Spicebush Spooks

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Me? I have several thoughts when a Spicebush Swallowtail flies in.

1) I reflect on how infrequently I see them in the field. I spend much time in “open woods and edges” (Glassberg, Swift Guide to Butterflies of  North America) and I may see one or two over the course of a full morning.

2) They fly in silently, without fanfare, avoid me totally, nectar on flowers with brevity and great shyness, and like C.I.A spooks, do not want to be seen or approached.

3) Their range extends from Massachusetts to Florida to Texas and Illinois and along the northern border with Canada. Strays are reported much to the west and north. Despite such an enormous range, I have yet to meet a single person who adores them or can be deemed ‘the’ authority on this large, handsome butterfly.

4) Few of us share good images of Spicebush Swallowtails. Like an effective ‘Spook’ most view this butterfly as unremarkable in its appearance, and readily forgettable.

I’ve planted a 10′ Sassafras tree in my garden, and  and 3 little Spicebushes, and I hope that these hostplants for Spicebush butterflies brings ’em in, from far and wide.



“From This Valley,” They Sing

Tiger swallowtail butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

It’s plenty cold out. New Years Day came and went yesterday. Sitting here, exploring new blog postings, and I stop here, at this handsome male Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, met in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania (some 8 hours west from New York, NY).

If I may take the liberty of speaking for nearly all of you, I am thinking of Spring, of new green growth about, and butterflies. Lots of butterflies, here there and in Your garden.

What jumps to my mind? One of my favorites tunes:  “From this valley they say you’re going, we’re goin’ miss your bright eyes and sweet smile, so remember the Red River Valley, and the old folks that call it their home. Come and sit by my side if you love me, do not hasten to bid me adieu, but remember . . . ”

Back in brick, mortar, asphalt, concrete Brooklyn, that was what I was humming, when solitary as usual, I was exploring vacant ‘lots’ for butterflies and more.

Come March or so, hum River River Valley again, and if with friends, have not a care what they might think, me almost silently humming that unlikely tune, me a guy from the City.


Little Tiger Blue Butterfly

Tarucus Rosaceus butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow near the Syrian border, at Golan Heights, Israel

This was one of the one’s I wanted to meet and greet. Tarucus balkanicus, a tiny tuxedoed butterfly I might have seen once before, but have never photographed. I drove south from my SPNI Golan field house quarters, along the east shore of the Sea of Galilee. Me and my rented blue Mazda continued south, to a spot very close to the Jordanian border.

March 2016, and I was dodging ugly gray clouds the entire time. Reached my destination, prepped (knee pad, film, steel, cleaned my lens, water (always must have water in Israel)). It did not take too long before I spotted 1, 2 and soon other Little Tiger Blues. Tinier than I expected, I had to get down to the ground to shoot them.

Happily they were focused nectarers, and they paid little attention to my approach. It was a race with time, because they held on each bloom for a short time, then relocated to another blossom. That left yours truly on his belly, and needing to get up and belly-down once again.

Here is my result. This male proved to be, well, very handsome, bedecked in his evening formal wear. The ‘eyes’ of his hindwing were silvery-blue, his wing fringes an ice-blue, his abdomen smartly striped, his wings starkly marked. Shmeksy dude, he.

Jeff and a tiny tuxedoed blue, somewhere near Israel’s far eastern border, almost within sight of Jordan.