July/August in Georgia

Jeff Zablow and his dog, Petra photographed by Jenny Jean Photography

We pulled up in front of the house just 17 hours ago, at 2:50 A.M.. No records were set during the drive, but we heeded the requests of Georgia friends, and drove carefully through South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. There were stops along the way, and several vain efforts to catch sleep, any sleep. (nope!)

Georgia again gave its all, 19 days long, and Petra and I loved it. She had the thrill of running free, especially enjoying the shore of Lake Oconne and the excitement of the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton.

Butterflies were very abundant, a far cry from the much reduced numbers that we have been seeing in western Pennsylvania and western New York. One morning last week, I counted 27 different species of butterflies in the Habitat, all in one morning. That came close to my own morning record, that again in the Habitat in 2015, rejoicing with 29 different winged beauties before noon!

A 4-day stay in Shellman Bluff with very good friends was Butterfly Fun! I added lots of new species to my List. I can’t wait until I can share them with you: Eastern Pygmy Blue, Salt Marsh Skipper, Great Southern White, Orange Skipperling and Cassius Blue.

We have much fun and eye candy to look forward to, as my film is processed, scanned and ready to go!

Jeff

What’s A Bear’s Breech?

Syrian Bear's Breeches wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Ramat Hanadiv, Israel

Many of you have noted, Jeff, you shoot film, isn’t that a bit . . . expensive? Yes, it is, but the purist in me balks at not sharing with you, the same view that I see in the field. Film continues to provide better real-time color. That’s the way it looks.

But that concern, that Fuji slide film, and its processing/scanning is expen$ive, disappears when I encounter butterflies and wildflowers that tickle my imagination.

When I re-visited Syrian Bear’s Breeches here at Ramat Hanadiv’s reserve trails, in March 2016, I stopped. I marveled. I was reminded of the infinite complexity of this plant and the milieu that is its habitat. Acanthus syriacus is said to have inspired certain ancient architecture. Found in northern Israel, it produces its blooms for a short time in the HolyLand spring season.

I was there. I admired this unique native plant. I stood there, and tried to liken it to any other that I’ve known. There came that imagination tickle, and I shot away, butterfly or no butterfly, this plant was film worthy, for sure.

Then came the more difficult concern, would a share of this image tickle others?

Jeff

Red Admiral and The Conundrum?

Red Admiral butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at http://www.wingedbeauty.com

2016 will soon close the month of June. After trips to Israel, Georgia, Maryland and western New York state we settled in to consider what we have seen, and Why? Needing more field time to further our observations, I went to my favorite trail, Nichol Road in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Three mornings spent on Nichol road trail and the adjoining Doak field (meadow of 100 acres +/-) and the conundrum grew.

Six rolls of film (Fuji Velvia slide, ASA 50 and 100) were shot. The average number of rolls of film shot during 3 mornings in the field, between 1998 and 2013, on sunny mornings without wind, would have been 14 to 18. Yes, I am more discerning now, with a solid library of images going back to the mid 1990’s. No, the exposed film product was not because the butterflies I saw were worn, or bird-struck. Most of what I saw was fresh and 100% intact. The single Wood Nymph I met today was especially fresh and beautiful (though not one exposure of that nervous Lep).

When was I out? The mornings of June 22, 24 and 26. Many butterflies I expected to see did not greet me (American coppers, numerous Wood nymphs, Pearl crescents, Duskywings, Skippers (only saw 3 species across 3 mornings), Sulphurs, Ladies, Hairstreaks, Azures, Eastern tailed blues. The only butterfly I saw much of is one that I rarely see, ever, the Northern pearly-eye. I beg your pardon! That tickled my thinking, that 2016 has begun as a footnote year here in this part of the northeast.

The botany? Here were numerous clues. Butterfly weed? Absent. Common milkweed? Scarce and what was there, diminutive. Teasel? Few. Joe Pye weed? Difficult to find. Bergamot, the bergamot that bedazzled me in 2014? Absent. What I did find was a goodly number of a beautiful wildflower, white Beardtongue (Penstemon). Nichol road trail also had an alarming number of Garlic mustard along much of its length.

2016 then is, is certainly a conundrum. The meadows, forests, trail edges and disturbed ground are covered with lush green botany, but populations of butterflies, bees, darners and others are way down. What triggered this stream of consciousness? There was a certain Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), as beautiful as this one, that stayed with me on Nichol road trail this morning, posing patiently, moving as I moved, returning again later, and again, and I wondered was it a female, and I slipped into a wee bit of melancholia, sometimes triggered by butterflies since that day in 2008 . . . .

Closing thought? 2016 on its way to being: a Conundrum.

Jeff

 

Gemmed in the Dark

Gemmed Satyr Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Hard Labor Creek State Park, Georgia

It was wonderful, pinch-me-if-I’m-dreaming fieldwork, guided by Phil in Hard Labor Creek State Park’s many diverse habitats. We were looking for butterflies and botany in Central Georgia. Phil is an excellent point man for seeking and finding wildlife and difficult to locate wildflowers. He knows this particular state park well. His knowledge led us to all the park species we were seeking.

This Gemmed satyr butterfly flew its low, rambling flight near us. Phil saw it and we went after it. The challenge was to photograph in a heavily wooded area, with just dabs of sunlight peeking through, here and there.

To take a shot or not? Knowing that my Fuji slide film was ASA 50, and originally loaded when we had been in a sunnier space. Would taking a chance be worth it?

So here is the result of our attempt, a truly fine, long sought after Gemmed satyr. It is captured as it really looks, in its chosen habitat, the poorly lit lowlands and swamps.

Jeff

Middle Eastern Wildflower ID’d

Lizard Orchid (Protected), photographed by Jeff Zablow in Rosh Hanikra, Israel

Butterflies, it was butterflies that I was after. Good enough that I was finding them here in Rosh Hanikra National Park, at the very northeastern tip of Israel, right at the border with Lebanon.

I was also discovering many wildflowers that I had never seen in Israel. Stop and expend valuable slide film each time? And time, that too was limited (always limited in the field).

When I noted this extraordinary tower of bloom, I stopped. I’d expect to see such an other-worldy plant, like maybe on Mars. How could I not photograph it? It’s an orchid, No?

I have searched my field guides of Israeli Wildflowers, and awaited word from Israel. Well, enough waiting. Without word from expert botanists abroad, I determine that this is NOT an orchid, but a bloomhead of . . . Syrian Bear’s Breech (Acanthus syriacus). Different. Reallllly different.

I’m telling you, come visit Israel, see the HolyLand, and leave some time to split off and work the OMG! habitats that have awaited your visit for 1,000’s of years. You’ve worked too hard, and this trip is deserved. No doubt about that.

Jeff