I was just scrolling down some Facebook group sites and my eyes were again and again disappointed. People were posting their images of different tiny Israeli butterflies. I was especially drawn to images of rare, Protected Aricia butterflies. Most of their posts were of males, with their delicious reddish-orange spots along the margins of their wings.
Now I have spent hours seeking those same Aricia butterflies, with some success. Some, for they fly at breakneck speeds, making me rush after them, as they alight on a wildflower for 2.31 seconds, and then again speed away, to a similar bloom 20 feet down trail. Exjhilirating/Exhasuting. Both.
Their shares on FB had orange spots that were limpid, weak or washed-out. I remembered my own favorites, and it seemed to me that mine were richly hued. I didn’t hesitate for a moment to go to our Media Library of images, to see if my recollection was correct.
Here’s a favorite of mine. Aricia Agestis agestis. See my smile? I followed those bad boys for several mornings in my time, and I can now safely smile, for I like what I captured here.
That 12 hours flight, the drive to my daughter’s home, and days later, the 2.3 hour drive to the Golan region of Israel, an SPNI field house at SPNI Hermon. It’d blow your mind, as we used to say. Butterflying in the HolyLand.
Many of you have noted, Jeff, you shoot film, isn’t that a bit . . . expensive? Yes, it is, but the purist in me balks at not sharing with you, the same view that I see in the field. Film continues to provide better real-time color. That’s the way it looks.
But that concern, that Fuji slide film, and its processing/scanning is expen$ive, disappears when I encounter butterflies and wildflowers that tickle my imagination.
When I re-visited Syrian Bear’s Breeches here at Ramat Hanadiv’s reserve trails, in March 2016, I stopped. I marveled. I was reminded of the infinite complexity of this plant and the milieu that is its habitat. Acanthus syriacus is said to have inspired certain ancient architecture. Found in northern Israel, it produces its blooms for a short time in the HolyLand spring season.
I was there. I admired this unique native plant. I stood there, and tried to liken it to any other that I’ve known. There came that imagination tickle, and I shot away, butterfly or no butterfly, this plant was film worthy, for sure.
Then came the more difficult concern, would a share of this image tickle others?
Butterflies kept me busy, but their wildflower choices couldn’t be ignored. This thistle, growing against a chain-link fence in the Mishmarot orchards, was a handsome flowerhead.
Prime bloom time, vibrant color, and beacon to swallowtails and many other butterflies, what was the name of this Israeli blossom?
Holy Thistle (Silybum Marianum). Only in the Holy land would you expect such a name. Butterflies heading to Holy thistle to find succor . . . makes sense, No?
So, I’m thousands of miles from home, out on the trails of SPNI Hermon, on a sunny March 2015 morning. To give perspective, this site shown in the image is less than 5 miles away from where Russian fighter jets are now flying combat missions in Syria. G-d willing, this ground remains as peaceful and remote as it was that March day. Israel remains strong, and this mad world of ours respects strong.
So I’m traversing the trails of this large SPNI reserve [Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (sort of like the US Audubon Society)] and with my hunt for new butterflies, I’m being stopped repeatedly, because, Wow! what plant is this? OMG! I’ve never seen a flower like that!! 7,000 miles away, in the heart of the Middle East, encountering blooms that they admired thousands of years ago.
My Hebrew? 4% efficient. My field guides are in Hebrew, and the text remains a mystery. Despite a serious difference in color, it would appear (don’t you love that phrase) that this blossom is Barbary Nut (Gynandriris Sisyrinchium).
Sometime soon I will exhaust my images of that recent trip to Israel. Still, these catches thrilled me, and I must, with substantial enthusiasm, share them with you. The Holy Land is gorgeous.
This is what it’s all about. There is no predicting what we will find when we set out to discover butterflies. It is a brew of timing, location, weather, habitat health, and your luck quotient. This view shot that thought through my mind, ‘Do you see what I see?’ A solitary figure on that agricultural road in Mishmarot, Israel, the question was a sweet one for me, although it could not be shared at the time.
The time was perfect, 6:50 AM. Perfect because the July 14th morning sun rises quickly. The location was good, this field remained unplanted, and hardy wildflowers flourished. The habitat? Almost all habitat in the Holy Land is desert hardy, and the previous winter had been wet enough. The Luck Quotient? I was in Israel. It is more beautiful than . . . . Well since few of you have been there, I can share with impunity that this Land is more beautiful can you can imagine. There I was, grandson just born, daughter so happy, sky blue, air super-clear, butterflies abundant, family hosting me and showing me around like visiting royalty.
This shot of the Fritillary butterfly Melitaea Trivia Syriaca engaged from some distance, an insurance shot, is sugar to my eye, truth be told.