic particle shooters will not “harm” your film. Nope, not even willing to risk an iota of chance that whatever I caught, will please y’all.

Today those Fuji rolls ship to Kansas, then they are returned and the slides spend several  weeks at Rewind Memories for scanning . . . then I cull, cull, cull, and hopefully soon, very soon, let’s see what we’ve got for you to see.

Jeff