Freyeria Trochylus in the HolyLand

Freyeria Trochylus butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Ramat Hanadiv, Israel

This one wasn’t one of the Israeli butterflies that I ‘tabbed’ in my Dubi Benyamini field guide. After all, it’s been nearly 8 years since I’ve been on the lookout for this HolyLand tiny flier, and I was resigned to never getting a good image. Well, as so many of you know, never say never.

March 2016 was a fine morning. Drove my Hertz rental to Ramat Hanadiv, about 7 miles from Rachel’s home. North of Tel Aviv and Netanya, it is almost shouting distance from the Mediterranean Sea. Parked in their large parking lot, and headed to the trails. Their nature reserve is huge, and these trails often tantalized me.

Then, Whoa! what’s that little beaut on this orange flowerhead? Freyeria trochylus trochylus. They fly much of the year, and the map shows their range to include much of Israel north of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The thing you have to know is that though a butterfly may have an extensive range, their habitat may be limited across that large expanse. Not only that, but you are often skunked when you try to find them. It’s all timing, being in the right place at the right time, and, if I may say so. Luck!

So here we share together Freyeria, a pretty little butterfly, in the Land of Milk and Honey (and fantastic oranges and tangerines).


False Apollo Butterfly at Mt. Meron

False Apollo butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Nahal Dishon National Park, Upper Galilee, Israel

I set goals, I did. This February – March 2016 trip to Israel had me once again placing tabs on several pages of Dubi Benyamini’s field guide, A Field Guide To The Butterflies of Israel. My daughter Rachel and her family were fine and welcoming, now it was time to see butterflies that I’ve never seen before, or butterflies that I want better images of.

I’ve already posted here images of 3 butterflies closely related to swallowtails, The Clouded Apollo (the rarest of rare), Eastern Steppe Festoon and the Eastern Festoon. The missing 4th swallowtail relative? The False Apollo or Archon apollinus bellargus.

Last week of March I drove my Hertz rental from Mishmarot to the Upper Galilee. I checked into my field house accommodations at SPNI Meron, at the foot of Mt. Meron. Went to the nearest moshav (a type of village) to purchase my gluten-free/low salt food, and spent the next 3 days searching the SPNI Meron reserve, and area, venturing as far north as a tiny moshav, right, and I mean right up next to the Lebanon border (across which we may presume are Hezbollah terrorists or other such madmen).

Timing counts, no? Here I share with you a fresh Archon male. They flew low, and leisurely, and at that early hour, this one definitely wanted to warm his wings in the warmth of the early sun.

He just bedazzled me, with so much color in play, much of it rich to the reds, or blues or soft yellow, contrasted by broad sweeps of black, black in transition or what we shall call white. Long-time Followers know that my goal has long been to match or tweak the quality of field guide images. Jeff is a Happy boy here. A protected butterfly, usually difficult to impossible to find.


Long-Tailed Blue Butterfly on Mt. Hermon

Long-tailed blue butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

June 2013 was near perfect in the northernmost Golan. Sunny, pleasant, and on June 5, nearly free of all but resident Israelis. My rental car was fine, the accommodations at the SPNI (Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel) fieldhouse were good, and the staff in the fieldhouse office were helpful. What could not be changed was the army’s directive that the peak of Mt. Hermon was closed. Only IDF (military) was allowed to ascend this strategic mountain. War! below. We contacted guides who might be able to reverse this ban for a lonely photographer of parpurim (butterflies) They all declined, all having served before and they knew.

So, unable to work the top of the mountain, I examined my maps and decided to go to a small village on the slope of the mountain, Neve Ativ was a tiny community. Good that the perimeter of this village had habitat that was abundant with butterflies. That was a wonderful morning! All alone, no one to interrupt me and the Leps, with the exception of that small military plane (noted elsewhere) that continuously flew up and back over nearby valleys, no doubt searching for infiltrators from the Syrian side of the mount.

This Lampides boeticus was one of many butterflies there that were active that morning, nectaring seriously on the extensive menu of wildflowers that surrounded them. All of the field guides that I was able to find in Israel were printed in Hebrew only, so I can only offer that this plant appears to be a thistle. Sure, I did visit public libraries in Tel Aviv, they and the museum bookshops possessed wildflower field guides in Ivrit (Hebrew). Sorry.

Once Syria resolves its murderous internal strife, back I intend to go, to Mt. Hermon. It’s summit is breathtaking, with Israel, Syria and Lebanon all there for you to see, with soldiers from armies watching one another, seriously, not sleepily, and with the surveillance devices (and satellites passing above) of who knows how many countries monitoring the movement (or lack  of it) below, including hopefully the future furtive searching of one photographer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.