Predictable, But Viceroy When?

Viceroy Butterfy concealed in Foliage photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

Traci’s Pocket Swamp was all that she said it was. Best of all, this Fayette Township, southwestern Pennsylvania swamp, that she calls Kelso Swamp, featured the wetland flora and fauna expected. Great blue heron, duck, sedges, Typha, all there.

My first visit, and the Salix (Willows) bordering the open water was the clincher. Viceroy butterflies surely must be here too. Willows are their hostplants, so you’d think that Viceroys should be right there, right where you want to see them, throughout the morning.

Except . . . field experience teaches that Viceroys are unpredictable, except, you can predict that once you see them, they will be difficult to approach, and will remain in place briefly, very briefly.

With Viceroy on my mind, I searched this navigable east side of the swamp, finding lots to examine, and shoot.

Boom! In swooped a Viceroy, and it headed to the low grass, just steps from the open swamp, and about 15′ from me. Daddah! Hmmm. Would my approach startle this beaut? Would it stay there long enough for me to get close to it? Could I get close to it? Would . . .?

You know I was Happy!, very Happy! I shot, shot, shot. A fresh, vital, vibrant wetland butterfly, yes, as beautiful as those baubles in the jewelry  store windows on fabled East 57th Street in NYNY! Well not as beautiful, more beautiful than . . . .

Jeff

Viceroy Adorns Kelso Swamp

Viceroy Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

Great images of Viceroy butterflies have long eluded me. Difficult to approach, quick to flee, wary, that’s been the menu for these many years. I jumped at the chance to see Kelso swamp, just 14 or so miles from my home. Traci was right, the beaver-made, pocket swamp was rich with wildlife, and habitat for Viceroys.

Willows are the hostplants of Viceroy butterflies, and sure enough there they were at the swamp.

Why didn’t I make a closer approach? See above for that. What lens was I using? My Canon macro- lens, 100mm/2.8.

Am I happy with this photo? Yep. The white spots are white, the orange is sweet orange, the black veins are strongly black and the black postmodern lines of the hindwing are prominent.

A word about this pocket swamp. It is on private property, and areas nearby have begun to be developed. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy scouts such places, and has conserved many. May they go see this one, and save it for our children . . .

Thanks Traci.

Jeff