Palamedes, Up to my Calf

Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly on Pickerelweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

August 2018, at Harris Neck. This National Wildlife Refuge is on the coast, not too far from Brunswick, Georgia. A near wildlife overload those 6 days. A stand-out trip, for I saw there many, many butterflies common to the southeastern USA and especially typical of southeastern wetlands.

The wading birds, waterfowl, anhingas, osprey and bald eagle were all so robust and handsome looking. In their rookeries, on the pond surface, exposed trees and light footed as they worked the pond edges.

I reached this pond edge, and was ecstatic (true!) to see the pickerelweed in full bloom. Vunderbar!! Now, I’m shooting Macro- and have got to get within at least 24″ to cop good shots. Decision time!

In I went, with the pond now up to my lower calf. My beloved Merrell boots submerged, and every step taken risky, for that water was feeling awfully slippery when my feet came down on pond mud.

Decision #2, which I dismissed maybe a bit too quickly, was an unknown = where was the nearest 8-foot alligator, 10-foot or 12-foot alligator? I thought back to those years on the streets, Brooklyn, and how G-d must have been especially kind to me.

This Palamedes swallowtail butterfly was having one fine time at the pickerelweed nectar bar. Must say, there, then, in that, surely confirms that real-time, up to my calves, y’all have got to take my word for it, there cannot be any global . . .


Change Your Place, Change . . .

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

700 miles. That’s how far I moved last year. Family and friends know how much I enjoy this pursuit of butterflies, and they’ve heard of why I do what I do.

It’s 55 degrees F in my former home now, and its’s a whopping 80 degrees F in middle Georgia, the Piedmont region. Back there, in Pittsburgh, the Monarch butterflies were singletons, and you might see 3-5 any given year. They would be seen until mid-September each of those 27 years, and October might shake out a stray Cabbage White butterfly, maybe.

Today! Today in my 1-year old natives garden, I went out to give Petra some exercise, and there in Bed #2 of my garden, together on a group of giant Tithonia (Mexican sunflower plants) . . . were Five (5) Monarchs, males and females at the Tithonias, the nectar bar for thousands of butterflies this year. Five! I’ve never seen such a grouping together, ever.

I’ve driven down here, beginning back in 2015, and butterflies fly well into November. I L-U-V it!

Change your place, many Moms say, and you Change . . .


That Moment when You Realize

Banded Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park

We know it. That moment when you’ve covered the huge meadow’s margins for several hours, searching for butterflies, out of the ordinary butterflies. 100 acres plus or minus in Doak Field last Raccoon Creek State Park, just miles from Pennsylvania’s state line with West Virginia.

Great Spangled Fritillaries bounce in the air from one side of the cut-trail to the other, wood nymphs also cross the mowed trail, they hugging the ground, but no less difficult to follow and shoot. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail males fly that crazy, frenetic way they do, searching for receptive females.Silver Spotted Skippers flee their place at the nectar bar on your approach. A Monarch butterfly or two dreamily floats from one Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) to the next. Red-Spotted Purples deny you a click of the camera, vacating their perch when you close the gap with them (and shucks! didn’t that one sport really fine red spots).

So I’m working the forest side of the mowed trail, along the southern perimeter of Doak field . . . and my eyes, sporting thousands of hours of field work experience, register a curious geometry. I see a tiny triangular shape, resting on a leaf blade. Eureka!! My brain makes the ID in nanoseconds, a Hairstreak.

Now hairstreaks are usually few and far between, be they Grays, Red-bandeds, the hard to find Stripeds, the calendar-shy Corals ( with their 2-week or so flights ) or the rarest of rare White-M’s.

Huh? What! Are you sure?? It none of the above. Battlestations! (That’s how I think ). Can it be??? A Banded Hairstreak. A Banded Hairstreak?? That blue on the hindwing extends way out from the orange spots, as Bandeds’ blue patch does. There is one other possibility, that it’s the very similar Hickory Hairstreak.

We conclude that this sweetie is a Banded Hairstreak, and that is Good, Very Good.

Fun for Jeff, in the field. Who among you can claim such excitement in the field?


He Stood, Awestruck!

Coneflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie, Ohio

Nurseries? I love visiting new nurseries. Always I enter a new one, hoping that it’s a good as nurseries visited in the past (one, in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, for instance, that I will never forget). I’m the kid in the candy shop in nurseries, as in good hardware stores, and in benched dog shows.

These last several years have changed me. I now look, search for native plants, those not heavily hybridized. In the nurseries of Pennsylvania (Sylvania Natives the exception), I always, always expect that just about every plant I see is from some far away place, as in tropical (a not much used word nowadays) Central or South America, or at least the Great Plains of the USA or the habitat of the very southwest, say New Mexico.

Walks with Petra in next door Frick Park were a combination of pleasure and sadness. The sadness was the realization that, by my reconnaissance, maybe 70% of the greenery there was alien.

When Angela and her friends led me to Lynx Prairie Reserve, a private wildlife reserve in Adams County, very, very southern Ohio, I entered, and shortly stood there, Awestruck! There, right there were several Coneflowers!! Native, resident and luxuriant!!! Purple coneflower, I  would guess. Not found only many many state lines to the west, but right there in this rare, closely watched Ohio prairie habitat.

Great Spangled Fritillaries came and went, constantly, as did other butterflies. Busy times at the nectar Bar.

Angela may remember how they had to patiently pause, while Boy Blue Eyes stood there, enraptured!

They were strong, deeply hued and magnificent. Doesn’t take much to ignite me, Huh?