‘I Want To Go Home, Where I Belong, I’m Just A . . . . ‘

I’m not totally sure why this song popped into my head, but it well sums up those many years of seeking butterflies, without you there with me. Having you there to together eyeball the terrain and vegetation for butterflies makes the quest for fresh, unique, new and rare butterflies so much more successful Talking while on trail does not cause them to flee, for they do not much hear human speech.

Those of you who are expert in plant ID are a big boon to finding butterflies, for being able to identify flowers, leaves, hostplants, fruit and all gives you advantage, for it helps anticipate what butterflies you may meet here and there. Barbara Ann Case A”H and Mike Barwick and Rose and Jerry Payne, Phil Delestrez, Nancy and John Crosby and Jerry Amerson all excelled when I was lucky enough to work trails with them.

2020 is slowly coming to a butterfly-seeking close, and 2021? I very, very much want to Bust-Out in this 2021. So many write of the disappointment of 2020 I’ve felt them too, and what tantalizes me? Several folks have nicely offered, without me asking, to show me destinations. Destinations! 2021, the Kid from Brooklyn (originally LOL) maybe meeting knowledgeable, good and sharing folks who know, and who guide us to potent destinations? WoW!

With former friends dismissive of what I (we?) do, and family no keen too (“Bugs!”), 2021, traveling to meet new friends who are steeped in knowledge of butterflies and where to find them, has my brain erupting in song, as this Rock ‘N Roll song, that somehow connects here, ‘I Want To Go Home, Where I Belong, I’m Just A . . . . ”

Shown? Nichol Road Trail, Raccoon Creek State Park, southwestern Pennsylvania, U.S.A.. If you’d been there, Oh My Goodness!

Jeff

You Ever See A Giant Swallowtail?

Giant Swallowtail butterfly at rest, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

My house in Eatonton, Georgia is for sale. Its backyard has many beds, full of Georgia native plants. Georgia butterflies seek native plants that are their hostplants. Hostplants are native plants that offer sustenance and shelter for butterfly caterpillars.

We have Hop trees and Hercules Club bushes/trees in our yard. They are the hostplants for the butterfly shown here, the Giant Swallowtail butterfly.  Drawn by our Hop trees and Hercules Club and Rue, we see many Giants each year! This one was seen very, very early in the morning at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton.

Mention these huge butterflies to most Georgians, and you come to be surprised, for most tell me that they’ve never ever seen a Giant Swallowtail butterfly.

My Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania natives garden attracted 2 or3 Giant Swallowtails each year. I was ecstatic to see them, and I felt very fortunate to have been visited by such extraordinary Giants.

Most Georgians confess that they’ve never seen one. Have you ever seen one?

Jeff

I Photograph Butterflies

Gray Hairstreak photographed by Jeff Zablow at Fort Federica, Saint Simons Island, GA

It’s frustrating to watch sylvan habitat lost to development. I’ve been bemoaning the loss since as far as I can recall. That must have begun when I was some 12 years old, and fine ‘bay-side’ land was invaded by bulldozers in the Arverne Section of Rockaway Beach, in New York City’s Queens. I roamed those acres before the ‘dozers came, and their loss, even for a wide awake 12-year old, was forever irreversible.

We didn’t travel at all, and I had no idea how vast the United States were. Pre-teen me thought that soon there’d  be nothing left between Brooklyn and Los Angeles (where many of my friends ended up moving to).

It sure may well be that I still retain that apprehension that butterflies and orchids (didn’t know about natives back then) and bumblebees and darners and such will disappear, on my ‘watch.’ It’s true that back in about the 4th grade, in Public School 244 in Brooklyn, my teacher told us that bald eagles, beavers, and mountain lions would all be gone, during our lifetimes. I’ll never forget that, for it was clear that I’d never even get a chance to see them, except for those sad, forlorn captives in the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn.

So there I was celebrating the losses sure to come, of so much, including plants and animals that were then unknown to me: wildflowers, trees, snakes, lizards, birds (I still hate knowing that the Ivory Billed Woodpecker is lost), bison, the Eastern Timber Wolf, the Regal Fritillary Butterfly that flew where my East 58th Street, Brooklyn house stood, when the British and Hessians marched through there, as they prepared to make their pincer attack on New York, New York.

I am thrilled to go into the bush to find and photograph butterflies. They are still flying, and often in good enough numbers to dissuade me from believing my 4th grade teacher.

There are way too few of us, who seek and shoot butterflies, but that’s what we are doing, and will seek to continue to do. My move, 2 years ago to central Georgia’s Piedmont region pleased me, for there I’ve seen so many new butterflies, some of them in my own yard, it, now busy with hostplants whose siren aromatic signals draw butterflies that we greet with Oohs! and Aahs!

I photograph butterflies, as for example this spiffy Gray Hairstreak.

Jeff

Br’er Rabbit, Brooklyn and the Briar Patch

Briar Rabbit statue photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, Eatonton, GA

Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch II will soon be entering its 2nd year at the Eatonton, Georgia site. Virginia Linch and her band of volunteers, by necessity, had to move this Butterfly wonderland from the other side of town to this new, much larger location. Many, I included, were reluctant to make that move. I’d driven down from Pittsburgh in 2015, 2016 and 2017 just to shoot butterflies there.

Y’all showed sign of tiring of solely northeastern USA butterflies, even with a sprinkling of Israeli, Mississippi and Arizona Leps thrown in. The challenge was how to travel to 7 different Southern U.S. states, and without anyone to guide me, find dozens of southeastern U.S. butterflies. When I came across Virginias’s Facebook page, and learned of the 2-acre Wonder, I visited the Briar Patch Habitat. OMG! Two acres with several hundred butterflies aloft at any given time. Imagine that.

Virginia took this once thriving aluminum factory site, now a brownfield, and converted it into the best butterfly destination this side of the Mississippi River. I’ll not go into how she did it without any significant grants or financial Big Daddy, how they acquired hundreds of hostplants and who/how they got planted.

Br’er Rabbit here, greets you as you enter Briar Patch II. He was hand carved from carefully chosen Florida swamp trees. Joel Chandler Harris’ series of childrens’ books tell the tales of the denizens of the old-time Briar Patch, right here in Eatonton. Written before the Civil War, he writes of the wit and cunning of this Br’er Rabbit, of the challenges presented by Br’er Fox, the lovable lumbering Br’er Bear and the lesson offered by Br’er Tortoise.

How do I know this? Back in Brooklyn, New York, I sat on my Mother’s lap, as she read me the Br’er Rabbit tales penned by that same Joel Chandler Harris. I’m told that I made her read them to me over and over and then again and again. Now when I pull into the Habitat’s Eatonton parking lot, there he is larger than life, Br’er Rabbit, and that evokes the good memories, back up there, some 840 miles north!

This Butterflies & Blooms Habitat will be exceptional in 2019, once those 7.7 million seeds sprout, and they put in an additional 359 hostplants and wildflowers.  Give me a call before you head out, won’t you?

Jeff

Why? Asked A Photographer of Butterflies.

Tawny Hackberry butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Fond? Not strong enough. Really like? Not that either. This image evokes stronger for me, Love. I love this Tawny Emperor butterfly image. Comes the question, why? Why too, in a ‘Media library’ of more than 700 images, do a very few of them earn the ‘Love’ sentiment?

Seek/chase/search/scour habitat for butterflies, and you will be skunked (disappointed) much. It may rain when you reach your destination, or it may be too dry, hot, or devoid of critical hostplants or those very same hostplants may be set in a place that butterflies just don’t go to. It may be too windy, or bad weather may be on its way, and I often wonder if butterflies don’t pre-sense that. All this to understand that when we score a unique image, all of these negatives have not deterred.

Tawny emperors are not common, not usually encountered. The closely related Hackberry emperor is common. This particular Tawny was the first I had ever seen, what friends would call a ‘Lifer.’ That on that morning I shot out at least 40 or more exposures, reminds of how much I wanted to leave there with good stuff. Uncommon butterfly, sweet image = another reason that I ‘Love’ this image.

Aspects of the image? Fresh, fresh individual, with good color capture. Eye-friendly background (green leaves, blurred by the work of my Macro- lens (100mm/2.8 Canon). Near universal fine share of wings, body, head, eyes, antennae. To this add that this Tawny was comfortably sitting on the horizontal member of a wooden trail marker at Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Butterfly perched at a tantalizing angle with reference to that hardwood platform adds to the eye-fascination I have always had for this look.

Personal affinities? I love browns, and this is a study of browns. I have always thought that those 4 wings look way oversize, as if this flier could barely rise from the board (after it decided that more 40+ captures were enough, it shot away at shocking speed, in a direct path, some 5 feet or so off the ground). The near mystical. Had I arrived minutes before, or minutes later, I would Never have met this comely beauty. To that add that Miriam and others whom I admire have generously praised this photo, and well, that pleases me, alot.

A brief discussion of why? from someone who thinks about this, once again, alot.

Jeff