The Ballerinas of Kathleen

Zebra heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Kathleen GA

Just one week ago, Virginia and Bartow invited me to follow them from Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge (central Georgia) to Mike Barwick’s home in Kathleen, also Georgia. Deflated ’cause of the sudden fail of my long trustworthy Canon 100mm/2.8 macro- lens, I thanked them but instead headed back to Eatonton.

I did so much mixed feelings, for last year I made the drive south on I75 to Kathleen, and was . . . well transformed back to a time ago when we had orchestra seats at the American Ballet in Lincoln Center. Mike’s home led to a trail that took us to a magical spot. Mike assured me that Zebra heliconian butterflies were flying, right there, amongst all of those passionflower vines. We waited, and they appeared. Oh My Goodness. They fly with the grace and beauty of accomplished ballerinas, or should I reverse it and paint the picture of prima ballerinas crowding around a Zebra heliconian, studying its every move? Only the flight of a Monarch, in my experience, rivals this sensuous and effortless flight.

When I returned to Eatonton later that day, my hunch was correct, Mike’s small population of Zebras was just about where Cech & Tudor (Butterflies of the East Coast) showed “isolated colonies.”

When I chanced it, and went repeatedly into the thick growth to capture closer images of the Zebras, I suddenly felt, “OUCH!!” I rushed out of that spot, and enjoyed my first PaInFuL experience with fire ants. Tiny Mike Pescis, they.

Last week Virginia and Bartow did get to Kathleen, met Mike, but discovered that it was a  bit too early for the Zebras to be flying.

Heliconius charitonius. They who evoked such Sweet memories, with Frieda A”H . . . .

Jeff

Jeff In The Presence of Royalty

Empress Leila Butterfly at White Tanks Mountains, AZ

Sitting here, happily enjoying the warm air rushing through our HVAC duct vents, the 6F outside vanishes, as I reminisce, sweet memories of my discreet approach to this royal butterfly, Empress Leila. Was this regal Lep a male or female, well, I’m not sure.

We were both in the bed of that Arizona Arroyo, 40 minutes from Sun City West, where I was visiting family. Many know the saying, “Stay too long and you begin to smell like fish.” Seeking to avoid that, I’d leave the house at 6:30 A.M. and search that arroyo for butterflies until about 10 A.M. those March mornings. After 10 A.M. I found it difficult to go any further. Alone, naturally, I blogged some time ago that one of those mornings I almost bought it. Briefly shedding my good sense, I continued seeking winged beauties after 10:30 A.M. and then SUDDENLY, instantaneously I began to lose my senses. Didn’t use the cell that family forces me to carry, and didn’t call for help. D . . b.

So here this Empress Leila was motionless on this rock, and everything was perfect, the sun at my back. Patented approach. He (probably) flew to another rock. I froze, waited. Back to this rock again. I continued to close in. He moved slightly, but held the rock. We came closer and closer. Necessary for macro- work. I’m thinking “Don’t go. Don’t leave.” Here is the image. Blue eyespots on his right hindwing and all.

Close relative to Eastern Brushfoots, an extraordinary opportunity for Jeff to pal around with royalty.

Jeff