Buckeyes Tease

Buckeye butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Shooting a Buckeye butterfly with a Macro- lens requires that you approach within about 18″. Now how are you going to do that, with such a skittish butterfly? They are especially wary, and your careful approach is usually rewarded by . . . gone! flew! gone!

A fool’s errand is trying to make approach to a Buckeye resting on your trail, or here, at the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch (Eatonton, Georgia, A 5 **** butterfly destination), catching a breather on one of the paths. You approach robotically, you have a good feeling about your chances, and then nada! zilch! for it’s . . . . gone!

This Buckeye was nectaring on Lantana, that southeastern and southwestern cultivar that releases its sugar juices periodically over the course of the morning.

I made my Technique (see above) approach. Good. So far. Now comes the Buckeye Challenge. Meaning, Bet you can’t get all of those eyes, and Florida orange bands, and golden ring margin borders, and forewing wider bands, and forewing chevrons and forewing margin dots and wing background color, and abdomen, thorax, head, eyes, palps and antennae, together, and all in focus!

So this image is returned from Kansas, and the slide taunts. I love most of the eyes, I love other hindwing color action! but, the head, eyes, palps and more, nope!

Decision time that night. I decided to share this, for I still love those hindwings, and who knows when Virginia will once again dish up such a shmeksy! Buckeye?


Baltimore Checkerspot in Jamestown

Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center in New York

The timing was perfect. There were several Baltimore checkerspot butterflies here and there in this wetland, part of the Jamestown (NY) Audubon Center’s extensive reserve. All looked fresh and just so pretty to look at. I really wanted image of Baltimores, and here was my opportunity.

So I stepped (Shhh!) off trail to shoot that one, w/o good result. This other one, flew before I could set up, Oh that’s a nice one, vamoose!, and that is how it went. To do what we do, you cannot give up, and I kept at it.

Checkerspots are limited here in the northeast, and we are Blessed to have these beauts. Their hostplants are Turtlehead, a native wetland wild flowering plant.

The thing about Baltimores is that when you find them, they bedazzle you, and you have to remember why you came there in the first place, to capture the handsome features of these eye-candy lookers.


My name is Dragon’s-mouth

Orchid, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

How’s that for a catchy name? You’d think that Colgate or Crest would have made this pert beauty a sometimes celebrity.

Scrutinizing the sphagnum moss bog for Bog copper butterflies, and finding them! was very exciting. Seventeen years of pursuing butterflies, and finally, bog coppers. Working through the bog matt of bouncy “carpet” you knew you were liable to find very, very exotic butterflies, insects, animals and plants.

When this orchid was spotted, I felt like using one of those old lines, “Hello baby, where have you been all my life?” No more than 7″ tall, it just stood there, a fairy princess, looking as delicate as delicate can be, and not a court attendant in sight. Nearby were several others, separated nicely from one another.

The sense was, this is a rare and extraordinary orchid, described by Paul Martin Brown, in his Wild Orchids of the Northeastern United States, as a “regionally significant species.” That is how I viewed it, a rare, hard to find, fragile example of G-d’s handiwork. I was there at exactly the right time, for days earlier, nope! and a few days later? nope!

For thousands of years, Arethusa bulbs Linnaeus has persevered in this unique, western New York bog.  Allenberg Bog is also known to some as Waterman’s Swamp, Congdon’s Pond, and Owlenburg Bog and is on the border of the towns of Napoli and New Albion, New York in Cattaraugus County. A unique and fascinating refuge of 390 acres, it is the jewel of the Buffalo Audubon Preserve System. The orchid looked fragile and vulnerable, but surviving, and producing anew. If this slight, delicate flower can, then we surely can, is what I thought.


A Rare, Well, Very Rare Copper

Bog Copper Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New YorkDorsal View of Bog Copper Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

My love for American Copper butterflies has extended over many years. At Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, they greet me along the mowed paths in that 100-acre meadow. Perky little butterflies, they so remind me of Shih Tzu pups, pookie perky!

I’ve seen and captured images of Bronze Coppers, although they are very limited and in decline. In Israel, I’ve found several species of coppers, too.

With my Copper butterfly dance card filling up, there was a blank still left, the Bog Copper. Cech & Tudor, in Butterflies of the East Coast, cite them as “rare, bog-dependent species.” To see them, you must travel, travel to one of the very few remaining acid bogs, tamarack (tree) bogs, left over from that time when glaciers began to recede from the northeastern United States.

I travelled up to a protected bog in western New York. I had to be guided there, for Bog Coppers are now seriously protected, and need that concern. You could not find Allenberg Bog yourself. The trail from road is 99.999% impossible to see from the road access.  Allenberg Bog is also known to some as Waterman’s Swamp, Congdon’s Pond, and Owlenburg Bog and is on the border of the towns of Napoli and New Albion, New York in Cattaraugus County. A unique and fascinating refuge of 390 acres, it is the jewel of the Buffalo Audubon Preserve System.

When I got there??? A real, totally real acid bog, complete with pitcher plants, sundew plants, an open pond-like center, tamaracks, swamp milkweed, and the hostplant for Bog Coppers, wild cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon). A sunny day, mild for July, and no wind. Perfect!

And then, there was a Bog Copper (Lycaena epixanthe). Tiny, low flying, and mostly males about. I saw many those 2 mornings. They perch occasionally, and tolerate my close macro- approach. Jeff and the diminutive little butterflies that remind me of, well that sweet little Tinkerbell in the Peter Pan movie.

Now folks, this came to be one of the most challenging photography of butterflies efforts I can recall. For starters they average o.9″ inches from wing tip to wing tip. They are solitary. Not enough challenge for you yet? Get this! It’s a real, bonafide thousands of year old acid bog. So you think? When you can approach a good looking Bog copper, and set yourself for the shot(s), focus, focus, then . . . . OMG! you realize, Holy Moley! I am sinking!!! You become distracted, concerned that you will be found again 400 years from now, mummified at the bottom of this highly acidic bog, still clutching your Canon Elan 7e.

What about the shot(s) you were about to capture? What shots? You were sinking, you kept losing focus, you were wondering if the bottom of the bog held other unfortunate butterfly photographers, native Americans or Good Humor ice cream truck drivers? So getting decent looks at Bog Coppers is akin to finding the . . . .

Jeff found his rare, rare Bog coppers. Male image on the top. Female image on the bottom. Bingo!!


Favorites For 2016: Tiger Swallowtails

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Phipps Conservatory,  Pittsburgh

We’re in a butterfly year that for sure challenges. Butterflies are flying, but aren’t you seeing them less often, and in reduced numbers? Don’t you work your trails thinking, ‘I miss the Eastern tailed blues, duskywings and American coppers that usually monitor me as I move along this or that trail?’ and ‘It was so much fun watching the Wood nymphs play Peek-a-Boo with me just 2 or 3 years ago!’ Totally “Missed seeing Monarchs surprise us all and come on stage” to resounding cheers, in June!

That’s the year I’m living here in ’16. Then who does this year seem to belong to, at least for now? I say, the Tiger swallowtails, Papilio glaucus. Males are almost everywhere, doing the wild and crazy swooping, diving, swerving and otherwise wild flying in search of females. Their females have certainly played hard to find, too.

Enjoy your Independence Day, and report back, won’t you?