A Rare American Skipper

Leonard's Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Sometimes I review my images and I’m pleased that I have some that are just plain unusual, “rare.” Jeffrey Glassberg in A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America notes that this Leonard’s Skipper butterfly is “LR-U,” locally rare to uncommon. Good, for I remember when and how I scored this sweet image.

It was well into September at Raccoon Creek State Park in Southwestern Pennsylvania. I wanted to go there that morning, but had an internal debate, ‘Why go when it was so late in the season and everything that could be seen by me, was?’ I went.

She flew onto a mowed trail in Doak’s 100+ acres meadow. ??????? What was she? I’d never seen such a sweety before. And she was a stunner!!

She my first Leonard’s. A rare skipper that first appears in very late summer!

A rare American skipper butterfly, and  . . . Never say never! Thanks Fuji, for your Velvia slide film caught her lush color just fine.


Indian Pipe Wildflowers Revisited

Indian Pipe Wildflowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Photographing butterflies necessitates lots of time in the field. Searching, scouring, and even cajoling those reluctant winged beauties to leave their hiding places, and allow themselves to be photographed. Scores of hours are spent working the same trails. Trails that you know and enable you to anticipate where you will score good butterfly images.

You become familiar with those favorite trails. Your eyes know them. When something ‘different’ appears, those same trained eyes notice it. Spring in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania brings these ‘What is that!’ wildflowers. I spot them in a nanosecond. All else is browns, evergreen greens and nascent soft greens. Indian pipe is white, white, white. You’re almost tempted to have pity on these tiny little waifs, as in ‘Who or what has done this to you?’

They’re kind of friends of the Spring hiker, and their appearance each year, along wet trail margins, is comforting, reassuring. They force you to remember your old high school Biology: Plants use their chlorophyll to produce food. Find a plant like these, Indian pipes, and know that they must have some alternative method of manufacturing carbohydrates (food). How do they do that? They grow where they have found rotting plant material, and they intake those newly freed materials, converting them to usable food. ‘Nough said?

I smile when I see Indian pipe. They look so delicate, fragile. There they are, out there in the wild, not so delicate or fragile. Independent, earnest and successful. They also get an ‘A’ for causing the casual hiker to delve through sooo much stored in the head Biology.


Monarch Butterfly

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


July 7 at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Yes we have posted several images of female Danaus plexippus. That is good. No?

She’s nectaring on Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium) and both are beautiful and at their peak.

My home garden includes a 7-year old clump of Joe Pye Weed and it’s a siren that draws numerous species of butterflies to my front yard. When folks walking by ask the name of this 7′ tall perennial, I answer that it’s name is ‘Joe Pye.’ When I used to include the word ‘Weed’ it would invariably be met with immediate disinterest. Human nature there, don’t you think?

Getting back to why we post another female Monarch: as with beautiful models, it’s always nice to see another exquisite Monarch.

Native butterfly, native plant. Again, good, no?


Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterfly photographed at Phipps Conservatory Outdoor Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA

August 10th at the Nichol farmhouse (circa 1876?) at Raccoon Creek Sate Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Park volunteers long ago planted a bed of mint at the farmhouse.

Long awaited, the aroma of the mint flowers certainly drew in our exquisite Monarch butterfly. She calmly moved from flower to flower, enabling me to photograph her at will.

Long ago I learned that folks much preferred images of butterflies with intact wings. So, so many times we spot an exciting find, a species that is rarely encountered . . . and then after slowly stalking up, oh no! Bits and pieces of wing, gone. Ripped by pursuing birds and insects . . . and who knows what?

Monarchs are like the gold of the butterflies. They afford the earnest photographer of butterflies the assurance of beauty of shape, color and whimsy. Danaus plexxipus. The treat on the wing.

So, we once again broadcast out the query of our last post.

Did she fly south from Beaver County, PA to West Virginia or Maryland or Ohio? Then, did she or her progeny cross the Gulf at Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana?