Mobbing the ‘Wall’

People viewing Gold-Bordered hairstreak butterfly at “The Wall,” photographed by Jeff Zablow in Mission, TX

Sure, it’s been 25 years since I began searching for butterflies, in and about Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. 99% of the time I work by myself, and 99.673% of the time I had no one to point me to where to find the butterflies I sought.

I found them when I found them: Harvesters, Meadow Fritillaries, Compton Tortoiseshell, that Gulf Fritillary in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory, those 7 or 8 species of Hairstreaks, that Leonard’s Skipper and the gorgeous Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and that fresh Tawny Emperor.

My friends back a few years ago invited me to join them at Mission, Texas, on a trip to the National Butterfly Center!! That was a trip that I cannot ever forget. I met dozens (DozenS!!!) of new butterflies there, and at the ‘Wall.’ set in and around a lovely home development.

This is the scene there, when someone spotted a very rare butterfly, no doubt visiting from Mexico, Mexico just some 3 or so miles away. Their cell phone network was set afire, and folks kept coming, speeding to this spot and dashing from their cars to not miss the OMG! hairstreak butterfly.

They ALL had long lenses. Me? I shoot with a Macro- lens (Canon 100mm/2.8). They minimally greeted me, stayed grouped as you see here and seemed mesmerized by the rare butterfly, but indifferent to the rare new visitor from Georgia (via Pittsburgh/Long Island/the mean streets of Brooklyn).

True be told. I was told, some minutes later, that when I crouched and robotically approached this bush, that I jeopardized the chance of the dozens who were then on their way there, reduced the chance that the hairstreak would be there for those desperate dozens, the chance to add this one to their life list. Told that I was seen as “Selfish.” Ouch!

I think it’s best for me to revert to what I’ve always been, a lone wolf, searching, seeking, hunting for images of fresh, beautiful and rare butterflies.

There are several of you out there who are Fantastic to work trails with, and I long for renewed field foraging with those best of the best! Barbara Ann, Angela, Mike, Phil, Curt, Rose & Jerry, Dave.

Jeff

Upsetting . . . Very Upsetting . . .

Leonard's Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

March 27th and the USPS letter carrier delivers our latest issue of NABA’s American Butterflies (Vol. 21: Numbers ¾). Titled The Conservation Issue . . . I looked forward to reading about the successes that butterflies were enjoying across the United States That did not happen. Most of the articles left me upset and saddened.

Ann B. Swengel writes of the challenges that grass skippers were encountering in their tall grass prairie habitats . . . but soon she was examining the status of Regal Fritillaries in those same grasslands. I’ve wanted to photograph regal Frits for years now, knowing how limited they are in my home state of Pennsylvania. For various reasons, that has not been accomplished, yet. Jeffrey Glassberg reports in that same issue of American Butterflies, “Regal Fritillaries [were last recorded in Westchester County, NY] in 1975.”

Then Jeffrey Glassberg discussed the disappearance of Leonard’s Skippers from Westchester County. “The last individuals were seen in 1988.”  The last 2 colonies known were decimated by 1)a musical festival that apparently pounded them into the ground and 2) the construction of townhouses that destroyed their habitat.

I will never forget my encounter with Leonard’s Skipper (Hesperia leonardus) in 2006. We’ve posted that experience earlier, so you are welcome to have a look. It was September 4th, sooo late in the season to meet something 100% new . . . and she was stunning! She flew onto the trail cut through the 100 acre meadow at Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania. She posed with her lush wings fully spread. After lots of exposures, she fled.

These reports are very upsetting. Have the small populations at Raccoon Creek State Park . . . undergone . . . I don’t want to think about it.

The American Butterflies articles go on to discuss the absence of Silver-bordered Fritillaries, Meadow Fritillaries, Coral Hairstreaks . . . can we not anchor the butterflies that we have, and guard their habitat?

Jeff