Danaus Plexippus Stopped By

Look! Look! There she was in our very own ‘peanut garden’ this afternoon. What a rush it was to watch her, superbly fresh and lush, working this 2017  benchmark garden. I kept going to the our large window, again and again to see if she was still there. She was still there, and she worked these native perennials for more than an hour. Our very own garden, now in its 5th year, and full, verdant with nectar here there and everywhere.

She was chased off several times by an equally pretty Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly. Royal as she is, our monarch patiently allowed the frenzied fritillary to do its thing, and each time she floated back in. What kept her highness in the peanut garden for more than an hour?

The peanut garden is in our side yard, and our side yard abuts Frick Park, a heavily wooded Pittsburgh (city) park of many hundreds of acres. The natives and others in the peanut garden:  Common milkweed; Swamp milkweed; Butterflyweed; Monkeyflower; Celery (in flower), Bergamot, Balloon flower; Buttonbush, Shrubby St.John’s wort, Green headed coneflower, Rue and Chocolate mint. All 3 of the milkweeds (Asclepias spp) are in height of bloom, and buff! very buff.

The instant monarch butterfly shown here was not the flier today. This photo is of another female, who flew in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Today’s monarch’s colors were deeper, richer. She was . . . gorgeous.

How much do I hope that she rewards us with her eggs?

Jeff

Rose’s Silvery

Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, GA

Rose and Jerry agreed to meet me at the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. Pearly-eyes were the objective. I am fond of pearly-eye butterflies, brushfoots that I know from my Pennsylvania trails. Elusive, mysterious and one of very, very few butterflies that you’d see on an overcast morning. Always seen near wetlands, they tease you to come closer, than . . . are gone, into the tree labyrinth nearby.

But this was Georgia, and I was anxious to make my first meet-up with the other pearly eyes: Southern Pearly-eye and the very hard to find Creole Pearly-eye. The park ranger cautioned, did I understand that the swamp that the 3 of us were headed to had been a known vector for several insect-borne diseases. Uh . . . Um, No. Hmmm. Quick conference with me, myself and I. I had grown up on the streets of Brooklyn, I had been in too many fights to count, carried a 5″ folding during those subway rides for 4-years, volunteered for NYARNG artillery ( 155mm towed ), Dean for 5.5 years at a Big NYC high school, ran hundreds of apartments in NYNY, . . . . . survived, Thank G-d. Next thing I knew, Rose, Jerry and I were in that swamp. A wonderland of Pearly-eyes it was. We saw Northern, Southern, Creole and Gemmed Satrys in that cane filled lowland. It was overpoweringly dark for my ASA 50/100 Fuji Velvia film, the sweat was just streaming down over my glasses, and Rose and Jerry ( Phd, Entomology! ) are human dynamos, calling me here, then there, to see fliers. Imagine me spinning around, jumping logs and mucking in mud. I Loved it!

After they mercifully agreed that we had done what we can do, Rose asked if there were any other butterflies that I might like to see and that are local to the Georgia Piedmont. Sure, Silvery Checkerspots. I may have seen one once, a long time ago. Off we shot in their car, and soon arrived at a small retaining pond. Jerry parked, and Rose led the way. Bingo! She pointed out the Mamma mia! of a Silvery. With glee! I got down on my belly and shot away. Here it is, near perfect, with those white spots in the margins of the hindwings.

Friends like Rose and Jerry enable me. They seem pleased to meet me and show me new trails, to rich butterfly lodes. It is only in the last years that I have been so fortunate to meet and benefit from Nancy, John, Mike, Virginia, Phil, Barbara Ann, Erica, Angela (next week), Dave.

Rose’s Silvery. Watcha’ think?

Jeff

That Danaus Look

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Plain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Danaus plexippus won’t disappoint us. We know they won’t. As I’m writing, they are flying north, now hundreds of miles distant from their winter perches in fir trees in central Mexico. Virginia can expect to see them before I do. Barbara Ann, hours north of me, may well  see them before I do. Miriam may see these Monarchs first, but my turn will patiently come.

What do the statisticians report? That 94.81% of Americans love Monarch butterflies, and will stop what they are doing to marvel at one. The results are not yet available for Europeans, Canadians, Asians, Africans, Central and South Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, and the French (because they are in the News today).

This instant Danaus, nectaring on a Middle Eastern thistle flower, almost instantly identifies as a Monarch relative. Like our other U.S. Danaus butterflies, the Queen and the Soldier, this Plain Tiger butterfly (D. chrysippus) is large, bright orange with broad black borders flecked with prominent white dots, and black veins. Head and abdomen are striking, with sizable white dots set on a stark black background. Hostplant? Israeli milkweeds.

Monarchs will tolerate my approach when they are nectaring, but not when they are resting, or sunning on a flat leaf in the pre-9 A.M. hours. Plain Tigers? No approach is tolerated. I see a beaut!, decide that a shot from ground level would produce a Wow! . . . approach, s-l-o-w-l-y get down on my belly, do that basic training crawl to get closer, s-l-o-w-l-y raise my Macro-lens . . . Gone! Sped away, full throttle! Time and time again.

Know then that this, and several other looks at D. chrysippus, give much much satisfaction. Yes.

Jeff

Goal Achieved? Yes, June, 2015! New Goals?

Full dorsal view of Regal Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

I wanted to photograph these Regal fritillary butterflies for some 17 years or so. Never found anyone who would steer me to them. Than in the Spring of ’15, someone on Facebook noted that they were headed to the 4-day Monitored Tour of the Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reserve near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I spoke up, found out the details, and here you see my fun day there, guided by military post naturalists, to the huge meadows on the post. I remember the first moment that I saw them, busily moving from flowerhead to flowerhead. 17-year goal, achieved right there, and well, they are regal and beautiful, and they pose. They pose, as they patiently nectar at butterflyweed and common milkweed.

Now we are in the very beginning of my 3rd decade of seeking and photographing butterflies in the wild. I have improved my skills, but my goals are not much different. Finding and shooting new butterflies remains the challenge. This year, if necessary, I know that I can query Virginia, Mike, Rose, Jerry, Phil, Barbara Ann, Nancy and John and Angela for destinations sought. Others have become new Facebook friends, but either do not know rare butterfly habitat, or are not yet ready to share same. Sure I read about 7 of Robert Michael Pyle’s books, and how I relish having the networks of friends that he had/has.

I fly on March 28th to Israel, and plan to spends days away in the Golan mountains and the very upper Galilee region. I’ve had much less ‘luck’ there, never having been able to coax anyone to meet meet anywhere, at anytime. For those who have been visiting wingedbeauty.com for some time, know that when I have posted images of Israel ( read that HolyLand or Middle Eastern ) butterflies, it has been the fruit of sheer determination, field guide/map strategizing, and the mother of them all . . . Luck.

This year in the USA, my new goals include Diana fritillaries in the northern Georgia mountain ( with nary a single offer of where, when ), the Cofaqui giant skipper butterfly ( for me AKA the needle in the haystack butterfly ) and satyrs and alpines in northern Maine and Ontario ( w/o having found anyone to . . . . ). Place your $$$ on me meeting Diana, for I am determined to make their acquaintance.

Jeff

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.

Jeff