Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly

Cabbage white butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA
It was an August morning on Tybee Island, Georgia. It was morning number 4? Or was it 5? I’m like a little kid when it comes to driving down to Tybee and Savannah. Can we do it again? I keep asking. In Pittsburgh, January and February last like a million years, or that’s how it feels as you go from one icy morning to the next snowy one. Going to Tybee and working the edges of the dunes for butterflies, as early as you can get your bones out there; now, that’s nirvana!

We stayed 3/4 of a block from the beach. It was easy to get back to the rental and change into a Beach Boy! Spending a couple of hours on the beach without July crowds. I’m telling you that you’re a lucky soul to be on Tybee island on a bright sparkling August day.

This Phoebis Sennae male was working the flowerbed of its first and second homes from the dunes. This Sulphur butterfly’s 2.5″ wingspan kept him from me each time I made my approach, but the butterfly suddenly became less vigilant when he got to this bloom. Cloudless sulphurs are generalists who sip nectar from a great variety of flowering plants. That helps because they alight often, increasing your chances of taking a fine photograph.

Described as “sun-loving” puts Tybee’s Cloudless sulphur butterflies in the right place:  Sunny, inviting Tybee Island.

Yes the field guides report them as occasional visitors up here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I MAY have seen one once, in Raccoon Creek State Park. It flew up so fast I couldn’t make a definitive identification.

Walk through downtown Savannah. Tour its art museums, shops & restaurants. Take a break in one of the many, planned downtown parks and daydream about Savannah back in 1850 or 1900. Go and see the porpoises as they cavort in the many river outlets, and marvel at their proximity to HUGE freighters, just several feet in front of the deadly looking bow. Walk the edge of the beach, together, as day drifts to night.

Isn’t it wonderful how a photograph of a Giant sulphur triggers such yummy memories?


Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Habitat

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge photographed by Jeff Zablow

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a rich and robust habitat. The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge was teeming with wildlife in August 2012 when I photographed butterflies every morning during a week-long vacation. Located in the southeastern corner of South Carolina, the Refuge is an 18 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia. Readers might be interested to know that it was once a rice farm. If you drive another 20 minutes you’ll see beautiful Tybee Island where we stayed.

I saw alligators, herons, turtles, frogs, gulls and richly colored butterflies. The Viceroys were especially striking, with breathtaking contrasts of orange next to black. I was not satisfied with the photographs I came home with. You guessed it, those viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) were especially leery of my approach. They are a wetland species, and Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is home, sweet home to them.

I’m planning to return in mid-August with the determination successfully photograph the Viceroys!



Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar

Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar photographed by Jeff Zablow at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, GA

This photograph was taken in August in Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, actually in the southeastern corner of South Carolina, though it’s only about a 20 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia. Our one week vacation blast was spent on Tybee Island. Mornings were spent at the  Refuge. Mosquitoes were thrilled to greet me along the former rice paddocks in the Refuge. OFF didn’t seem to deter them. They were professionals.

Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) were in abundance that morning. Variegated fritillary caterpillars were also easy to locate and photograph. Most of the caterpillars spent the morning eating the leaves of passionflower vines (see our post today: Passionflower). By late morning the caterpillars were slowly moving down the stems of the vines. Were they headed to Siesta?

Resplendent in their red-orange stripes, white stripes and black spines, they confirm my  argument: That butterflies are more beautiful than the magnificent jewelry of the very finest designers.

While I was working to photograph this larval gem, I was prey for perhaps 2-3 species of mosquitoes. The caterpillar was 100% free of such pests. Does anyone know why?