The Presidential Giant

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly on Tithonia photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

I think I once saw the back of the head of an American President, Dwight D. Eisenhower. I remember that everyone around me was looking to catch a glimpse of President Eisenhower. That’s thousands of people all trying to see him, and hoping to come away with that memory: To remember that they saw a President of the United States.

There is a butterfly that commands that same universal attention, this one, the Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes). What have I seen? My head turns, and all heads turn when this magnificent butterfly gracefully flies in, and all eyes are fixed while those 2 or 3 minutes, that it flies around, looking for nectar, go by.

From the field guides, It appears that Giants may be seen in about 39 states in these United States. That is Presidential, no?

Where this one? The Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat I in Eatonton, Georgia.


That Del Webb Jewelry Window on East 57th Street

Malachite Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Back when I was involved in the management of apartment buildings in New York, New York (AKA Manhattan), we’d occasionally meet for lunch near my office. Sometimes, I have to go stop into my real estate lawyer’s office in the very Art Deco Fuller Building at East 57th Street and Madison Avenue. Other times, we’d enjoy lunch and walk over to Christie’s, the world famous auction gallery, also nearby (fine art, porcelains, jewelry).

She would always stop to enjoy the East 57th Street windows of Dell Webb. Their jewelry was not her style, but we always agreed that it was very beautiful.

Mesmerized by this Malachite butterfly last late-December 2017, it spent much time resting in this ravine trail at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Frieda A”H (OBM) passed in 2008, how she would have so enjoyed this magnificent butterfly, deemed “U” for Uncommon all Year in southern Texas (Glassberg, A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America).

This 2019 I have plans for a re-visit to the National Butterfly Center near the border wall, a return trip to the Florida Panhandle, a drive to northwestern Alabama and several other trips to find and shoot butterflies.

Each and every time I locate a butterfly that is new to me, I enjoy a mind flow of exciting thoughts. Butterflies flee or linger, either way, when they are no longer seen, I hike on, totally spiked by what I’d just seen. My thinking inevitably is that I am Blessed to be among the so very few who have seen what I had just seen. I remember those moments/minutes . . . forever.

What are you thinking when you see a super fresh butterfly or a ‘Lifer’ for you?


My Best Dorsal View of a Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

One of the Comments received asked where our post of a Mourning Cloak butterfly was? That was a fine question.

I remember several opportunities that I ‘ve had over these many years . . . in each case as I carefully, and I mean carefully set up/made my slow approach/check exposure/held my breath (for this may be my, shall I say favorite butterfly) . . . I would watch this magnificent butterfly fly away, leaving me with zero or surely too few images to hope to score a winning image.

Nymphalis antiopa is one of the most beautiful butterflies that I have ever seen, anywhere. When viewed up close in good morning light on one of those days when the sky is baby blue and the air is fresh, the blue, maroon and yellow of the dorsal, that is upper surface are indescribable.

They are seen in March through June, vanish and then are seen again in late August through early November. Adults overwinter.

Shortly after my wife passed, I was on a trail in Raccoon Creek State Park and noticed a large butterfly flying about 30′ above the trail. I watched it go further down the trail, turn and fly back again . . . then it disappeared. I’ve gotten kind of good at following flight, so I was puzzled at how I had lost track of this one, which I now knew as a Mourning Cloak. Moments went by, I remain in place. I suddenly realized that it was on my hat. I remained transfixed. Frozen in place. Then . . . it flew up and up and up and went down the trail, turned, and came back again, still 30′ up . . . and continued on its way. I cried . . .

I love Mourning Cloaks. This image is my best of a dorsal view. Enough.