Butterfly Enablers Competition

Mike in Kathleen, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

These 20 years have provided many insights and more puzzles. Pennsylvania butterflies came first, because that’s where I live. There were enough Penna species to challenge. I have now seen most, but not necessarily all butterflies that can be found in my adopted state.

As the years have passed, wingedbeauty.com presented new appetite. It was clear, that to most enjoy my shares, and grow my audience of friends who like butterflies and enjoyed eye-pleasing beauty . . . the time had come to travel, to find and score new butterflies to post/share. Arizona and Maryland were my choices along with Israel. I had family in those places, and those places had butterflies.

The challenges, with time now less of a challenge after I retired, included moderate challenges . . . and Big challenges. The moderate challenges were in order, $, $, and $. The Big challenge was Very Big! How to find new species in new U.S. states, and even bigger than that, how to find rare butterflies. The prominent butterfly experts refused to meet, share, guide, suggest, map. Don’t go Pysch 101 on me here. They just never  . . . .

Cherished are those, Enablers, who knew their butterflies, and urged me to come, we’ll hike and we’ll show you where they are, and we’ll step aside, let you shoot away, and Jeff (here come the magic words!) ‘Take your time, we are in no hurry.’ This I place on the same scale as an Old fashioned ice cream Frappe, Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and Breyers Mint Chip ice cream with chocolate mini-chips sprinkled on top.

Have I found a state with Enablers? You bet. Georgia. Virginia, Rose & Jerry, Phil, Nancy & John, Sylbie and pictured here in Oaky Woods Wildlife Management Area, Mike.

Many of the images I’ve share in 2015 and 2016 and now in 2017 have been the fruits of the unselfish sharing of these heroes of mine.

wingedbeauty.com has steadily increased the number of ‘Followers.’ It has been fun, fun, fun for me. It has brought me in contact with fantastic new friends.

I mull over the absence of reach-out to me from so many states on the East coast of the U.S.? Should I list? Nah? G-d bless Georgia. It has a certain quality that I have been fortunate to benefit from.


A Tree That Butterflies Love

American Holly tree photographed by Jeff Zablow at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Rock Hall, MD

Took a break mid-morning at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge ( Rock Hall, Maryland). May 2014. The Ranger’s house was smack in the middle of their best butterfly habitat. After so much looking down and looking straight ahead, this tree drew my attention, and I look up. What did I see?

This American Holly tree ( Ilex opaca ) had dozens of butterflies flying around it. The Red-spotted purples were numerous among them. Problem was that I don’t bring binoculars with me, so I couldn’t ID the dozens and dozens of smaller butterflies that were up there. This is a 60′ tall tree, so the species zipping about were left to my imagination. Bees and flies were uncountable, and wasps and other predators flew about, on their hunt for prey.

I have seen heavy action around Paw paw trees, and several trees further South, but I don’t remember ever seeing a tree that was so supportive of butterflies, as this one was.

The field guides all cite this tree as equally valuable in the late Fall and Winter, its berries placing it among the Best Trees to Attract Birds (Stokes Bird Gardening Book, Little, Brown and Company).

A native tree that supports wildlife of dozens and dozens of species. Nice. Didn’t need to bring it here. It was always here.


Redux of a Monarch Butterfly’s Favorite Plant, the Common Milkweed

Common milkweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Rock Hall, MD
Just a handful of years ago, who paid much attention to this wildflowering common milkweed? Seen in fields, along roadsides, at the edges of planted fields, it was native, it was seen year after year, and it was just another green plant. Sure it was the host plant of Monarch butterflies, and its nectar was prized by many other butterflies. That was about all for common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.

Not any more. Wishing to be part of a massive effort to support the few Monarchs that we in the East have seen this year, we planted several dozen milkweed seedlings in our garden. Some of those milkweeds have prospered, others remain smaller and spindly. We found our first Monarch caterpillar on the milkweed patch in the front garden, just 3 days ago. We haven’t been able to find it for 2 days now?

Many, myself included, are apprehensive about the ability of these butterflies to reappear strongly in 2015. Tens of thousands of gardeners will replant/nurture their milkweed plants into the coming year, and we will await the arrival of those magnificent Monarchs, flying, it would seem, effortlessly north from their Mexican roosts.

I was in the field at Raccoon Creek State Park this morning, didn’t see a Monarch. You know what? I found myself thinking that at least I have a good collection of Monarch images. Then I thought, OMG! is that how bad it’s become?


Who? What? Where? & When?

Turk's Cap Lilly Wildflowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at Rector, PA, 8/1/05

Turk’s Cap Lily in all its finery at Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, Pennsylvania. Meeting this spectacular native lily, at peak of bloom, stops you. You simply stop and stare. Stark beauty, headier than the work of Heade or the most accomplished Japanese or Chinese masters. Hairstreak butterflies must also be moved by the artistry of  these flowers and by the elixirs that they exude, because Grays and Corals can be found positioned in these sizable flowers.

Now, I have recently read more than a handful of excellent books, written by and about the most renowned lepidopterists. More than impressive is their knowledge of the behaviors, locations and diet, mating and intricate life histories of many, many butterfly species. Yet I have noticed something that we should know, and want to know, eludes us.

At the same time, I  have come into contact with more and more biologists, horticulturists, landscape designers and butterfly enthusiasts. Still, it’s still missing.

I began thinking about it in Israel, on that agricultural road between the fields of Binyamina. It was when those Caper Whites and Large Salmon Arabs would appear, 3 to 5 individuals at a time, nectar furiously on Camphor Weed, and then they’d be gone…only to reappear 15 or so minutes later. They reappeared together, at the same time. What clock, signals, sun angulation…why, how, who…? I wondered. Wondered about what I was seeing.

Amazing. It is 2014, we have been noticing and studying butterflies for more than 100 years. We have elevated gardening, and most recently, gardening with native wild flowering plants, to such an extent, that 10’s of millions of home gardens are now including plantings that nourish local fauna. But, it’s still missing.

We have no idea when our regional butterflies will fly in to feed. We have no idea why they will appear as they do. We have no idea which butterflies will be there at this time or that. Don’t know where they will fly to. If it is 10:10 AM in your garden, whom might you expect to come to visit, from that nearby stand of trees?

Wouldn’t it be 2014-ish if we, any of us, knew these things? Are our winged beauties programmed for such things…or do they fly by circumstance?