Gray Hairstreak

Gray Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh

It’s July 29th in the Outdoor Gardens of our world famous Phipps Conservatory. In the middle of Pittsburgh, within view of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, our Strymon Melinus has spent the night, comfortably nestled nearby, asleep. Now it’s morning and time to eat! So, like most Pittsburghers, the butterfly’s shopping is done nearby, in the neighborhood.

This isn’t just any butterfly haven. The Outdoor Gardens at Phipps are closely managed. Each year they offer abundant, healthy perrenials and annuals for the enjoyment of their visitors as well as for the nourishment of the fauna who flourish there. This female is doing just that. The butterfly pictured here is actively feeding for the carbs, proteins and other nutrients available in the nectar, at the base of the flower.

When the butterfly backs out of the flower, the morning sun will spotlight her lipstick red patch at the margin of her hindwing. She uses the same visual pheromones as Mae West once did when she famously said, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime.”

In the northeastern Unite States, Gray hairstreaks fly from late April through September, if not longer. Grays, and other hairsteaks, fly short distances, close to the ground, and usually are solitary. As noted in our earlier posts, spotting one is a Treat!



Early Morning Visit to Phipps Conservatory Produces this Photo of a Summer Azure Butterfly

Summer Azure Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Phipps Conservatory Outdoor Gardens, PA

I try to be at the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory as early as 8:30 AM. When I succeed at doing that (its 2.3 miles from home), I park, prepare my camera, and ready myself. Film loaded (Fuji slide), blousing garters on (a precaution – the same ones issued to me by Uncle Sam = they are among the best made things ever), 5-6 rolls of slide film at the ready, I enter the gardens area.

All that done, off I go. Who are among the first greeters waiting for me? Celastrina Neglecta. These pookies, as Michal would call them, are like the sirens that drew sailors to the rocks, only to be crushed. Why? We already have lots of images of Spring Azures (Celastrina Laden) and Celastrina Neglecta, but I want even better ones. So, for 0.05 seconds I debate the use of precious film to seek 10 to 20 shots of this darling. You see the result.

August 21st and here’s the best of that lot. Wingspan of 1″. Wherever I happen to photograph, there are never other people. When others do happen to come along, wherever I may be, Phipps, National Wildlife Refuges, Toronto, wherever, I watch to see if they have a look at the butterflies that flee from their path. They almost never do. Almost all people neglect to stop and examine these tiny Azures, so dainty and so finely marked. Nor do I see curiosity about the commas, red-spotted purples and other butterflies that also avoid giant soles of shoes as they come crashing down on trail. I am amazed to this day that more folks don’t want to savor the beauty that is within reach.

Like the elderly street-minders in Chinese cities, the Azures insure that you pass their stretch of trail safely, and then pass you off to the next trail monitor. You’re not alone on the trail from as early as March, through September.