Expendable Butterflies?

Meadow Fritillary Butterfly at Rector, PA
The Holidays, the beautiful, meaningful Holidays are upon us. New Years Eve, days away. Petra and I take our long walks through Frick Park, and old and new friends ask which of my family is coming in to Pittsburgh? A new year is approaching.

Have a second look at this Meadow Fritillary (Boloria Bellona) butterfly. Many are concerned that their numbers are steadily plummeting. Farms going fallow, fields abandoned, and going through the succession that leads to forest. Monarch butterflies an even bigger concern, Coral Hairstreak butterflies becoming tougher to find, Regal Fritillaries still present in one locale in my own state, but no one wants to enable me to photograph them (?).

Ya know, back in P.S. 244 in Brooklyn, I remember my teacher telling our class that Castor Canadensis (the Beaver) and wolves (timber) would all be gone one day. I don’t think she ever heard of the river otter, or she would have mentioned them in that same sentence.

The thing is, with ’14 ending, what are we going to do about all this? I want us, those who come here, to pay attention, and register their concern, line up with the heroes, the ones who restore a Briar Patch in a corner of Georgia. Don’t need a horse or a banner or pointed lance. 2015 needs our vigilance, and voice.

James Fisher, traveling with Roger Tory Peterson in 1953, couldn’t get over how beautiful America was, and how much of it was still wild. Enough of it is still left, to warrant our love and affection.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you!


A Ranking Lizard

Lizard photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

Lizard photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel


Those mornings working the fields surrounding Mishmarot were good, better, best! Butterflies of Israel’s coastal plain came out in full regalia to greet me, and many offered their best poses, some giving me extra time to snap dozens of images. I’m nearing the end of my read of Birdwatcher, a biography of the great American bird enthusiast, Roger Tory Peterson. Peterson, too, took dozens of exposures when he saw a bird in the right plumage, in the best spot, and with good light, wind, humidity, etc.. Carefully take mucho images, and perhaps one will be a very special keeper.

All those mornings, I was constantly under surveillance. Israel’s IDF (NO), the Israeli Mossad (NO), Israel police (NO). Who then? Lizards, lizards watched me, most scurrying away when the found that I ‘made’ them, even though they blended so well with the terrain. All of this was a bit distracting, because my eyes should have been seeking butterflies, 100% of the time. That being reminded that I was watching for snakes 6.8% of the time. So I was a seeing lizards, lots of them.

This morning I saw this one, so much bigger than any of the dozens of other that I had seen. Ah, this was a ranking lizard, from lizard HQ, directed to report to my location, and see me for itself. I had fun with this little thought . . . then I went back to my work, getting those 3 out of 100 slide images that will find a home in my Neumade slide cabinets.

He, or in Israel this ranking lizard might well be a female operative, spent some time observing me, then, satisfied that I posed no security risk, it began its hike back to lizard headquarters. Such is how my mind skips along in the field.

Species of lizard, dare I hope that we will get that from the collegial lizard naturalists of beautiful Israel?



Beetle ID’d

Beetle photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt.Meron

We posted this memorable beetle some weeks ago, under the title “And who . . . ?” Spotted this dazzler on a trail near the top of Mt. Hermon in Israel’s Upper Galilee region.

Waited, hoping for help in identifying our starkly beautiful insect. Got tired of waiting, and utilized Oz Rittner’s website to ID this animal.

Trichodes affinis is this species of beetle. I am ½ way through reading a biography of Roger Tory Peterson (Wonderful reading!), and that so reminds me that when I spotted this red and black beetle, it was a tickler, reminding me of the great diversity that continues to grace our world, and of the pleasures awaiting us each and every time that we can get out there and experience them.

Nice beetle, No?

Could not find an english name to this one?


Great Spangled Fritillary

Great spangled fritillary butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

June 23 at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Hmm. Sitting here in mid-November, would I so like to hop into my Tundra tomorrow morning and drive to see this female Speyeria cybele as she purposefully moves from one Common milkweed or Asclepias syriaca flower to the next. There are many bloggers and Facebook contributors urging us to plant Asclepias in our gardens and lots. This is an excellent initiative. Milkweeds support so, so many butterfly populations. After much time in the field, you are always watchful when you approach a stand of Common milkweed. Why? Because they are a beacon that draws all types of butterflies . . . you never know when a tortoiseshell or a hairstreak or who knows what will fly into those sweetly aromatic blossoms.

Great spangleds are such inspirational  butterflies. You encounter them on trails at the forest edge, in the morning fleeing from the trail edge when you approach. That adrenaline rush, yours!, is a good wake me up! when you reach your photo opp destination. Weeks later you see some of them again, worn, tattered with significant wing damage, but . . . still flying, with their mission apparently still unsettled . . .

Now on the subject of seeking objectives yet unaccomplished, today I completed my second read of Robert Michael Pyle’s Mariposa Road. I enjoyed it as much as I did the first read. No kidding. Pyle’s Big year effort reignited my thinking and I may well shoot for the stars in 2014. Travel. Travel to photograph butterflies that are eye tantalizing and found in very reduced habitat. Of course I don’t merit the large following that Pyle does, but I do have a Big wind to my back . . . the almost overwhelming joy I experience when I find and photograph new butterflies. Then, when I score good to excellent images . . . Kappow!

Tomorrow I open a 1955 book noted several times by Pyle, Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher’s Wild America (Houghton Mifflin, 1955). OMG! What must it have been like, going to undeveloped, unscrewed-up wilderness in the U.S. in the 1950’s. I occasionally find myself trying to imagine Pennsylvania in the early, mid- and late 1800’s. Cougar in the county in which I live. No way!

A little more than 7 months until Great spangled frits fly again in my county, Allegheny. Regals? Diana’s? Yum yum yum yum! as they say . . .