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 . . .

Jeff

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto Canada

Toronto, Canada. I was visiting Toronto which is clean, welcoming and beautiful. Along with my wide angle lens, I often bring along my Macro- lens on trips which include photography. I try to keep my Canon camera as busy as possible, and I ask around if there are any nearby parks in the city, parks that might host a population of butterflies. Yes, I was told, why don’t you drive to West Don Park? It is an easy 10 minute drive from my hosts. I was blessed with light traffic and courteous drivers. My Pennsylvania license plates provided me with quite a bit of latitude once it was noted that I was a visitor.

West Don Park? Bingo! A gold mine of butterflies that particular week in mid-July.

In Western Pennsylvania I encounter Nymphalis Antiopa infrequently in the spring and even less often in the fall months. Often, the individual butterflies I see are worn and show evidence of failed attacks from predators. This morning in West Don was sunny, no wind and milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca) was in bloom. Three Mourning Cloak butterflies were eating nectar on a single milkweed plant. OMG! Back home I rarely see them nectaring, and those that I do approach, flee once I am within ten feet. Nymphalis Antiopa in Toronto allowed me to approach and photograph from just 18 inches away, and they were sizable butterflies. My heart must have been pounding! I was in a heaven of Mourning Cloak butterflies.

These butterflies had fresh colors and an absence of  significant wing damage. Their colors were a rich, rich maroon; carribean islands blue, and sunflower yellow. This image captures many of those striking hues.

Is this a candidate for being my favorite butterfly? I answer with a sheepish y-e-s. Our two earlier Mourning cloak posts do hint at my little secret.

Canada is the wildlife wonder that I long understood you to be. Mourning Cloaks photographed while eating nectar. Can you imagine?

August will soon be upon us. Can our Canadian followers suggest a suitable park, with a rich butterfly population, that is within driving distance of Pittsburgh, Pa?  Toronto was a 6.5 hours drive.

Jeff

Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly

Red-spotted purple Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Eastern Neck National Wildlife refuge, MD

What say you? Is she not breath-taking? It’s mid-morning in August, at the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Two hours from Washington, DC and eye-pleasing no matter in which direction we turn.

The butterfly’s orange-red markings near the forewing apex signal that she’s a looker. The camera lens registers her beauty and provides her the same extra something that it does for top models.

Limenitis arthemis astyanax in Pennsylvania spend most of their time on the ground, nectaring sparingly. Those here on the Delmarva Peninsula behave differently each morning, flying early in the morning and spending a great deal of time working the perrenial flower beds of the Butterfly Garden.  Interesting.

Again, the absence of significant wing damage in these National Wildlife Refuge butterflies was difficult to dismiss. Why were they so free of evidence of having barely escaped predators?

The mornng was a pleasant temperature. There was no wind. The sky was blue. The raptors occassionally flew overhead, Dave was working the Butterfly Garden and the butterflies were for want of a better word? Beauties.

Jeff