The Perfect Red Admiral?

Red Admiral Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Many get ‘hooked’ by a Red Admiral butterfly. Their high school Biology teacher (I was one, once) solemnly declares that soon, very soon species will begin to lose ground and lose habitat. She, dogmatically repeating the mantra pushed by some, is resigned to the loss of all kinds of native species, butterflies, until the time that only Cabbage whites, Painted ladies, Eastern tiger swallowtails and the lookalike skippers are all that’s left.

Me? That’s hogwash. I cannot forget when I taught at the John Adams High School Annex in South Ozone Park, New York City. My classroom was on the 5th floor of an elementary school. The classroom ceilings  were some 18 feet high or so, so the 5th floor was as high as most 9-story buildings.

We faced the west in that room. Some 19 or 20- miles away, we might have seen the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Huh? We couldn’t see them, for there was a permanent blanket of smog preventing us from seeing Manhattan and those fable skyscrapers.

New York’s electricity provider, Consolidated Edison, announced that they would be installing new “scrubbers” in their chimneys, to combat the smog. The federal government made all car makers install catalytic converters. Scrubbers and converters, token solutions. Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . the same old, same old. We were New Yorkers, those kids and I, and we didn’t buy it, zero. One summer later, and I returned to that room that I loved, awaiting those kids from every corner of the world, those big, strong, street tough kids. I looked out that wall of windows, to the eastern half of Manhattan and Oh My Goodness!! there they were, I was seeing the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers. That moment jarred me. Really. It can be done. Progress can be made. Slow as a snail New York City and bureaucratic Con Edison can work together and clean the air of that enormous city. Mamma Mia!

Lesson? Don’t buy the doomsayers. Keep your mind open to change and . . . For sure, that’s why I never bought the ‘Global warming/Al Gore’ pitch. Nope.

When jaded Nature lovers visit the State Parks or Wildlife Management Areas or such, the chance appearance of a Red Admiral, like this one, can startle. Wwwwhat was that? No Tony, there has not been a mass extinction of butterflies and more. Admire this gorgeous butterfly before it once again takes off to ??? Hey, if this is out there, what other Holy Cows? are there flying in a place like this, Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The several hundred times I was there flushed out a slew of OMG!’s including Goatweed leafwing, Red-barred sulphur, Harvester, White M hairstreak, Meadow fritillary, Pipevine swallowtail, Compton tortoiseshell, Milbert’s tortoiseshell  and a Bronze copper butterfly.

The perfect Red Admiral butterfly cannot be readily forgotten and jumps the curiosity quotient in one’s cognitive whatchamacallit. You’ve just gotta’ get back out there, away from that 97% that cobwebs you up, and find that rare, incredible, drop-dead-unbelieveable butterfly you had no idea was . . .

Jeff

Red-Banded Hairstreak in the Briar Patch

Red-banded Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

There is so much air traffic in the Birds & Blooms in the Briar Patch, leaving you wishing that your head could swivel 360 degrees, and new, not yet introduced butterflies enter, sample and exit the tens of thousands of nectar-dripping flowers. Lots of them are large. Swallowtails, Fritillaries, Hackberrys, Monarchs, Painted Ladies are all noticeable, and Jeff’s eyes acknowledge their comings and goings. All purposeful, nectar seekers, mate hunters, and territory claimers.

At the southern section there, a line of giant Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) does just about what the nearby Publix Markets does. It was there that my eyes registered something a-flight, a tiny butterfly, and, and, there was that red band, that gorgeous red band. Red-banded Hairstreak!! Approach, approach, good, still there. Technique positioning, good. Is it fresh? Yes! I Love this butterfly. Calycopis cecrops. The red band is edged outwardly in white, it has 2 pairs of tiny tails and the blue patch at the hindwing edge is baby blue. This is one tiny, neat butterfly. Striped legs, orange tipped antennae, and those pookie eyes, bordered in white.

Eatonton, Georgia, and a dandy of a hairstreak. A tiny looker, for sure.

Jeff