Adios Empress Leila . . .

Empress Leila Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in White Tank Mountains Regional Park, Arizona

We who travel to find new butterflies, capture, rich, sweet memories. As the years go by, those memories pile onto one another. It’s good to occasionally shake those mental ‘piles,’ and free-up some of the earlier recollections.

Grandma Lehman, my mother-in-law, lived for many years in Sun City West, Arizona. That enormous Del Webb town, for seniors, was just about 30 minutes from White Tank Mountains Regional Park. When we visited Eda, every morning I could, I’d drive to White Tank Mountains, leaving around 6:30 A.M.. The sun is so strong in those beautiful mountains, that working trails in the arroyos had to cease at 10-10:15 A.M.. Stay any later, in those boulder-strewn arroyos, and risk heat stroke/exhaustion and alone as I was, death. An earlier post here describes my brush with death, when I was having so much success working that arroyo, that it Hit Me! without warning. I struggled to get back through the arroyo, and prayed . . . .

Grandma Lehman had a very serious stroke event recently, at age 95. Five and one-half years in a series of German concentration camps, and she is still with us, in a Brooklyn, NY senior home. Hitler? She survived and now has upwards of 30 great grandchildren. Thank G-d our children never will have to know a life where getting your hands on potato peels was something only to dream of. Best keep America strong, No?

With the Arizona house sold, I will surely no longer enjoy this Empress Leila butterfly, a closely related butterfly to several eastern USA butterfly species. We used to meet one another in those very arroyos. I’d see solitary ones perched as here, on sun-baked boulders on the arroyo floor. Approach, it flees, and we continue this until that predictable moment, when the Empress would remain on a boulder, and tolerate my robotic approach. They were fun to pursue, just so long as you keep one eye on the time, or you risk becoming a butterfly photographer memory (for about the last thing I’d do back then was use my cell to call 911 for rescue! Men!!).

Jeff

Booking A Showstopper

Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

Rolling into Big Bend Wildlife Management Area that day, I was psyched even before I rolled to a stop in the small parking pad. The last 100′ I’d been passing . . . big, gorgeous Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies. I hadn’t seen them since many years ago in Mississippi. These Florida Panhandle Palamedes were much bigger than most other swallowtails, were mostly vividly hued, fresh and few were bird-struck (had bits of hindwing plucked by birds during unsuccessful attack).

Virginia discovered Big!! in May in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat (Yes, Eatonton, Georgia). A pair of Queen (!!!!) caterpillars. Never sen there before, Queens? Field guides show them no closer than a 2.5 hour drive south and east. They’re now eclosed and magnificent. No sweat as to what to nourish any future progeny with. The BBBPatch Habitat has about 100 Asclepias (milkweed) plants, poised and available.

Connect the dots? Virginia mentioned in April that she’s planning to set in Redbay trees/shrubs (?) to attract Palamedes swallowtails, like this instant one. Now many know that when this whirling dervish of a woman sets out to do something, Las Vegas’ line is very, very favorable. Palamedes in the Georgia Piedmont? Rare, but they have been historically seen there. Dare you bet against Miss Virginia?

Jeff

Beauty in Abundance

Giant swallowtail butterfly on tithonia, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Minutes, hours, days spent seeking butterflies. I leave the disappointedly dirty streets, litter in otherwise comely city parks, hustle and bustle of traffic. Detach myself from the tens, hundreds and thousands of people whom I pass, who do not offer the Hello! or smile or eye contact that . . . I think shores all (most) of us up. No bills to see before my eyes, no housework to feel obligated to attend to, and almost, almost no thought of family and all that family means to me.

This one? We’re here in the Butterflies & Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. If I had to guess, I’ve posted maybe some 100 or more images from this Gem! of a nature reserve. Even here though, there are signs of leaves that are on the wane, flowers that are spent (as they must be . . . ), insects sadly down on the trails (dead), predators about who do belong who do play a role but who still tug at our sense of life and death. And there are always those squadrons of butterflies, many worn, scales mostly lost, who tease me, until I see that bird-struck hindwing, or those punctures in a wing or more. Y’all don’t much like to see damaged butterflies, no matter how much you protest that you . . . do.

Then, as here, in zooms! a wondrous creature, resplendent in fresh, bright color, and Oh, so Complete! That’s the juice that sets me ablaze! Objective? Capture that beauty, so that its throws a weightless sheer cover over all the not so pretties vying for our attention.

A Giant swallowtail butterfly, young, fresh . . . Beauty in Abundance! Caught on Fuji film, and no cell phone used in the process. Really.

H-s work.

Jeff

2nd Dibs At Rare Butterflies?

Levantine marbled white butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

Jackpot! is how I felt when the very rare cousin flew to this wildflower. This tiny nectar pump of a bloom must have delivered enough nectar to keep this Parnassian there long enough. Long enough for me to shoot her out, and earn several good exposures of her. There at the peak of Mt. Hermon, with my hired guide, I relished these moments, knowing how much I wanted to see and photograph Parnassius mnemosyne. If I had found one at all, I would have expected it to be a male, for male butterflies are much more active then females, most spending 91.83% of their times flying, searching for hidden female suitors. That she came out when I was nearby, well, that was super terrific.

Doesn’t it take some reckoning to accept that she is closely related to swallowtail butterflies? More akin to a tiger swallowtail butterfly than to a cabbage white? How’d I get to the only place in the Middle East that P. mnemosyne can be found? A long drive up a mountain road that twists and turns, some of them nearly 90 degrees cut out of the mountain, and then a cable car ride up the mountain, challenging my, lets’s call it concern re: heights, and then a long hike across the peak of Mt. Hermon, arriving there on this arid peak, in 93 degree heat and unrelenting sun. And there was that land mine that Eran found, right where we were tracking butterflies.

Just back from Israel 6 days ago, this 2008 memory reminds me that we who search for butterflies, birds, darners, moths, cats, martens, snakes, . . . . probably all weigh a question. That question is: Though I have seen this Very rare butterfly some years ago, and copped some good images, . . . why is it that I keep thinking that I’d like to see her again? Is there any sound reason to search for her, and see her, again?

In this case the peak of Mt. Hermon looks down to the carnage of . . . Syria. A guide would again be needed, and even so, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) closes the mountain top to us, as necessary, and often without warning. Further in this case, there is the ‘icky’ knowledge that if you could return there, say 12 days ago when I was on the mountain, you would have been under near constant surveillance by the IDF, the UN, and Syrian, perhaps Russian, perhaps American and perhaps Iranian, and perhaps ISIL and perhaps Salafist . . . . Risky? All to see Parnassius mnemosyne and 10 or 11 other protected butterflies???

Jeff