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

Captured! The Eastern Pygmy- Blue Butterfly

Little Metalmark butterfly at rest, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Shellman Bluff, GA

Coastal salt marshes and coastal salt pans! There I was with Nancy and John on the beautiful Georgia coast, in Shellman Bluff, then at Brunswick, and later to Jekyll Island. Shooting butterflies, gently aided by extraordinary butterfly spotters. Our conversations brought mentions of their field work in North America and Central America. Panama, who can imagine seeking the birds of Panama?

My primary objective on this 4-day trip? Eastern Pygmy-Blue butterflies. The smallest butterfly in the United States.

I am pleased to share this dorsal view of an Eastern Pygmy-Blue. My captures of ventral looks will be shared, but it’s this one that most pleases me. As with that other tiny recently shared, the Little Metalmark butterfly, photographing this Eastern Pygmy Blue required that I got down, down and further down. Their hostplants are diminutive, and the flowers that they visit are tiny themselves and on tiny plants.

I will never forget these little sweeties. Earnest to shoot them on Jekyll Island, I forgot. Forgot that the south harbors ticks, ticks that are vectors for Bad Diseases. I saw a beaut, and quickly got down to the ground, laying my body down. I shot away, Pop! pop! Pop! We all had a Super! day that day, and hours later, back in Shelllman Bluff, I prepared to shower, and There It Was!!! A tick adhered to my upper chest. John used forceps to carefully remove it . . . and Yes, a large red circle developed, quickly! Consensus was to watch that Ugly red blotch, and wait. I did. Returned to Eatonton. Almost a week later, no fever (Thank G-d!), no other signs of . . . Lyme Disease. But it was till a Red Circle, size of the c and forefinger make together.

Went to an Urgent Care facility in Eatonton, and the PA took blood, examined me, and shared that she thought I was lucky, and did not contract that dreaded disease. Time has gone by since then, and no sign of a problem.

Y’all think photographing lions and elephants and grizzlies is risky, then try shooting Eastern Pygmy-Blue butterflies. Urgent Care visits and ansy waiting for something bad.

I like this image, especially those orange-tipped antennae, and that comely yellow-brown color.

Fun, friends and angst, shooting the tiniest of them all.

Jeff

Sleepy Orange on Tithonia

Sleepy Orange butterfly on tithonioa, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Sitting here, studying this image of a fine Sleepy Orange butterfly, leaves me looking forward. Looking forward to returning and walking through the squadrons of these perky little sulphur butterflies, in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch. There were times there when I got this crazy thought? How many Sleepys are flying in the +/- 2-3 acre Briar Patch Habitat?

Good that I have some sense, for these golden-orange butterflies are in near constant motion, and the fool who tries to count them, without sophisticated quadrant tools, will only find frustration. They are flying everywhere there, and anywhere there, and crisscrossing constantly.

Sennas and other of their hostplants have been planted here in abundance, thus the crowd of Sleepys ever present.

They not only keep me awake with questions of their number, but I spend some time trying to find a better name for these medium-sized happy fliers. ‘Sleepy’ really is not a good choice of name for them. I’d bet that some of you who know this southern butterfly (I’ve never seen one in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, etc.) could/have a better name for these very serious, more focused cuties.

Jeff