Gauging The Net Gain Of Finding Rare Butterflies

Red-rim butterfly at rest photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Red-rim butterfly on leaf photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Why Mike Tyson? I’m not sure, but I do remember seeing ‘celebrities’ in person. Add to that list Kirk Douglas, that special elevator ride down with Diana Ross. I’ve never met or seen more than the head of a United States President. I saw a U.S. Senator in synagogue in Washington, DC, some 3 times (shook Liberman’s hand after services, for I had some respect for him).  I met real farmers and real cowboys in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, receiving my artillery training (Big respect for them, for whatever had to be done, they never shirked, only asking ‘When do you need it done?’).

I remember 2 or 3 young women from my formative years,(during my red hair/green eyes ‘stage.’)

I remember guys I fought who were ferocious, ’cause that took a great effort.

All this to share that I remember each and every time that I’ve either seen a spectacularly beautiful, fresh butterfly, especially when I wanted to shoot them, and could not or the crazy rare butterflies that I’ve seen over these years: Erato heliconian, Compton Tortoiseshell, Gold-rimmed hairstreak, Malachite, Milbert’s tortoiseshell, Parnassian on Mt. Hermon and Parnassian in the Golan/Galilee regions, Leonard’s skipper and this Red Rim  seen in these 2 images here.

We saw this Rare Red Rim at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. It stayed in thickly treed habitat and, it was gorgeous. Movingly gorgeous.

I sometimes try to figure out the net gain benefits of having seen rare butterflies and of seeing celebrities/national leaders. I’ve not yet, despite the decades, worked to a conclusive decision as to the net gain of seeing people of great fame, nor for meeting a butterfly that only 0.00091% of Americans have seen.

Your input here?

Jeff

Ode To Harvesters

Harvester butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

My English profs would be disappointed in me, if they opened this post and found that I no longer remember what an Ode is. What I do recall is that an Ode was often melancholy, written for something missed.

Well I so miss seeing Harvester butterflies. Those tiny gems that startle you when you see a puddle in the middle of a favorite trail, and at the edge of that puddle you see a geometric form, always the first indication that you have seen a butterfly, usually hairstreaks on a leaf or a very tiny skipper or blue butterfly.

I spotted this one on the Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. I loved that trail, rich as it was in habitat and butterflies. On that trail I experienced a trifecta, over the years seeing Mourning Cloaks, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and Compton Tortoiseshell. MY eyes registered something, a triangular shape at a tiny puddle formed. by the rain the night before. What’s that?

I made the most robotic of all approaches, and knew that was something special! I every so carefully got down on my belly (Park vehicles do sometimes use this road!), confirmed Harvester!! and crawled inches closer. Not wanting to spook this Harvester butterfly, I did not make a full approach and I shot away.

The original Pookie, this butterfly is a favorite of field guide writers, for its caterpillar is the only known carnivorous caterpillar in North America.

Ode to Harvesters? Truth be told, I’ve seen 2 of them, on that stretch of trail over the years, I’ve not seen another in some 20 years. Twenty years! I so miss the Rush! when you meet a Harvester.

Jeff

The Perfect Red Admiral?

Red Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Many get ‘hooked’ by a Red Admiral butterfly. Their high school Biology teacher (I was one, once) solemnly declares that soon, very soon species will begin to lose ground and lose habitat. She, dogmatically repeating the mantra pushed by some, is resigned to the loss of all kinds of native species, butterflies, until the time that only Cabbage whites, Painted ladies, Eastern tiger swallowtails and the lookalike skippers are all that’s left.

Me? That’s hogwash. I cannot forget when I taught at the John Adams High School Annex in South Ozone Park, New York City. My classroom was on the 5th floor of an elementary school. The classroom ceilings  were some 18 feet high or so, so the 5th floor was as high as most 9-story buildings.

We faced the west in that room. Some 19 or 20- miles away, we might have seen the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Huh? We couldn’t see them, for there was a permanent blanket of smog preventing us from seeing Manhattan and those fable skyscrapers.

New York’s electricity provider, Consolidated Edison, announced that they would be installing new “scrubbers” in their chimneys, to combat the smog. The federal government made all car makers install catalytic converters. Scrubbers and converters, token solutions. Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . the same old, same old. We were New Yorkers, those kids and I, and we didn’t buy it, zero. One summer later, and I returned to that room that I loved, awaiting those kids from every corner of the world, those big, strong, street tough kids. I looked out that wall of windows, to the eastern half of Manhattan and Oh My Goodness!! there they were, I was seeing the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers. That moment jarred me. Really. It can be done. Progress can be made. Slow as a snail New York City and bureaucratic Con Edison can work together and clean the air of that enormous city. Mamma Mia!

Lesson? Don’t buy the doomsayers. Keep your mind open to change and . . . For sure, that’s why I never bought the ‘Global warming/Al Gore’ pitch. Nope.

When jaded Nature lovers visit the State Parks or Wildlife Management Areas or such, the chance appearance of a Red Admiral, like this one, can startle. Wwwwhat was that? No Tony, there has not been a mass extinction of butterflies and more. Admire this gorgeous butterfly before it once again takes off to ??? Hey, if this is out there, what other Holy Cows? are there flying in a place like this, Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The several hundred times I was there flushed out a slew of OMG!’s including Goatweed leafwing, Red-barred sulphur, Harvester, White M hairstreak, Meadow fritillary, Pipevine swallowtail, Compton tortoiseshell, Milbert’s tortoiseshell  and a Bronze copper butterfly.

The perfect Red Admiral butterfly cannot be readily forgotten and jumps the curiosity quotient in one’s cognitive whatchamacallit. You’ve just gotta’ get back out there, away from that 97% that cobwebs you up, and find that rare, incredible, drop-dead-unbelieveable butterfly you had no idea was . . .

Jeff

Where Have You Been All My Life?

Malachite butterfly (facing right) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Count just 10 months ago, and I was here, right where you see this ephemeral Malachite butterfly. Too bad you were not there with us. You would have seen this almost child-like smile on my face, when they quietly beckoned me, ‘Come Jeff, you’ve got to see this!’

Our Malachite was a singleton, resting peacefully in the dimly lit corridor, bordered by tall, thick bush. The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, some 2 miles or so from the Mexican border. it remained there for some half hour or so, changing its leaf lounge 2 times, each time resuming its unhurried rest.

Described as “Uncommon,” I knew right then that this was something Special, coming along at this point in my journey. Hey, Look at Me! Meeting the hidden Gems of H-s work, nicely beyond the middle of life.

This repeat of ‘Where Have You Been All My Life’ has included our Malachite, that Erato Heliconian, a bunch of Metalmarks, the famed Gemmed Satyr, Red Rim, Common Mestra, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Georgia Satyr, Eastern Pygmy Blue, Regal Fritillary, Zebra Heliconian and more, much more (Leonard’s Skipper for one).

Just can’t find enough gigs to share my work/enthusiasm. When young people are in the room, I urge them to consider studying butterflies as career, university teaching, and I suggest, find a rare, little known butterfly and embrace it, know it, and kind of own it. Make yourself, I tell them, The expert on that beautiful mysterious butterfly, and you may well be traveling the world, sharing of it, and that will be on their ‘dime’ and more will invite you to come and talk and hot-wire their people and . . .

Meeting the real celebrities, not the plastic ones of Hollywood, TV, sports or politics, now, and I hope in the coming years, whispering “Where Have You Been All My Life?” again and . . .

Jeff