Palamedes Swallowtail in the Panhandle

Palmed Swallowtail Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida

It was a joy! A total joy to arrive at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area’s Spring Creek Unit, and be surrounded by a ballet troupe. The dancers? They were Palamedes swallowtail butterflies, all earnest to find nectar. These thistles were the clear choice for sipping nectar.

There were worn ones, bird-struck ones, and butterflies that were missing a “tail.” Most were wary of me, and took off when I came within 15 feet. I was captivated by these butterflies. They are big, graceful fliers, able to gently move their wings, and be 30 feet away in an instant.

A photograph of one. I really, really wanted a fine photograph of one. “Pop, pop, pop, pop,” went the camera, using my Fuji Velvia fine grain slide film with an ASA of 50.

Males and females are similar, leaving us guessing the gender of this particular butterfly. It is indeed a Southern butterfly. It’s a very classy, very large southern butterfly and good company to be with.


Southern Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Searching for Passionflowers

Gulf Fritillary shot at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR), North Carolina

They are just spectacular. This one is resting before it continues its search for nectaring passionflowers.

They are very abundant in our Southeast. This morning at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge I saw many Gulf Fritillaries.

I once spotted one in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh! That was more than 10 years ago. It was hundreds of miles north of its usual range. Hmmm! The previous months had been warmer and drier than usual and the Outdoor Gardens featured Passionflower. So does that explain the appearance of a Southern butterfly in the North?

That’s what I love about what I do. You never, never know what you’ll see next.

When you study this photo of one of the most beautiful butterflies in the U.S., what do you think about?