Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Milbert's Tortoiseshell butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh

OMG! Bingo! Score! Thank YOU! September 14th along the front walk to world known Phipps Conservatory, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the middle of the city, 1/4 mile from the University of Pittsburgh and 1/4 mile from Carnegie Mellon University, half of whose students have travelled thousands of miles to study there. There, surrounded by hundreds of acres of verdant Schenley Park, our Nymphalis milberti hungrily sips the nectar produced by planted Tall Verbena.

I was there too, right time right place. What a rush! when a Milbert’s tortoiseshell flies in to a flower bed that you have staked out. This one tolerated the safe distance that I kept from it. My challenge was to avoid entry into the spacious flower bed, and, capture macro- images of the exquisite butterfly. It worked the verbena slowly and methodically. I had to be especially patient, as it seemed like hours went by, as it collected at each and every flower on the verbena flowerhead. My teeth grinding caution paid off, as it flew to these verbena, closer to where I was waiting. Pop! pop! pop! Pop! I shot away on slide film (Yes, slide film) and re-loaded several rolls of Fuji ASA 50.

I am pleased with this and a couple of other images. This is a beautiful butterfly. Enjoy the extraordinary upper wing colors, and contrast them with the stark ventral wing design. Yay! to the Craftsman who fashioned this gem of a creature. And Congrats! to these Milbert’s, who have straddled the 20th and now the 21st centuries, seemingly unaffected by all that we say and do.

Yesterday I picked up Robert Michael Pyle’s Mariposa Road for a second read. Now, that was a good decision. Joy in reading. Ah, if he would find this post and make Comment. Right place, right time, right share?


Male Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly Enjoys an Enviable Habitat

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Phipps Conservatory Outdoor Gardens, PA

Around 10 AM in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory in the center of Pittsburgh. The University of Pittsburgh a 3 minute walk straight ahead and Carnegie Mellon University a 2 minute walk to our right.

Our Papilio polyxenes is imbibing nectar at a furious pace. One of countless butterflies that fly into these expertly maintained flowerbeds from the equally verdant Schenley Park that surrounds the Phipps. So, a horticultural oasis surrounded by a very, very large Pittsburgh Park, in turn surrounded by beautiful universities and inviting neighborhoods. Our male here certainly enjoys an enviable habitat.

A widespread species, Black Swallowtail caterpillars feed upon members of the carrot and parsley family. Their success is aided by the abundance of Queen Anne’s Lace, Fennel, Parsley, Dill, Celery and Carrots found throughout Schenley Park and in Phipps’ Outdoor Gardens and the home gardens beyond.

Tough to photograph, not because they refuse your approach while nectaring, but rather because their rapid wing movement while feeding requires many, many exposures to hope to score a good image. We were please with this one, thank you.

As we’ve blogged so many times before, the appearance of such a handsome butterfly, usually unanticipated, is nirvana. And when they stop to nectar, and are serious about it- Well, that’s just sweet!