2019? Peace?

Cow photographed by Jeff Zablow on Mt. Hermon, Israel, 6/16/08

The memories stream back to me. We, Eran, my guide and I were on the peak of Mt. Hermon. Standing on the extreme northeastern border of Israel, Hermon has us looking into embattled Syria. You are seeing perhaps 180 miles of southern Syria. When was this image taken? June 2008. The cow was owned by Syrians, and it wandered to the peak of Hermon, 7,000 feet, to graze.

I was searching for butterflies, endangered ones. The views take your breathe away ones. Never to be forgotten. June it was there in Israel, and we hiked with temperatures in the mid-90’s. Eran was a huge man, and he carried liters of water for us, on that mountaintop. Few others were seen up there, and all the time we were under the surveillance of Israeli Army security.

That bovine and its 15 or so companions wandered up there, to I suppose, graze. The landmine Eran found, chastened me, and made me wonder how she manages to avoid them, or do they?

We sure found special, rare butterflies that day, drank drank drank, and managed to avoid other land mines.

Now, the farmers and Syrians who lived down there are all dead or gone, replaced by soldiers and spies and ISIS crazies from Iran, Russia, North Korea, the Syrian Army, Hezbollah, People Republic of China and other crazies. You see a pastoral landscape, but what actually followed was . . . a killing field. Men, women and children.

I’ve sought to return to this extraordinary mountain top since this day in June 2008. Each year I tried I was forbidden from going up there. The Israeli military control it, and they are ever diligent.

Did you stop back where I shared that the Syrians who lived there just a decade ago are all gone or dead? When I think of that, on this day that reminds us of so much, I have trouble grappling with what happened down there, less than a decade ago.

I was there for the butterflies, some 10 or so species found nowhere else in the world! What happened down there soon after, just stuns me. This mountaintop, back in 1967 was a bloody battleground. It now is the borderline between Israel and Syrian forces, Hezbollah forces, Russian forces, our own U.S. forces, North Korean advisors, ISIL savages, Pakistani advisors, Syrian ‘Rebel’ forces and who knows who else.

That region is gorgeous, rich in wildlife and desperately needs a rest, say 100 years of Peace?

Jeff

Mt. Hermon and The ‘Wall’

Brown Argus Butterfly at Mt. Hermon, Israel

When the call went out, on their cellphone network, dozens of butterfly lovers converged on the ‘Wall,’ all anxious to see the Tropical Hairstreak butterfly that had been spotted near the entrance to the Mission, Texas development. 

It happened again when the Gold-Bordered Hairstreak was spotted, nectaring nearby. The Gold Bordered drew a near mob, and earlier I shared how I was considered “selfish” when I came in low and close, for my Macro- lens cannot do its job at a distance of 10 feet.

This Aricia agestis agestis butterfly on the peak of Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand suffered an audience of me and my guide, and Erin had sum zero interest in rare butterflies.

Poor Aricia agestis, earning just the excitement of a single butterfly lover, on that overheated, high peak at the roof of Israel.

Jeff

Rare Arizona Skipper

Arizona Powdered Skipper Butterfly at White Tank Mountains, AZ

I so admire those who share rare butterflies on Facebook. I went to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in December 2017, and Whoopee!! I had several fantastic days, seeing butterflies that there’s no way you could expect to see, in a year or in a decade. Examples? Erato heliconian, Red rim, Tropical greenstreak, Malachite and Gold-bordered hairstreak.

Sharing images and anecdotes? I enjoy doing that. Especially when the butterfly’s like this one, a rare and little seen Arizona arroyo (dry stream bed) butterfly, the Arizona Powdered Skipper.

Where’d we meet? In that arroyo I found in White Tank Regional Park, 35 minutes southwest of Sun City West. Won’t discuss the advisability of those hours scouring the long arroyo, partly because working that boulder strewn bone-dry arroyo nearly cost me, everything.

Pleased to share one that you might never ever see, I am.

Jeff

Back to the National Butterfly Center?

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

It is a jolt, seeing way different butterflies at the southernmost tip of Texas. The National Butterfly Center (NBC) in Mission, Texas is visited by many dozens of butterflies that are native to Mexico, and make very rare appearances in the NBC. Now more than 6 months after we visited there, I easily remember the excitement that was unleashed when we saw this Erato Heliconican butterfly.

Yes it’s a bit far away, but this is a “rare” visit to the NBC. This butterfly is rarely seen there. We were there, and sooo Happy to enjoy it’s shocking beauty.

Other rare and uncommon butterflies those 6 days? Red-rim Butterfly, Tropical Greenstreak, Malachite, Mexican Fritillary, Julia Heliconian and those I could not shoot.

Mike, Javier and lots of other folks frequently share Lower Rio Grande butterflies that are new to me or that are very rare, i.e., not seen in the U.S. for 5, 10 or more years.

The desire to return there in 2018 is real. The expenses are also real: Delta flight to San Antonio, Enterprise rental car, and rental apartment all add up to big buck$.

It does rival Florida, because you can find butterflies there in November and December . . .

Think it’s easy when you have the lust to go and find spectacular butterflies?

Jeff

Why Do More And More People Seek Butterflies?

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

The number of people who seek butterflies in the USA is growing. Some have made bold changes in their gardens, uprooting the tired traditional shrubs that can be traced back to Asia, and replacing them with butterfly hostplants and plants that produce the nectar beloved by butterflies. Others have begun to look for butterflies here and there, and have began participating in local annual counts. Many remain on the lookout for speakers at their local Audubon Centers or Native Plant Societies.

The joys and thrills of nurturing have caused thousands to collect caterpillars in their gardens, and raise them in protected enclosures . . . that to avoid heavy losses to predators and disease.

This group had sped to the “Wall” at the entrance to the Retama Village development community, when the call went out (on their cell network) . . . that a rare Tropical Greenstreak butterfly was seen in those tall shrubs, and was still! there, nectaring methodically. Many of these folks retired or relocated to this Lower Rio Grande part of Texas, just to be near friends who also pursue butterflies, and they move there to ogle the great variety of rare butterflies than fly up from Mexico.

Why are the numbers of butterfly enthusiasts swelling?

My thinking?

  • Butterflies appeal to our desire to protect and nurture. They are tiny, delicate and vulnerable. So many want to help them, benefit from the satisfaction of enabling their ongoing survival
  • Butterflies are compellingly beautiful. Unlike Tiffany’s, Cartier, the riches of Christie’s & Sotheby’s, butterflies are within reach, not subject to the barrier’s that money throws up
  • So many of us have known butterflies all our lives, in our neighborhood, nearby undeveloped land and in our literature.
  • We know that butterflies, many species of them are being seen in reduced numbers annually. Some, like the Monarch are thought to be at great risk. We worry that we may be the last generation to . . .
  • Birders have been searching for birds for many years now, many have almost ‘seen them all,’ and butterflies’ convert’ them, draw those birders, presenting new opportunities to open up a whole new world of fliers.
  • There is a sublime appeal in this butterfly pastime. Monied or near broke, butterfliers don’t need fancy hotels, tony restaurants are not needed either, dress is relatively inexpensive, as are binoculars and cameras.
  • Those who want to spend money wantonly, can find butterfly seeking tours to Costa Rica, Brazil . . . well to many corners of the world
  • For those who don’t go boating, golf, and have tired of sitting on this or that international beach, butterfly hunting is a whole new pursuit, and an active one at that.
  • There’s a sense of newness here, and a Big factor is, You never know what you might see, as these folks demonstrate in Mission, Texas. For sure you might see one not seen for 10 years, now that’s a rush.

I pause at this punchlist, noting that I could have gone on, again sharing my experiences at Pre-Sale Exhibitions at New York City auction galleries. That’s what launched me. Frieda A”H would try on multi-million dollars rings, broaches, necklaces, bracelets, just a foot or two away from me, that in the 1980’s. I have never seen Magnificent Jewelry  more beautiful than a Monarch or a Malachite or that fresh Common Mestra that flew just before I could cop my first exposure! A fresh Mourning Cloak sends me into a near swoon, Cathy, Kenne, Barbara Ann, Patti, Virginia, Marcie, Beth, Jim, Angela, Ian, Sylbie, Deepthi, Ginny, Laura, Peggy, Susan, Leslie, Laurence and . . .

Jeff