National Butterfly Center Monarchs Engaged

Mating Monarchs on Milkweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX
We were working the perennial beds at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas when I happened on this pair of Monarch butterflies, fully coupled. They were on an Asclepias flowering plant.

They were standouts. The largest Monarchs I have ever seen. Big, very big. I’d grown accustomed to seeing Monarchs of one uniform size. These 2 were behemoths, for Monarchs.

Here the male is closest to us. He was a hunk!

The publicity and press for the NBC holds water. This place offers surprise and surprise!


Carolina Satyr at the Briar Patch

Carolina Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Elusive is the only way to describe this tiny little Satyr butterfly. Deciding that you want good images of Carolina Satyrs (Hermeuptychia Sosybius) and capturing same, may take a day, or days, or weeks. Trust me on this.

A couple of Carolina Satyrs resided in the tree line abutting the Butterflies and Bloom in the Briar Patch (Eatonton, Georgia). Others ventured into the sun dappled undergrowth of the Briar Patch’s perennial beds. Shooting them required getting down on my left knee pad, staked out at flowers that I know are attractive to them.

Regulars on the blog know I have a thing for satyrs; with their rich chocolate browns and eyespots. Carolinas sport especially pretty eyespots, and that’s reason numbers 1-3 for my choice of this photo.  Beyond that, I have my favorites among the Satyrs, and Carolina Satyrs in the Briar Patch are near the top of my list.

I find that I prefer woodland habitats from West Virginia traveling south to the tip of the Florida peninsula.


Tomorrow or the Next Day?

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA

Each day more reports are shared of Monarchs spotted here and there, east of the Mississippi River. These sightings shimmer with the excitement of seeing a Monarch in your town, city or county, after so many months of 3′ snowfalls and so many days of zero degree F weather.

My personal estimate? I’d say that some 21,653,208 additional milkweed plants have been added to home gardens and perennial beds in the last year. All this to set the table for returning Danaus Plexippus. Nary a single one of us regrets the effort, cost or emotional investment.

Me? I’ve seen Monarchs this year in the Jamestown Audubon Center in northwest New York, in Frick Park in Pittsburgh and in the Briar Patch Butterfly Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. Today is June 28th, and I think the table is set for their return. So many knowledgeable folks are striving to insure their success, that I am encouraged that we will soon enjoy them. Tomorrow or the next day.


One? Two? As many as 3?

Monarch butterfly chrysalis photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Robert Michael Pyle’s Chasing Monarchs (this morning’s breakfast read has me on page 91) tells his overland route, as he followed Monarchs on the west coast (US). That journey began in British Columbia, and he’s on his way south, following the Yakima, Columbia and other rivers, following the Monarchs as they leave their summer homes and work their way south to . . . Even then, in the late 1990’s, the numbers of Monarchs in Washington and Oregon was way down.

We have been sharing our dread, that the Monarch population on the east coast (we get quite a few visitors from 83 other countries) may or may not recover. That Monarchs in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and north will not be seen every 10 minutes in May through September. We worry that we may not see a single monarch on a windless, blue-skied day in July. We will look at our roadside milkweed, at the orange butterfly weed in our fields, even at the cultivated milkweeds that we are being urged to plant in our perennial beds and grow increasingly suspect of them. Have they succumbed somehow to pollution, pollution internally, pollution that came from the chemical tinkering that the giant chemical combines have been creating, creating to increase the crop yields on those humongous corporate farms out there.

Me? I’m still skeptical. I want to believe that those monarchs in those giant cedars in Mexico will surprise us again, that all this is cyclical, and that 2014 will be a good year for Danaus plexippus. But, I too am concerned. iPhones, iPads, XBoxes, Clouds. With the constant tsunami of technology that we are in awe of, the flights of winged beauties from Mexico to Maine, from Toronto back to Mexico is sooo comforting. Part of me so wants things to take a breather, slowwww down some. The incredible flight of a monarch female, from Stockbridge, Massachusetts to Mexico gives me comfort, that much is and will remain familiar, even if mysterious.

So, when you work those trails this summer, and search out monarch chrysalises, like this gem-like one, will you find just one? Will you spot as many as 2? Because of your visual acuity, will you be the blessed one and find 3?


Hermon Iris (Protected) (2)

Hermon Iris (Protected) butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Northernmost Golan, Israel

Startling! Working this trail in the northernmost Golan region of Israel, searching for butterflies. Always alert, eyes panning from right to left, left to right, poised to note flight. Searching for butterflies. Hyper alert. Lebanon, less than a mile away, is sadly the home of Hezbollah, whose adherents violate all that we learned as children. We were taught to be good citizens, respect the rights of others, and be there to help if someone needs helps. On the other side of the formidable fence, beyond the horizon, roam folks who have been taught, no, trained, to Kill. What a place you see here. Absolute beauty, with hungry knife tips conspiring heinous acts, somewhere over the hill.

Can you imagine my thoughts when I saw these Hermon iris blooms along this trail? OMG! Working to score butterfly images for, I reached floral beauty. Delicate, yet stubborn flowers with petals whose intricacy of tiny inkspots an artisan at Cartier would require weeks or more to copy and master. THE Master craftsman at work. Amazing.

I have never seen irises growing in the wild. I had to reckon a moment, Am I hallucinating?

I have grown irises in my own gardens since 1970. I have occasionally enjoyed comments made by people passing, as I was working my perennial beds. I have grown very beautiful irises. Hermon iris rivaled any that I have ever seen. Period.

These plants are protected by law. They grow on trails that few people ever travel. They bloom in early Israeli Spring, when they go largely unseen.

What a treat on a unique trail in an extraordinary place. What a Shame that the fence will never come down . . .