Excitement on Beechwood Boulevard

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State ParkA

A sight for sore eyes! Petra and I arrived home last night, completing an 188 miles drive down from Frewsburg, New York. This image was captured in Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County, southwestern Pennsylvania. This very morning I looked out of our window, to the side yard, and its ‘peanut’ garden. And what did I see? A female monarch butterfly, like this one, flying to and fro amongst my 26 common milkweed plants. Yippee! She may then head to the 30 or so milkweeds in the front garden, and . . . set her eggs nicely there, too.

This is the 4th year that our milkweeds ( Asclepias syriaca) are in, purchased from Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. They are beautiful this year, 5-6 footers, with big round flower heads.

We pushed off for this most recent trip on June 12th, and arrived back home on June 21st. Adams County in the south of Ohio was our destination. We met other naturalists there, and spent days visiting fens, wooded trails and prairies. Fantastic , it was, with knowledgeable friends, discovering rare orchids, showy orchids, rare botany. Why, why did America allow its prairies to be developed? They are habitat of boundless life and beauty.

My slide film ships to Kansas tomorrow, and I wait. Images of Northern metalmarks, coral hairstreaks, Baltimore checkerspot caterpillars, Zebra swallowtails on butterflyweed(!), Common ringlet, robust pipevine swallowtails and Edward’s hairstreaks, abound. I simply cannot wait to share.

Pumping that anticipation is my desire to see the fruit of my new Cannon 100mm/2.8 lens, with, with image $tabilizer. Will it, can it, deliver?

Appreciative, I am.

Jeff

Predictable, But Viceroy When?

Viceroy Butterfy concealed in Foliage photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

Traci’s Pocket Swamp was all that she said it was. Best of all, this Fayette Township, southwestern Pennsylvania swamp, that she calls Kelso Swamp, featured the wetland flora and fauna expected. Great blue heron, duck, sedges, Typha, all there.

My first visit, and the Salix (Willows) bordering the open water was the clincher. Viceroy butterflies surely must be here too. Willows are their hostplants, so you’d think that Viceroys should be right there, right where you want to see them, throughout the morning.

Except . . . field experience teaches that Viceroys are unpredictable, except, you can predict that once you see them, they will be difficult to approach, and will remain in place briefly, very briefly.

With Viceroy on my mind, I searched this navigable east side of the swamp, finding lots to examine, and shoot.

Boom! In swooped a Viceroy, and it headed to the low grass, just steps from the open swamp, and about 15′ from me. Daddah! Hmmm. Would my approach startle this beaut? Would it stay there long enough for me to get close to it? Could I get close to it? Would . . .?

You know I was Happy!, very Happy! I shot, shot, shot. A fresh, vital, vibrant wetland butterfly, yes, as beautiful as those baubles in the jewelry  store windows on fabled East 57th Street in NYNY! Well not as beautiful, more beautiful than . . . .

Jeff

Winter Antidotes VI

Queen Butterfly at White Tank Mountains, AZ
Need a winter antidote now. The NOAA forecast for Pittsburgh tonight and tomorrow, 4″ to 6″ of snow, may sound fantastic to Petra (my black russian), but it will mean going back again to that snow shovel.

Got an image that radiates heat? This one sure does. A Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus) nectaring in an arroyo in White Tank Mountains Regional Park, west of Phoenix, Arizona. Backstory? I found the arroyo, but after working through it for several hundred yards, I did not find any plant in flower. Why would a plant produce flowers in this unrelenting oven of an arroyo? Then I spotted this gentle beauty, with . . . flowers. Tiny flowers. Queen and I were both happy to find what we were looking for, so my approach enabled this image.

What did I do? Bird in the hand. I stationed myself there, and with baby blue sky, here is the result. Closely related to the the much discussed Monarch butterfly, the Queen’s host plants are similar to those of all Danaus butterflies, Asclepias plants, milkweeds.

So tomorrow morning, as I psyche myself to go out and shovel, I will first open my iMac and soak in this image, a butterfly nectaring in . . . a veritable oven, and overjoyed for it. No doubt!

Jeff

Meadow Fritillary Butterfly

Meadow Fritillary Butterfly at Rector, PA

It’s late morning in an expansive meadow in Rector, Pennsylvania. The Laurel Highlands is a beautiful and sylvan area in southwestern PA. Fittingly, this Meadow Fritillary is methodically nectaring on wildflowers. They prefer damp meadows, but as we see here, they also visit dry meadows.

This adult Meadow Fritillary is nectaring on Lance-leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia). They are approachable when they are nectaring. Boloria bellona’s caterpillars feed upon those little violet plants that we often overlook. Violets are the host plants for many of the fritillaries.

Please make a point of seeing our post of the dorsal (above) view of a Meadow fritillary. The 2 photos complement one another. Although described in field guides as widespread, we see very few of them each year.

Jeffrey