City-Raised Boy Meets Apprehensive 1,200 Pound Mama (Galilee/HolyLand)

Chocolate Brown Cow, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Nahal Dishon National Park, Upper Galilee, Israel

I recently posted of the many challenges I meet when I photograph. Folks whom I meet ask first if I limit my work to museum butterfly exhibits (caged butterflies). No I answer I shoot in swamps, meadows and mountains. As I did in the recent post, I tell them of the risks I sometimes encounter, risks met to capture and score butterfly images, rare and common.

Here’s one this Brooklyn-raised boy met that I had no idea as to what to do? I was in the Nahal Dishon Reserve Park in the Uppermost Galilee region of the HolyLand/Israel. Alone, this park was proving to be a goldmine of common and rare Middle Eastern butterflies.

Unexpectedly, on this trail, I met her. She stood there, and having known women all my life, the look of her was not friendly, not at all. I quickly saw that her calf was resting there in the shade, it being another 94F day of full sun in the very dry northern Israel Galilee. I slowed my approach, and she kept looking at me, all what 1,200 pound or 1,400 pounds of her.

I’d been out on the streets my whole childhood and youth, but there were no cows in that Brooklyn. She looked fit and hale, and I kept remembering to NEVER get between a bear and her cubs. The trail passed about 10 feet away from the calf. I’d never been in this situation. I traveled 7,000 miles to get here, and I wanted to continue scoring big on the rest of the trail ahead of me.

What should I have done?


Beauty Almost Unrevealed (The Compton Phantom)

Compton Tortoiseshell Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in  Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Two decades of searching for Compton Tortoiseshell butterflies (Nymphalis vaualbum) came and went, and a butterfly I ached to meet eluded me, having seen it only 3 times. Compton Tortoiseshells are butterflies of the Northern North America . Those 27 years that I lived and worked in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania put me squarely in its range.

The problem was that they are ‘R-LU’ (Glassberg, A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America), meaning rare to locally uncommon. They are never seen in any abundance, and  . . . they deny any approach.

I adore (AKA Love) their good size and dramatic, handsome wing coloration. Hundreds of visits to Raccoon Creek State Park in those years, often arriving at 8:00 AM or so, and that paltry score of three meet-ups.

Please understand then that this image delights me, though I know it must give you pause, it quite a distance from my Macro-lens. Know too that a moment later, it was . . . gone.


A Rare HolyLand Butterfly & Crazed Killers

Pararge Aegeria Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Northern Golan, Israel

I am very pleased that I captured this image of a rare, protected brush foot butterfly, in the very northern Golan region of Israel, the HolyLand. When you meet one such as this, vivid and fresh in color, you stop to appreciate how fortunate you have been! He required a very cautious, robotic approach, and that he held his ground and accepted a few camera clicks, Fantastic!

Parage aegeria are only found in the very northernmost reaches of the Galilee region and in the mountainous north of the Golan region. This is where Jesus and his Disciples walked and where the greatest of the Jewish Prophets lived. Amazing, lush green regions, watered by the Mt. Hermon range, so they are not desert-like, but instead vivid green and full of life.

‘Crazed Killers’ nearby. Yes. Now. It is reliably reported that thousands of Hezbollah, Iranian and Syrian fighters have moved close to there, to near the northern borders with Syria and Lebanon. Why? These barbarians hope to use that as a launching base to attack and destroy Israel, i.e., Jews, children and women.

Those who think of ‘2019’ as a year when the world has moved to new heights of civility? Guess again, cousins.

Rare, shy, sweet butterflies in the nothing-like-it HolyLand.


Scoring The Tinies

Coupled Copper Butterflies II photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

Two hours had gone by. I’d worked and reworked that meadow at the edge of the little moshav (village) on the slope of mighty Mt. Hermon. Mostly I was seeing blue butterflies and copper butterflies. Most were common and found throughout the northern half of Israel. A few were rare, protected butterflies, they much appreciated and good for pumping the waning adrenaline.

The coppers were a fresh flight. That brought me to thinking that it would be neat if that 2017 morning I might find a mater pair of coppers. Its way uncanny, that there have been times, especially in the HolyLand, when I asked G-d to roll out this or that butterfly for me . . . and I guess, my plea is heard, for sure enough, out it comes. Honest.

Think as you will, just minutes later, this exquisite pair of Copper butterflies, right there, coupled tighter on this tiny, Golan bloom. They seemed indifferent to my Macro- approach. Two lovers, each smaller than my pinkie finger nail, locked together, purposefully. He on the left, she to your right. They were still there a bit later, not having moved much.

I shot dozens of exposures. I wanted alot. What think you? What does this image stoke in your mind?


A Rare, Well, Very Rare Copper

Bog Copper Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New YorkDorsal View of Bog Copper Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

My love for American Copper butterflies has extended over many years. At Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, they greet me along the mowed paths in that 100-acre meadow. Perky little butterflies, they so remind me of Shih Tzu pups, pookie perky!

I’ve seen and captured images of Bronze Coppers, although they are very limited and in decline. In Israel, I’ve found several species of coppers, too.

With my Copper butterfly dance card filling up, there was a blank still left, the Bog Copper. Cech & Tudor, in Butterflies of the East Coast, cite them as “rare, bog-dependent species.” To see them, you must travel, travel to one of the very few remaining acid bogs, tamarack (tree) bogs, left over from that time when glaciers began to recede from the northeastern United States.

I travelled up to a protected bog in western New York. I had to be guided there, for Bog Coppers are now seriously protected, and need that concern. You could not find Allenberg Bog yourself. The trail from road is 99.999% impossible to see from the road access.  Allenberg Bog is also known to some as Waterman’s Swamp, Congdon’s Pond, and Owlenburg Bog and is on the border of the towns of Napoli and New Albion, New York in Cattaraugus County. A unique and fascinating refuge of 390 acres, it is the jewel of the Buffalo Audubon Preserve System.

When I got there??? A real, totally real acid bog, complete with pitcher plants, sundew plants, an open pond-like center, tamaracks, swamp milkweed, and the hostplant for Bog Coppers, wild cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon). A sunny day, mild for July, and no wind. Perfect!

And then, there was a Bog Copper (Lycaena epixanthe). Tiny, low flying, and mostly males about. I saw many those 2 mornings. They perch occasionally, and tolerate my close macro- approach. Jeff and the diminutive little butterflies that remind me of, well that sweet little Tinkerbell in the Peter Pan movie.

Now folks, this came to be one of the most challenging photography of butterflies efforts I can recall. For starters they average o.9″ inches from wing tip to wing tip. They are solitary. Not enough challenge for you yet? Get this! It’s a real, bonafide thousands of year old acid bog. So you think? When you can approach a good looking Bog copper, and set yourself for the shot(s), focus, focus, then . . . . OMG! you realize, Holy Moley! I am sinking!!! You become distracted, concerned that you will be found again 400 years from now, mummified at the bottom of this highly acidic bog, still clutching your Canon Elan 7e.

What about the shot(s) you were about to capture? What shots? You were sinking, you kept losing focus, you were wondering if the bottom of the bog held other unfortunate butterfly photographers, native Americans or Good Humor ice cream truck drivers? So getting decent looks at Bog Coppers is akin to finding the . . . .

Jeff found his rare, rare Bog coppers. Male image on the top. Female image on the bottom. Bingo!!