A Very Exciting Meeting with Rare Butterflies

Regal Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

The 19 states that rim the U.S. eastern coastline have a total population of perhaps 150,000,000 people. The sole population of Regal Fritillary butterflies in those 19 US states this year probably included 1,200 butterflies, all living in one isolated location at Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, just a short drive from Pennsylvania’s capitol of Harrisburg. Yes, it’s whispered that there may be 1 or 2 remnant populations in Virginia, but that is a well kept secret, if it is true at all.

Busting with expectation, I arrived there on June 10, 2015, ripping to get going, with my 129 fellow visitors. Roughly 20 naturalists awaiting us, and guided us to the prairie grassland in the military reserve. Orientation came first. Jeff: impatient. Then the mass of us drove in caravan to the prairie grassland. Jeff: Can’t wait. We left our vehicles and all headed to the wide-open meadow-like grassland. Jeff: Come on, come on. Soon the group began to separate into smaller groups. Jeff: How in the world will I be able to score images of . . .  with all of these folks around? Finally, it was just me and her, a naturalist. Jeff: Thank Y-o.

Regals were there in good numbers. Most were males, and some were young and fresh. They were sipping nectar hard: on Butterfly weed, an Asclepias milkweed. They were not please with my approach, though some remained in place, anxious to sip their sugary cocktail. The photographer? Transfixed might be a good choice of characterization for my hours there. My 12 years of wanting to do this, absent support from butterfly aficionados, was beginning to pay off.

This male, on lush Butterflyweed, shares his ventral wing surfaces, sooo much shiny white, awash in a bath of oranges and black blacks.

A very rare butterfly, that once flew on my childhood street in Brooklyn, New York, finally rendezvousing with Kid Zablow, in a verdant meadow in central Pennsylvania! So cool!

Jeff . . . Happy Holidays!