What was it like? Jay and the Americans helped with that: And then it happened, It took me by surprise, I knew that you felt it too, By the look in your eyes.
I was at the Nichol Road trail, hiking into Raccoon Creek State Park (Hookstown, Pennsylvania). I waded into a stand of Teasel wildflower, and waited by those 6.5 foot flowerheads, waited for butterflies to fly in. With the sky a baby blue, I knew that if I could get lucky, and butterflies flew in, captures of them with the blue sky in the background would be good, very good.
Instead, look, LOOK what flew in. My very first ever Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterfly. An uncommon, very uncommon butterfly. Look at that glimpse of the upper surface of its forewing! Words cannot adequately describe how beautiful that dorsal (upper) surface is.
What was missing that morning? You, there with me, to feel it too, and enable me to confirm how magical those minutes were, by the look in your eyes.
Those surreal moments have almost always been solitary ones, and that is how it is. No?
Is this the best of my images of Little Metalmark butterflies? Maybe. I’m maybe too hard on myself here, for photographing them, as we did here on Shellman Bluff, on the Georgia coast, is beyond difficult.
Why Jeff, why are these gems of a butterfly difficult to capture on an image? They elude your serious efforts to shoot them because: 1) They are about 1/3 the size of the nail on your pinky (1/4?) 2) They fly about 4 inches above the ground 3) The flowers they nectar on are about 4 inches above the ground 4) They rarely stay in place, moving over the flowerheads, forcing you to refocus, refocus, refocus, . . . . . . . . . 5) The air of their habitat is very hot and super saturated with moisture, causing the sweat to cover you (me) 6) You must get your body down, way down to shoot them, and they move, necessitating that you rise and again reposition yourself.
That said, I was determined to shoot these Gems of Shellman Bluff. Determined. This one survives being pitched into the trashcan, and it begins to show the beauty of their metallic lines, when they reflect the sun’s rays.
What’s this all leading to? We return to Shellman Bluff in August, and if we find these Little Metalmark Butterflies, and if the weather cooperates, and if they are a fresh flight and if . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Me? I can’t wait. Of course Jekyll Island, Sapelo Island, Little St. Simons Island, they all are the Siren’s Song for this Jeff.
The old railroad grade has been wisely converted to a good use, a nearly straight mile-long trail through a very, very large swamp. Akeley Swamp in western New York State. Barbara Ann and I were there in June 2018.
She was looking for native orchids and wildflowers. I was looking for . . . butterflies. Hundreds of Common milkweed plants were in peak of bloom. I have never seen such a sight, millions of individual milkweed flowers, set on the globular milkweed flowerheads. Those milkweeds were at the beginning of the trail, and I must have had a Big smile on my face = This will be good, very good. Hundreds of butterflies must await us.
Nuh uh. We saw very few butterflies those next 4 hours. But, but, we had no time for disappointment, for 5 minutes on the trail, on a gorgeous morning, with hundreds of acres of swamp to our right, and compelling treed swamp to our left . . . we saw these! Canada Lillies (Lilium canadense).
Stopped both of us, in our tracks. You stop, you make sure you are seeing what you are seeing (a ‘Pesci’ moment!) and you whisper, “Oh Wow!” I mean, can these be real, or has someone stuck handmade plastic masterpieces along the left side of the trail here and there?
Well, they are real and they are magnificent. Lacking a special clamp to hold these blooms with their inner face looking to us, I am not able to share their attractive spotted inner petals. You must take my word that they sweetly sing to your eyes. G-d’s superb work, Junaisha.
June in western New York, at Watts Flats Wetland Reserve. I went there to find butterflies. As happened too often in the U.S. northeast this 2016, I found few butterflies. In ’17 I expect this disappointment will see some academic explanation. To date, that is not yet available.
But this June 2016 day brought new acquaintances. Among them was this stand of diminutive elves, boasting their bright white blossoms. Several dozens of them. Crouching down, the thought was immediate. I kind of recognize these flowerheads. It later dawned on me. They resemble the blossoms on my 3 Cherokee Red Dogwood trees, on my Pittsburgh lot.
When I got home, I grabbed my National Audubon Society field guide, Field Guide to Wildflowers – Eastern Region. This is the only herb in the dogwood group.
It is Bunchberry ( Cornus canadensis ). It is uncommon, and difficult to find. We found it here, near Busti, New York. It’s about 4″ tall, and when you happen on it in cool, wooded edges, you s-t-o-p, knowing you have just found something, well, novel.
It makes for a fine, memorable day. Admi$$ion fee here at Watts Flats? Zero.