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

Where To Go To See SouthEastern Butterflies?

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There was a dearth of butterflies in the U.S. northeast, this 2016. It began, puzzled many, and never ended. Species of butterflies usually seen, never appeared. Finding a single flier of many butterflies species became, well, exciting! This absence of butterflies concerns (scares!) those of us who look for, and seek them.

I made 3 trips down to Georgia in ’16. My destination? The Butterflies & Blooms In The Briar Patch Habitat in central Georgia, a little more than an hour east of Atlanta. Eatonton is a county seat, Putnam County. It’s a very hospitable town, with very friendly people in it. I’ve made 7, 7 trips to the Habitat in 2015 and 2016. The warmth, friendliness and welcoming you receive is Real and so pleasing. So when you take my advice and go there, you will see legions of butterflies, flying morning and afternoon, and flying in OMG! plenty.

If the founder of this Miracle! (who worked with her volunteers, tirelessly, for several years now), Virginia Linch get winds that you are going to visit the Habitat, she will make sure to give you the above reception (‘warm, friendly, welcoming’).

But to the point, it’s almost always sunny, and the thousands of hostplants and nectar-producing plants insure that your head will be aswirl with flying butterflies. If you’re not already living in the South, many butterflies will be new to you. (Also the home of the childrens’ books including the Briar Rabbit series & the writer of The Color Purple).

Footnote: The tremendously popular Lake Oconee is nearby, and has been a beacon for 2nd homeowners from the northeast and the midwest. Know that thousands, many thousands of folks from your home state own nearby. You’ll see them in the Publix parking lot, and you’ll see their license plates here, there and everywhere.

Totally citizen formed, nurtured, planted, maintained, loved and, well without any PR or advertising. Go. Go. And let me know when you do.

Jeff