And Who are You?

Rare Grasshopper, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Yehudiya National  Park, Golan Heights, Israel

Working the trails at the Yehudiya National Park in the Golan. This northeastern part of Israel is lightly settled, and features lush green valleys, bordered by low mountains, all pointing north to majestic Mt. Hermon. The drive from here to Mt. Hermon is about an hour and a half. On the bottom of Mt. Hermon’s northern face, right there . . . Syrian regulars, ISIS, “Rebels,” US ‘advisors’ and aircraft, Russian ‘advisors’ and aircraft, Hezbollah from you-don’t-want-to-go-there Lebanon, Turkish forces, Kurdish militia and Iranian regular and irregulars . . . are all in a deadly minuet of kill, kill.

Here there’s peace, tranquility and G-d’s creatures. Butterflies were OK that morning, but I cannot say they were abundant. The wolves that roam this park and this region, well, I did not see them these 5 days here, even though I roamed freely, and was “alone again” me, myself and I.

Smack dab in the Middle East, knowing that so many of you, yes you, yearn to visit there??? And, who did I ‘bump’ into? This nicely camoflouged . . . grasshopper? It allowed a lengthy, close approach, just moving around that boulder a bit (boulders strewn everywhere, as if G-d was sprinkling giant salt).

I presume a grasshopper? If my Israeli friends come by, perhaps we will learn more. For the meanwhile, I have to say I was fascinated. It was about 92 degrees hot, 92F in the Middle East is way hotter than it is in Brooklyn, or Pittsburgh. 92F and our little cutie here is sunning itself on a boulder, for a good many minutes. Wow!

April 2017! Sound enticing, anyone?


August Argiope

Argiope Spider photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

These things catch my attention each and every time. This female was in Traci’s Kelso Swamp in FayetteTownship, southwestern Pennsylvania. In September 2015 her OMG! web was stretched between non-woody plants. She was just about 10 feet from the swamp, patiently waiting for some insect to fly to or away from the swamp, and into her sticky, amazingly resilient web.

I stopped, stooped down, and respectfully kept a discrete distance from her. I’ve walked into spider webs, right into the bulls-eye center, too many times. I know they aren’t aggressive and don’t retaliate, but . . . they do look bigger and scarier than they should. Black and Yellow Argiopes remind me of those guys in my Brooklyn neighborhood who you just didn’t mess with.

We had a good laugh that day, when I DID walk into one of their webs. Back recently from Georgia, I shared our readers that southern US webs and northern spider webs taste the same.

Like I’ve said before, all the Carnegie Mellon U, Cal Tech, MIT, Berkeley, Georgia Tech engineering and robotics departments combined shouldn’t even try to outdo this beast, engineered by the B-st.


Darner in the Florida Panhandle

Darner photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

Butterflies, yes there were quite a few! I was there to meet and photograph butterflies. My eyes and brain sometimes stray, and here they locked in on an eye-pleasing darner. Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, apparently national headquarter for Palamedes Swallowtail Butterflies, judging from the squadrons that could be seen 360 degrees around. The air space here offered room enough for bees, flies, beetles, wasps, darners, and enough winged beauty to keep me occupied for those 4 days.

To the moment I don’t know the name of this dragonfly/darner, nor do I know if it is confined to Florida, the Southeast, the East Coast or all east of the Mississippi.

I do know that it was beautiful, it tolerated some approach, and it was just one more tantalizer for Jeff in a world of wonder, sans admission fee.


What You’re Thinking When You . . . Rare Butterflies

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa - Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap. (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

Those ten or more years, wanting, but unable to see and photograph Regal Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria Idalia) ended here, in June 2015. I never knew that Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation opened this expansive meadow to visitors, 2 Fridays and 2 Saturdays a year, in the first weeks of June. Surprise. There is not much sharing amongst those of us who seek butterflies, and why is that?

So I drove the 2.5 hours to Harrisburg, Pa.. on Thursday, stayed in a Hampton Inn, and Friday morning there I was . . . not one of 15 excited lovers of butterflies . . . I was amongst 130 guests. Each of those 4 days had something like that number of people, a whopping 520 or more had gone there to see the Regal Fritillarys. Kinda like those seeking audience with English royalty.

What was the Friday morning and early afternoon like, for me? I thought that it would be a disappointment, for how can I do what I do with 129 folks on my heels. No. It was much better than that. The Army post employs naturalists to husband their unique wildlife, and these folks were there to help, watch, caution, and inevitably work us into much smaller groups, working the huge reserve meadows. Soon it was Jeff, 2 fellow guests and a naturalist. That’s when it became Whoopee!

I was impressed with the seriousness of the hours before me. It was sunny, mild, minimal wind, the Regals were flying and their butterfly milkweed was mid-bloom and lush. Fine field conditions, and therefore fully the chance of a lifetime. Seen in singles and at most in 3’s, some Regals were worn, others were “fresh.” Decades of my life have been enjoyed, yet I’d never seen these before, and may never see them again. I live in the eastern U.S., and you cannot meet Regals in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. Only in this military reserve in central Pennsylvania.

With each and every camera click counting, I had to be sure that I was shooting fresh fliers I had to do lots of moving around as a beauty of a male or female (more males than females on the wing) fled one milkweed and flew 70 feet to another. Often someone else was bearing down on a bloom or butterfly before I got there. I kept aware of the time, knowing that fritillary butterflies often nectar and fly intermittently, and that the morning experience would end when our hosts announced, “it’s time to take your last shots.”

I was pleased that I found a mating pair, and my best images of them together rate as “good.” That’s a coup of sorts. I saw other butterflies too, including Coral Hairstreaks and Monarchs.

Unlike y’all, I shoot film, and don’t know how my images fare until weeks later, when my slides return from Dwayne’s Photo Lab in Parsons, Kansas. Please resist advice on that, thank you.


Excuse me?

Darner-type fly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in White Tank Mts. Regional Park, AZ

I was back in that wonderful arroyo, in White Tank Mountains Regional Park. Like thousands of us, I have a senior relative living near Phoenix, in Sun City West, and periodic trips there enable me to do some fieldwork.

The arroyo was its usual, dry as a bone, hot (hot at 7 A.M.), boulders everywhere, plus it had few plants, and very few of those were in flower.

Turns out that was sort of good for me. There were so few flowers about, that any and all fliers could be expected to be at those flowers, sooner or later. They almost had to.

This fly, I think it’s a fly, showed up. It must have been famished, for this wild creature allowed me to do my macro- approach, and I looked, liked, and shot away.

Not a butterfly, but an exotic winged beauty, no doubt. I examined it again, and surely the greatest aeronautical minds of MIT, Harvard, Cal Tech, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and Georgia Tech must have designed this one. No?