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

 

Flying to the Middle East . . . Me And Gilbert O’Sullivan

Aricia Agestis butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow on Qedesh trail, Israel

My flight on Tuesday, March 28th fast approaches. I have yet to put a single thing in my suitcase. Usually earning B+’s for packing, collecting my field clothing, leisure clothing and Sabbath clothing, along with lenses (Macro- and Wide-angle), and 48 rolls of Fuji film, and toiletries, and shoes, boots and on and on, remains a significant challenge for me. I do have my Israel field guide handy, and hopefully Rachel has my preferred map book there in Israel, waiting for me and my Hertz rental. No GPS for this guy, so set in his . . . .

My first ever Passover in Israel, spent with Rachel and Uri and my 2 grandsons, and extended family. Imagine a table full of folks, with every man there having been in uniform, and most having experienced action in 1 or more wars?

After a year of gently suggesting to butterfly enthusiasts in Israel, wouldn’t you be pleased to join me on your favorite trails and in your favorites butterfly destinations, I must admit that I am alone again, naturally. Know then that when I safely return, and no war has begun  while I am there (that happened to me twice, once in the ’80’s (‘The Lebanon War’) when I arrived with my wife and 4 children, only to find that war broke out while we were in the air!), every butterfly and wildflower I share will be a small miracle, and just years of honing my butterfly strategies.

Rachel learned to cook from her Mom A”H (“OBM”) and Dina, her mother-in-law (now more like a mother) is an excellent cook, so there’s much to be appreciative of.

This Aricia aegistis sweetheart was found on a trail that Dina’s sister Miriam recommended, the Qedesh trail in the norther Galilee, just some 2.5 miles from the Lebanese border, and murderous Hezbollah, with its menacing store of thousands of rockets (why would anyone point thousands of rockets at their neighbor? I never have, have you?).

I’ve struck out trying to urge my many friends to schedule this trip with me, and see the Christian sites that were revered in Sunday school. For some it’$ money, for others it’s the “danger” though there is none, and I shop for fruit in Druze villages! Others have trips planned to other spots. What I would not give to share a trail in the Golan, with . . . . . . . . . . I dare not name names, for I love y’all too much.

So I fly on March 28, and return on April 25, G-d willing, and we will not post any new blogs, I think, until my return to Pittsburgh. Fly there with me in ’18 and win a free . . . . (Hmmmm.)

Jeff

Adios Arizona!

Arizona arroyo habitat photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Tank Mountains Regional Park, AZ

Where? Well you already know we’re in Arizona. Just an hour and a half west of Phoenix, in that arroyo (dry creek bed) that I visited a couple of times, and almost lost it all to heat exhaustion (didn’t use my cell when I realized I was going down, that male stupidity ( Guilty! ), not wanting to inconvenience 911, when I thought that Brooklyn here had been through deadlier scraps . . . .).

I loved that arroyo, in White Tank Mountains Regional Park. The good sign warned to stay away, do not enter, for among the reasons, flash floods apparently rage through, when it rains. I never ever saw anyone else in that rock-strewn arroyo bed. Hope the Statue of Limitations is now up?

Well, mother-in-law moved back to Brooklyn about 6 months ago, from Sun City West, and that was why I went there in the first place. I for years wanted to also visit Portal, Arizona as Vladimir Nabokov did in his pursuit of blue butterflies, in the southeastern Arizona mountain system that included the Chirichaua mountains,  sp?). Never got that off my list, for not ever finding anyone to join/guide me to good destinations in those huge mountains.

So I reminisce, seeing this sweet, sweet memory from that gorgeous/deadly arroyo, and think, . . . Adios Arizona!

Jeff

Goal Achieved? Yes, June, 2015! New Goals?

Full dorsal view of Regal Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

I wanted to photograph these Regal fritillary butterflies for some 17 years or so. Never found anyone who would steer me to them. Than in the Spring of ’15, someone on Facebook noted that they were headed to the 4-day Monitored Tour of the Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reserve near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I spoke up, found out the details, and here you see my fun day there, guided by military post naturalists, to the huge meadows on the post. I remember the first moment that I saw them, busily moving from flowerhead to flowerhead. 17-year goal, achieved right there, and well, they are regal and beautiful, and they pose. They pose, as they patiently nectar at butterflyweed and common milkweed.

Now we are in the very beginning of my 3rd decade of seeking and photographing butterflies in the wild. I have improved my skills, but my goals are not much different. Finding and shooting new butterflies remains the challenge. This year, if necessary, I know that I can query Virginia, Mike, Rose, Jerry, Phil, Barbara Ann, Nancy and John and Angela for destinations sought. Others have become new Facebook friends, but either do not know rare butterfly habitat, or are not yet ready to share same. Sure I read about 7 of Robert Michael Pyle’s books, and how I relish having the networks of friends that he had/has.

I fly on March 28th to Israel, and plan to spends days away in the Golan mountains and the very upper Galilee region. I’ve had much less ‘luck’ there, never having been able to coax anyone to meet meet anywhere, at anytime. For those who have been visiting wingedbeauty.com for some time, know that when I have posted images of Israel ( read that HolyLand or Middle Eastern ) butterflies, it has been the fruit of sheer determination, field guide/map strategizing, and the mother of them all . . . Luck.

This year in the USA, my new goals include Diana fritillaries in the northern Georgia mountain ( with nary a single offer of where, when ), the Cofaqui giant skipper butterfly ( for me AKA the needle in the haystack butterfly ) and satyrs and alpines in northern Maine and Ontario ( w/o having found anyone to . . . . ). Place your $$$ on me meeting Diana, for I am determined to make their acquaintance.

Jeff