Who Stops at the Old Grade Trail?

Old grade trail head photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, FL

the Old Grande trail wasn’t cited in the North American Butterfly Association’s magazine article, Destination. It’s a realtively new feature that in 2015 introduced me to the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, in the Florida Panhandle. The 5 units in the WMA were discussed, with trails maps and specific recommendations. Reading the article at home, I decided to work the Spring Creek Unit. It offered what I was hoping to see, during August.

When I reached Big Bend, I drove into the Spring Creek Unit, stopping at the entrance. A cadre of Palamedes swallowtails greeted me, they just stopping long enough to look up from the thistles, in between nectar pulls. That was enough for me to shout . . . Yes!!! Thank you G-d.

Next, the drive into the Unit, to the trails I had dreamed of back at the table in Pittsburgh. On the way, there was this humble trail sign: Old Grade. Now, who would waste time going down a trail given the moniker, ‘Old Grade?’ What butterflies, blooms and beasts could possibly be seen on this tired, old trail?

That’s what did it. See, my whole 19-year pursuit of butterflies has been done without guides, without experts leading me (’til Georgia in 2015, truth be told). I sort of (certified psychologists please resist the temptation to comment here) got used to it, and cannot complain, because I’ve seen so much, on the wing, on blooms, basking, hiding, mating, instars, and more.

Old Grade is not old at all, it was wondrous!!! I found Georgia satyrs, Palamedes, Monarchs, Black swallowtails, Queens, Long-tail skippers, Variegated fritillaries, Skippers of many species and much more. NABA’s piece noted that the best time is when the Liatris are in bloom. These gayfeathers were just beginning to open their flowers. 10 days later, would have been even better, but that was not the plan.

Do not, Don’t judge a trail by the name They gave to it!


Ceraunus Blue Butterfly

Ceraunus Blue Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

New is exciting, and that’s how I felt when I spotted these tiny Ceraunus blue butterflies. We were in the Spring Creek Unit of Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. This particular Florida Panhandle refuge was proving to be a gold mine, full of butterflies and wildflowers that were new to me.

While driving deeper into Spring Creek, I pulled over at a promising spot, discovering sandy low dunes abutting a farm field. Working the semi-trail that skirted the farmland, several species of low-flying butterflies were kicked up by my boots, and among them, some Ceraunus blue butterflies. Jackpot! New to me, ‘though I can’t say that they much shared views of their luscious dorsal blue.

I took an immediate liking to these Hemiargus ceraunus. Don’t ask why I share only this particular image, head obscured by foliage. Tiny, yes, and elusive nevertheless. Share I will though, 850 miles from home, hanging out with some very cool little blue butterflies.