On Being A Butterfly

Spider Web photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania

When you spend thousands of hours seeking butterflies, you’re also thinking of what they see, feel and of how they experience their world? Each of us navigates our lives uniquely. Me? I had to handle the streets mostly alone, had to handle threat alone, and had to do so effectively. I used to watch/study kids who had it differently, no solitude, no risk (I could discern) and no near total absence of m$oney.

So I personalize (a bit) the much short lives of butterflies. We know they have perils in their homes, though 99.98% of folks never think butterflies face danger.

This extraordinary spider’s web, seen on an early Pennsylvania morning, it bejeweled with morning dew drops, curtails such thought, that butterflies flitter around, free of fear, free of risk. I’ve seen them hanging from such webs, and often wonder if my disabled hearing (right ear) prevents me from hearing a plea, a faint called for ‘h..e..l..p.’

Raystown Lake, central Pennsylvania, U.S.A..


‘Busters’ Now A Memory

Male Black Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Been doing this now for decades, that is, seeking and photographing butterflies. Some things get easier, including enduring the disappearance of butterflies in the Fall, here in Georgia, and disciplining yourself, with the understanding that they will reappear in the Georgia Spring. Spring here in the southeastern USA comes as early as February. That means that your parsley and rue, domestic and cultivar will begin to prosper, and that also means that these butterflies, Eastern Black Swallowtails will soon appear.

When Black Swallowtails show up, it’s an adrenaline rush. That such a beautiful, elegant and graceful swallowtail butterfly visits your garden, so pleases, you happy that he or she has chosen your robust herbs as the most worthy site for her to deposit her critically valuable eggs, for her to entrust her genetic jewels to your healthy, green favorites. Corollary to that is the warming knowledge that such males head straight to your place, sensing that your natives will draw females, the very same females that males must find, to progress their rich jewels onto the next flight of Black Swallowtails.

This male was seen in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. Atlanta to the west, Augusta to the east. A springtime stunner, for sure.


Does She Hear?

Painted Lady Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

In the field, during those early years of seeking butterflies, I always became silent when I sought to make my approach. Silence ruled until I finished shooting, and only then would I talk. Some 10 years or so later, I abandoned that, and now I will speak to you, in normal voice, while I am at my usual 18″ away from a butterfly. One in 20 butterflies appear to flee when I begin talking to you. Nineteen of 20 do not react to my speaking.

This fresh, gorgeous American Lady butterfly riveted my attention, and on my approach, on that gravely road in Raccoon Creek State Park (southwestern Pennsylvania). I placed my feet down as gently as I could as I got closer to her (presuming this is a female), knowing that she could easily sense the vibrations I produced on the trail. She fled several times, alway flying in a lazy loop, to return within about 3-4 minutes. I was patient, and got this.

Some months ago, I recall reading something about butterflies, it sharing that they can hear. Can they?

We are a large enough group to expect that you can weigh in here, and share on whether or not butterflies can hear?


Americans Conserving

Nancy and John, photographed by Jeff Zablow at St. Simons Island, GA

When those who live in the cities think of the USA, most/many fret that there is near a total net loss of wild, pristine land. Our national parks persevere, but I think city people believe there is not much beyond a mile from Yellowstone’s edge.

I think I used to be that. I remember the morning in the mid ’70’s when I asked my high school Biology class to look out of the window of our 4th floor classroom. That was the first morning that you could see the Manhattan skyline (NYNY)! New York City had worked hard to clean its air, Consolidated Edison had installed scrubbers and more, and you could finally see the Empire State Building, and sadly the World Trade Towers . . . . Though I was an experienced teacher (of Biology no less), parent and homeowner, I too thought pristine territory was gone, wasted, developed.

Happily!! I was wrong. I was locked into that Huge core city, and my horizons were limited, very. Despite the 350.000.000 or so of us who live in the 50 states here, America is vast, larger than we can comprehend, and that is good.

Now, I photograph butterflies, and travel, and meet folks like Nancy and John, shown here in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Nancy and John hosted me for an unforgettable week. We sought, and found, and photographed butterflies along coastal Georgia, rare ones at that, like Salt-marsh skippers, and Eastern pygmy blues and those Tinkerbells of tininess, Little Metalmark butterflies. And we talked, and we hiked, and we obsevered. They are world class birders, now also seeking butterflies. What an experience, being on trails with such sharing, knowledgeable and experienced naturalists.

These years I am seeing more, more sylvan, pristine almost primeval habitat. It is there, and it is protected, really protected by Americans like Nancy and John. That reality is so heartwarming for Me. Forget the political dustups swirling around us (well, TBtold I am a bit distracted, but . . . ), America has vast habitat under protection, conserved, and it has smaller, yet equally well guarded destinations, and Americans all around the country have eagle-eyes focused on these large and small wildernesses, and they Will be conserved. It’s the Nancys, John, Barbara Anns, Daves, Kathryns, Jennifers, Peggys, Virginias, Mikes, Angelas, Cathys, Roses, Jerrys, Tracis, Sylbies, Ericas, Sherries and Lisas that I know, and the other 1.5 million I have yet to meet, who are monitoring, clearing trails and overall conserving this gift of North America.

We made it from ’75 to today, and the news is only . . . . good. T0 2017!


Pookie Cute Tiny Grass Skipper Butterfly

Zabulon Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

Poanes zabulon is no stranger to those of us who seek out butterflies. They are flying for much of the late Spring and through the summer. Zabulon skippers are one of many species of Skipper butterflies known as Grass skippers. They are quite small and many of them are difficult to identify.

Our female Zabulon here is easier to recognize. She is ‘fresh’ with distinct colors, mahogany-brown, yellow and that almost flashy purply-white outer wing markings. When I began learning about and seeking butterflies, I had an instantaneous connection with Zabulon skippers.

Legions of preteens and teens will surely recognize this one as a certifiable “pookie.”