Chasing Satyrs in the Piedmont

Appalachian Brown Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, GA

Satyr butterflies count among my favorites. In Georgia August 2015, friends put me in contact with Jerry and Rose, a couple who know their butterflies. It was good news when they agreed to meet me in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. After a very serious Ranger acquainted me with the acute diseases that are carried by vectors in the swamp, I gulped, paused for thought, and . . . off the 3 of us went, to this wet, muddy, dark, humid, dank swamp.

Jerry and Rose moved through the swamp like Antonio Brown of the Steelers traverses the field: with fluid moves, always moving, looking, searching, and seeking. They would call to me from here, then they’d disappear and call me from there. I didn’t admit it, but I was often out of breath. Oxygen seeming in limited supply in the swamp.

So much was new to me there, and so much demanded your full attention and constant awareness of mud, critters and hazards. Satyrs were afloat, and this one here did the remarkable. It paused long enough for me to click, click, click, taking one photograph after the other. My Fuji film was challenged by the limited light. Many exposures proved to be useless, but not this one, with its dappled light coming down through the trees.

This sweet brown sugar of a butterfly is an Appalachian Brown (Satyrodes Appalachia). I love satyrs, they bring me back to the rich hues of brown offered in those upscale men stores on Madison Avenue in the 80’s, in their shoes, hat, and suits. A magical time for me then, and thanks to Rose and Jerry, I revisited browns with gusto in 2015.


Guess Where?

Painted lady butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Society for the Protection of Nature Hermon, Israel

Raccoon Creek State Park, Southwestern Pennsylvania? Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida Panhandle? Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Delmarva Peninsula, Maryland? Jamestown Audubon Center, Southwestern New York? West Don Park, Toronto, Canada. White Tank Mountains Regional Park, west of Phoenix, Arizona?

Briar Patch Habitat, Eatonton, Georgia? Yazoo National  Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi? Frick Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?

Patti’s Colorado? Lynn’s Virginia? Jerry and Rose’s secret Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge swamp? Sylbie’s Rock Hawk Preserve in Putnam County, Georgia?

Nope, SPNI’s refuge reserve in the foothills of Mt. Hermon, at the northeastern tip of Israel, just several miles from murderous ISIS.

Isn’t it Amazing that Painted Lady butterflies are native to all of these places, and Central and South America and Asia and Africa and . . . Amazing.


You Will Never See This Parnassian Butterfly

Levantine marbled white butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

She’s oblivious to the vicious fighting going on just at the northern base of her mountain home. She is oblivious to the very real presence of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) on the mountain-top and throughout the base of the mountain. She is oblivious to the United Nations observer troops stationed nearby. She is oblivious to the super-snooping devices peppered throughout the mountain area (U.S. and who knows who else). She’s oblivious to the ISIS as they and their Iranian allies drive through southern Syria, creating mischief, mayhem and slaughtering Christians.

Now for a breath of fresh air. She is a type of Swallowtail, closely related to our Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Pipevine Swallowtail, the other Swallowtails and our western U.S. Parnassians.

She is Parnassius Mnemosyne Syra. She is fresh, and was nectaring with full concentration. She flies in Israel only, is protected, lives only on this moutain-top and has a short-flight time.

When she flew in to this boreal bloom, I snapped to attention. This, I knew at once, was some real special butterfly.

But . . . you will never see this particular Parnassian, because, despite the many times you thought about going to the Holyland, and despite the fact that you are blessed and can afford the trip now, you 100% believe that the Land of Milk and Honey is a battleground. Sorry, but it seems that our United States of America is becoming unstable, and Israel is in fact that . . . Land of Milk and Honey.


Butterfly Battle Stations!

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park
I’m asked many interesting questions with my work photographing butterflies. This one was bulls-eye to the reason for what I do. The Question? Which of your butterfly photos do you remember as being the most exciting?

Good question. it goes right to the heart of why do I do what I do? Almost no one, and no one I know, does what I do nowadays. This July 25th image kept catching my eye, as I searched among more than 400 images for the answer to this query.

Burma? No. Mexico? No. Salvador? No. Provence? No? Mongolia? No. Raccoon Creek State Park, here in southwestern Pennsylvania. A bright sunny morning, and I was there well before 9 A.M.. The usual customers came to the nectar bar, that day offering the following treats: Milkweed nectar, Teasel nectar (featured here), Black-eyed susan nectar and many, many others.

What an extraordinary place to be, for this lucky boy from Brooklyn! Then . . . Holy Cow! What’s that? It just swooped in, and descended on this teasel flowerhead. My first-ever Milbert’s Tortoiseshell!! (Exclamation marks required, because i was beyond ecstatic). Could I approach? I did, and it didn’t panic. Closer (dare I try?)? Yes. Raised my camera lens. Still there, Whew!

It opened its wings, wide. I was stunned. Why? The wings were parallel to the bright sun and, . . . Flames danced across the orangish-reddish bands. Flames! I had never seen anything like it. Ever. I tried to keep my mind clear, and I just kept shooting, as it offered good looks to me. I was yes, praying that 1 or more of my exposures would satisfy.

That’s why this post is entitled ‘Butterfly Battle Stations!’ A rush of adrenaline, ecstasy, and appreciation, as G-d shared a bejeweled treat with . . . me.


They’re Back from Kansas

Parnassius mnemosyne butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel
Rare, and closely related to swallowtails, this Parnassius Mnemosyne butterfly flies on the top of Mt. Hermon, at the northern tip of Israel’s Golan Heights. It’s ancestors dodged countless firefights on the mountain, in 1967. Happily, some survived, and our female here thrilled me when she flew in to nectar, right in front of me. Happy even though it was very hot up there in June, and we had to carry many liters of water to endure this field work. Continue reading