Meadow Winged Beauty

Meadow Fritillary Butterfly at Rector, PA

Many of us know the beauty of a fresh Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly. When I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I’d go to Nichol Field, their 100+ acre meadow. On those summer mornings I’d often see dozens of Great Spangled Fritillaries, in that amazing meadow. I’d sometimes see Ranger Patrick Adams those mornings, and I’d congratulate him on nurturing such a glorious meadow at Raccoon Creek State Park.

Every once in a while, when I would wade into the chest high grass there, I’d spy a smaller, different Fritillary butterfly. It flew in an almost awkward manner, flew low, and I’d become electrified! A Meadow Fritillary butterfly! Here’s one that cooperated, stopping to nectar while I shot away.

Seeing a Meadow Fritillary was exciting, for others were bemoaning the increasing absence of Meadow Frits. Jeffrey Glassberg in A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America noted an “expanding range in some areas while disappearing from others.” He sure was correct, for they seem to have become much less common in western Pennsylvania.

Seeing a Meadow Fritillary? Energizing!


Hedge Bindweed Wildflower

Hedge Bindweed Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

There it is again. It was August 16th and Calystegia sepium hosted an Eastern black swallowtail. She flew in quickly and as they do, nectared furiously at this pinkish flower with its five white stripes. After all of these years in the field,  I still didn’t know anything about these blooms. I did know that of the thousands of acres that Raccoon  Creek State Park includes, I only remember seeing these pinkies here and there. This one was in Nichol field in Raccoon Creek State Park. Thirty seven miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the home of Mellon, Frick and Carnegie and now the university destination  of hundreds of Chinese, Japanese and Middle Eastern young people.

A species of Morning Glory, these vines are found in small groups. The flowers do not appear to be a primary or secondary destination for butterflies. I think they are an optional destination. I have also noticed that their “tank” seems to be small, because after a handful of visits, they remain untouched for the rest of the morning.

I’ve just begun William  Leach’s Butterfly People (copyright 2013). This reading makes me wonder, if they had had blogs in the latter part of the 19th century . . Wow! what Comments I might have gotten from Great Britain, the U.S., France, Germany.

Note: I have never collected insects. Didn’t take at all to the idea of it. I have also come to have a distaste for zoos. I understand the persuasion that we all benefit from seeing animal diversity, but seeing those big cats, elephants, rhinoceroses and sedentary veldt grazers caged . . .



Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

It’s September 27th in Nichol field at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. The kids are back in school, 99.9% of us have taken our vacations and  after Labor Day, the swimming beach at the lake is closed.

Danaus Plexxipus has been flying for some weeks now. Blessed with its lode of toxic glycosides, its wings remain whole and powerful. Just days ahead it will continue its migration hundreds and hundreds of miles down to Mississippi or Louisiana. Don’t get me started as to how incredible that is! Our monarch butterflies will navigate without roadmap and without GPS. Explain that to me please? I still get razzed because I am GPS challenged.

This one may have travelled down from Meadville or points north. Milkweed, dogbane, teasel, and butterflyweed flowers are gone. Huge expanses of Goldenrod await to replace their nectar pumps. The Plan is to sustain North America’s beloved Monarch travelers with billions of goldenrod flowers, each one producing the nutrients to feed the Monarchs. They are joined by Painted Ladies and other butterflies passing through on their sylvan wings to West Virginia,  Kentucky, Tennessee and southward.

Goldenrod is not regularly noticed and is little appreciated.  The plant supports America’s Monarchs year after year, and this is a nice tale to tell.