Mobbing the ‘Wall’

People viewing Gold-Bordered hairstreak butterfly at “The Wall,” photographed by Jeff Zablow in Mission, TX

Sure, it’s been 25 years since I began searching for butterflies, in and about Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. 99% of the time I work by myself, and 99.673% of the time I had no one to point me to where to find the butterflies I sought.

I found them when I found them: Harvesters, Meadow Fritillaries, Compton Tortoiseshell, that Gulf Fritillary in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory, those 7 or 8 species of Hairstreaks, that Leonard’s Skipper and the gorgeous Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and that fresh Tawny Emperor.

My friends back a few years ago invited me to join them at Mission, Texas, on a trip to the National Butterfly Center!! That was a trip that I cannot ever forget. I met dozens (DozenS!!!) of new butterflies there, and at the ‘Wall.’ set in and around a lovely home development.

This is the scene there, when someone spotted a very rare butterfly, no doubt visiting from Mexico, Mexico just some 3 or so miles away. Their cell phone network was set afire, and folks kept coming, speeding to this spot and dashing from their cars to not miss the OMG! hairstreak butterfly.

They ALL had long lenses. Me? I shoot with a Macro- lens (Canon 100mm/2.8). They minimally greeted me, stayed grouped as you see here and seemed mesmerized by the rare butterfly, but indifferent to the rare new visitor from Georgia (via Pittsburgh/Long Island/the mean streets of Brooklyn).

True be told. I was told, some minutes later, that when I crouched and robotically approached this bush, that I jeopardized the chance of the dozens who were then on their way there, reduced the chance that the hairstreak would be there for those desperate dozens, the chance to add this one to their life list. Told that I was seen as “Selfish.” Ouch!

I think it’s best for me to revert to what I’ve always been, a lone wolf, searching, seeking, hunting for images of fresh, beautiful and rare butterflies.

There are several of you out there who are Fantastic to work trails with, and I long for renewed field foraging with those best of the best! Barbara Ann, Angela, Mike, Phil, Curt, Rose & Jerry, Dave.

Jeff

Palamedes Pretty

Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

I must have dozens of vivid memories of butterflies and where I first met them. Maybe it’s more than a handful of dozens of strong memories of first meet-ups. That Gulf Fritillary in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. A Gulf in Pittsburgh!! Those 2 Harvester Butterflies in Raccoon Creek State Park, Pennsylvania. The Goatweed Leafwing in that same Raccoon Creek State Park. I was so startled to see it on that tree trunk, that I forget to put my camera to work!! The Southern and Creole Pearly-eyes in Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly in Mason Neck State Park in Virginia. The Malachite and the Erato Heliconian butterflies in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. A standout first saw was that morning when I came upon the most gorgeous Tawny Emperor ever, again in Raccoon Creek State Park.

This Palamedes was one of the first I’d ever seen, this time in 2016 in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area in the Florida Panhandle (northern Florida). They were huge and they adored the thistle seen here. There were many of them. When they’re fresh the black of their wings in brilliant jet black and bedazzles.

I’m booked to return to Big Bend and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in just a few months. I can hardly wait to reunite with Palamedes Swallowtails, Georgia Satyrs, Goatweeds, Great Purple Hairstreaks and all of those Skippers that are so difficult to ID.

Yet another destination this year might be Okefenokee Swamp. Oh, who might I see there? Pretty Palamedes?

Jeff

Cabbage White Butterfly

Cabbage White Butterfly at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh

For many of us this is the first and last butterfly that we see each year. We watch them fly in our neighbor’s yards, across ballfields and along the storefronts downtown. Do you ever wonder how those first 2 or 3 (200 or 300?) first came aground in these United States? Was that event in Massassachusetts? Virginia? South Carolina? Rhode Island or New York?

Our male has been bobbing from one Zinnia flower to the next, enjoying the nectars of the Outdoor Gardens at the Phipps Conservatory. Given little attention by most naturalists, these white and black beauties come to grow on you. Focused, hardy and seemingly unpalatable as their wings are often intact–how do this petite butterflies manage to so deftly handle their business?

Tomorrow and the next day you’ll likely see several in flight. Perhaps they are worth giving some thought to.

Jeffrey

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Gulf Fritillary shot at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR), North Carolina

They are just spectacular. This one is resting before it continues its search for nectaring passionflowers.

They are very abundant in our Southeast. This morning at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge I saw many Gulf Fritillaries.

I once spotted one in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh! That was more than 10 years ago. It was hundreds of miles north of its usual range. Hmmm! The previous months had been warmer and drier than usual and the Outdoor Gardens featured Passionflower. So does that explain the appearance of a Southern butterfly in the North?

That’s what I love about what I do. You never, never know what you’ll see next.

When you study this photo of one of the most beautiful butterflies in the U.S., what do you think about?

Jeffrey