Pearly-eye’s Gold-Rimmed Spots

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

Virginia reminded me that much of what I seek is focused and purposeful. This flies in the face of what most folks think I do. Many believe I work trails, looking for whatever comes along. I think this is incorrect.

Here in northeastern USA, when I scour a trail like this one, critical factors combine to anticipate goals. Goal this instant day and on this series of trails was to spot Northern Pearly-eye butterflies. This because the habitat was right: 1) trail along forest edge 2) wetland bordering trail, with wetland plants and 3) poorly lit forest margin.

So I was looking for Pearly-eyes and . . . I was hungry, hungry to score good to better images of the dorsal (upper side) of fresh fliers.’Good to better’ required, for these cordovan beauts, rich chocolate wing color, striking marginal spots and best of all, 14K to 18K gold ringing the sweet spots. Cherry on top would be orangeish tip on dark antennal clubs.

Certain TV commercials urge folks with good dollar$ to buy gold, and stash it in their safes, just in case . . . . Well, here is a forest-edge butterfly dripping ‘real’ gold.

If you thought that this image could/should have been closer to the Pearly-eye, know that any closer, and sweet stuff would have . . . . just that quickly.

At an ancient sphagnum acid bog in western New York state, along the edges of the bog.


What You’re Thinking When You . . . Rare Butterflies

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa - Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap. (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

Those ten or more years, wanting, but unable to see and photograph Regal Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria Idalia) ended here, in June 2015. I never knew that Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation opened this expansive meadow to visitors, 2 Fridays and 2 Saturdays a year, in the first weeks of June. Surprise. There is not much sharing amongst those of us who seek butterflies, and why is that?

So I drove the 2.5 hours to Harrisburg, Pa.. on Thursday, stayed in a Hampton Inn, and Friday morning there I was . . . not one of 15 excited lovers of butterflies . . . I was amongst 130 guests. Each of those 4 days had something like that number of people, a whopping 520 or more had gone there to see the Regal Fritillarys. Kinda like those seeking audience with English royalty.

What was the Friday morning and early afternoon like, for me? I thought that it would be a disappointment, for how can I do what I do with 129 folks on my heels. No. It was much better than that. The Army post employs naturalists to husband their unique wildlife, and these folks were there to help, watch, caution, and inevitably work us into much smaller groups, working the huge reserve meadows. Soon it was Jeff, 2 fellow guests and a naturalist. That’s when it became Whoopee!

I was impressed with the seriousness of the hours before me. It was sunny, mild, minimal wind, the Regals were flying and their butterfly milkweed was mid-bloom and lush. Fine field conditions, and therefore fully the chance of a lifetime. Seen in singles and at most in 3’s, some Regals were worn, others were “fresh.” Decades of my life have been enjoyed, yet I’d never seen these before, and may never see them again. I live in the eastern U.S., and you cannot meet Regals in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. Only in this military reserve in central Pennsylvania.

With each and every camera click counting, I had to be sure that I was shooting fresh fliers I had to do lots of moving around as a beauty of a male or female (more males than females on the wing) fled one milkweed and flew 70 feet to another. Often someone else was bearing down on a bloom or butterfly before I got there. I kept aware of the time, knowing that fritillary butterflies often nectar and fly intermittently, and that the morning experience would end when our hosts announced, “it’s time to take your last shots.”

I was pleased that I found a mating pair, and my best images of them together rate as “good.” That’s a coup of sorts. I saw other butterflies too, including Coral Hairstreaks and Monarchs.

Unlike y’all, I shoot film, and don’t know how my images fare until weeks later, when my slides return from Dwayne’s Photo Lab in Parsons, Kansas. Please resist advice on that, thank you.