Home or Away?

Red-Spotted Purple butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Leroy Percy Park, Hollandale, MS, 9/08/09
This morning I photographed at Raccoon  Creek State Park. I set the odometer on the Tundra. 37 miles, exactly. It’s Memorial Day, sunny, no wind, and the morning was seasonably comfortable, with temperatures hovering in the 60’s at 10:30 AM. The trail was all mine alone, save for one hiker and 5 on horseback. 3 and ½ hours of enjoyment. Enjoyment fueled by swallowtails, duskywings, azures, skippers and of course, one butterfly that was totally a mystery, and, did not stick around long enough for me to ID it.

The Tiger swallowtails made the morning. The came down from the trees between 9 and 10 AM. They were males. Fresh, smallish males, richly colored. Each of them flew down. Down, not around, and set out wings to bask and warm in the morning sun. They allowed my approach and I took maybe too many exposures…thinking, book cover opportunity = go for it. Fuji film, you remember, so they must go to Kansas and return for me to see.

Days ago I was in Rock Hall, Maryland, on the beautiful, lush Delmarva Peninsula. Dave and Bill, volunteers at the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, helped out, offering suggested nooks and crannies to explore. 3 pleasant nights at the Mariners Motel in Rock Hall, then the 6 hour drive to Pittsburgh.

This stunning Red-spotted purple butterfly closely resembles the one I watched up in that American holly tree. Both were seen very far from home. Comes the question? Home or away?

We have a comfortable and growing number of people who view and follow wingedbeauty.com. I cannot say if they care whether my images are obtained in my home county, or 927 miles away in Hollandale, Mississippi. I greatly appreciate you all, and Love each and every visit you make.

There aren’t many who photograph butterflies and blog their work. One or two others do so all over the map. They post their finds from Texas, Colorado, California, the Florida Keys, the Jersey Pine Barrens, Alaska, and ….

This would be great fun, though it comes with great expen$e, airports, rental cars, motels and long, long rides. All this alone. Robert Michale Pyle and others do so, but the rub (for me) is that they have earned the friendship of so many authoratitive friends it seems almost everywhere, and when they set a destination, they have at least some assurance that time, place and conditions add up to probable success. And there is the human factor, friends to see, experiences to recall over home cooked meals, camaraderie on trails.

So I am presently weighing Home or Away? Do I perservere within a radius of 100 miles of my Pittsburgh home, or fly the now less than friendly skies, to share rare, little known butterflies flying in America’s holdout wildernesses? Add a final ingredient. I eat gluten free, necessitating that I take along a stash of food from our East End Co-op and Whole Foods (Bless them both).

Jeff

Which are the Southerners? The Northerners?

Red-Spotted Purple butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow

Two of what you see were photographed in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Two were taken in Leroy Percy State Park in Hollandale, Mississippi. 980 miles separate these 2 parks.

Ok. Try this. Which images are the Southern (Mississippi) butterflies? Which are the Northern (Pennsylvania butterflies)?

Red-Spotted Purple butterflies (Basilarchia astyanax) are familiar to us through most of the United States, generally from the Rocky Mountains east to the Atlantic Ocean. A huge expanse of territory.

Millions of square miles apart from one another. Surely that much separation produces lots of difference.

The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Butterflies (North America) (Knopf, 2012) advises that “Eastern populations have some red in FW [forewing] tips above. Butterflies of the East Coast by Cech and Tudor (Princeton University Press, 2005) notes that a “series off red-orange marks near the FW [forewing] apex is more prominent in the female.” Is that helpful?

Answer: The top 2 images are Pennsylvania red-spotteds . . . the bottom 2 images are Mississippi fliers.

Jeff

Phaon Crescent Butterfly

Phaon Crescent Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Leroy Percy State Park, MS

We were down visiting family in Greenville, Mississippi. Leroy Percy State Park was nearby and it was a treat for me to be introduced to new, southern-based species of butterflies.

Phyciodes Phaon flew very low, keeping close to the edge of the lake. Similar to the closely related Pearl Crescent, they fly and descend on foliage, repeatedly. So we were able to photograph the Phyciodes Phaon.

Our individual here I believe is a female, and sports the characteristic whitish median forewing band.  Others may be creamy or yellow.

A wetland butterfly, Phaon crescents never flew far from the lake shore. Phaons prefer wetland habitat. Pearl crescents don’t. Related species, different habitat.

Jeff

We enjoyed the hospitality of this Mississippi state park. In the west-central part of the state, it offers comfortable cabins. It’s a sight for us Pittsburghers, sitting near our cabin, at lakeside, watching the herons, egrets and alligators. Nice. Very nice.