Pursuing Zebras

Zebra heliconian butterfly sipping nectar, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Kathleen, GA

A couple of hundred miles north of their range, there they were, as Virginia and Mike said they’d be. My first thought when we met them, ‘Just as they’d be in Broward County or Naples!’ Or Cuba! I was so reminded of my first encounter with Regal Fritillaries, with Georgia Satyrs and with Gemmed Satyrs.

Pursuing Zebra Heliconian butterflies is brain Good. There have been more than 1 or 2 who have, sort of smugly, a slim smile forming at the corner of their mouth, repeated what I had just shared with them, they saying “You photograph butterflies!?” Not one to criticize others, let me say that I don’t know what sensual/intellectual stimulation their fun activities deliver for them? I do know that my field work, seeking and scoring images of rare and not rare butterflies delivers. Delivers big! Mike calmly let me know when that first Zebra appeared out of that Passionflower vine thicket, and I just shot to attention. Electrified, was I.

We watched as 2 or 3 of them left the vines, and flew from deep shade to blossoms. Minutes later they again flew back into the net-like vines, and . . . a couple of other Zebra flew out into the sunlight, replacing the first group. Then this 2nd group flew into the shaded passionflower. Electrified, as if we were in Cuba, a couple of hours out of Havanna, or in the NABA Butterfly Center near Mission, Texas. As if hundreds of NABA members visited to see, responding to an invite on NABA-Chat.

Pursing Zebras keeps on giving. it’s been months since that summer ’16 day, but I keep reminiscing, Jeff among the Zebras, my own well, hole-in-one.

What’s left to see? Are you kidding? Goatweed leafwing, Diana fritillaries, Cofaqui Giant skippers, Seminole Texan Crescent, for now. If you can deliver any one these, be like Dick Tracy, and let me know.


Who Stops at the Old Grade Trail?

Old grade trail head photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, FL

the Old Grande trail wasn’t cited in the North American Butterfly Association’s magazine article, Destination. It’s a realtively new feature that in 2015 introduced me to the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, in the Florida Panhandle. The 5 units in the WMA were discussed, with trails maps and specific recommendations. Reading the article at home, I decided to work the Spring Creek Unit. It offered what I was hoping to see, during August.

When I reached Big Bend, I drove into the Spring Creek Unit, stopping at the entrance. A cadre of Palamedes swallowtails greeted me, they just stopping long enough to look up from the thistles, in between nectar pulls. That was enough for me to shout . . . Yes!!! Thank you G-d.

Next, the drive into the Unit, to the trails I had dreamed of back at the table in Pittsburgh. On the way, there was this humble trail sign: Old Grade. Now, who would waste time going down a trail given the moniker, ‘Old Grade?’ What butterflies, blooms and beasts could possibly be seen on this tired, old trail?

That’s what did it. See, my whole 19-year pursuit of butterflies has been done without guides, without experts leading me (’til Georgia in 2015, truth be told). I sort of (certified psychologists please resist the temptation to comment here) got used to it, and cannot complain, because I’ve seen so much, on the wing, on blooms, basking, hiding, mating, instars, and more.

Old Grade is not old at all, it was wondrous!!! I found Georgia satyrs, Palamedes, Monarchs, Black swallowtails, Queens, Long-tail skippers, Variegated fritillaries, Skippers of many species and much more. NABA’s piece noted that the best time is when the Liatris are in bloom. These gayfeathers were just beginning to open their flowers. 10 days later, would have been even better, but that was not the plan.

Do not, Don’t judge a trail by the name They gave to it!