Red Admiral Butterflies Appear without Fanfare

Red Admiral Butterfly on trail, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

There are butterflies that I’ve now seen hundreds and thousands of. I’m near embarrassed to admit that I no longer pursue them, for my Neumade slide cabinet (a gift from a friend in Pittsburgh) has strong photographic images of them.

Know too that there are butterflies that I’ve seen dozens of, give or take, and that I still rush to go after. Why? Because though I have images of them, I believe that there will come along a fresh one, and I want an even better photograph.

Here’s one that I will jump up from a crouch, from shooting others, to rush to score an image of. The Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) appears without fanfare, usually lingers for moments, and then speeds away. I have seen several over the years that just stunned me, they so vividly colored, so gorgeous (this word here correctly chosen). My careful, patented, robotic approach near always was futile, with the stunner gone before I could close the Macro-distance to it.

This one here is a tad worn, but so reminds of what I had hoped it might be. The Fuji Velvia film used here provides exactly how sweet it looked, real-time.

Raccoon Creek State Park, southwestern Pennsylvania (+/- 8 hours west of New York City).


No Encounters with Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Clinton, Regan or Trump, but I did Meet . . .

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Sometimes I dwell on an absence that gives me pause. I have never met an American President of the United States. Who’d I have wanted to meet and chat with? Presidents Nixon, Kennedy, Regan and Trump. As my life progressed, I reached new benchmarks, and I would’ve like to meet these Presidents, all of whom had fascinating, broad and rich life experience. Hero worship? Nah. I met Mafia guys in my life, they too accomplished much, but not anywhere near what those Presidents did.

I comfortably equate those thoughts with the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment that I experienced when after that flight from Atlanta to San Antonio, Texas, and the 4-hour drive with Nancy and John we arrived in Alamo, Texas, for our 5-day trip to find new and rare butterflies.

Shown here is a very, very rare butterfly, magnificently beautiful and elegant, that we met and I observed at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas near the border wall, for a total of more than 30 minutes. A fresh, vividly colored Erato Heliconian butterfly. I must be one of the very few Americans who have watched an Erato fly more than 70 feet away, remarkably showing those broad, rich red markings all, all of that flight. My own theory? They must be toxic to predators, for why else would it be that they accented those prominent reds, each and every second of their flight? Aren’t they to warn predators . . . to stay away.

Here’s the Erato while it was resting, some time during those magical 30 minutes.

Not Robert F. Kennedy, Nancy Regan, Donald Trump or Jacqueline Kennedy, but I did meet this Erato Heliconian butterfly, and am grateful for that. Seriously.


Love & Skipper Butterflies (Clay Pond, NY)

Skipper Butterfly II photographed by Jeff Zablow at Clay Pond Preserve, Frewsburg, NY

We were in high grass, working our way along the perimeter Clay Pond in very western New York State. This wetland preserve was rich in grasses and the wetland pollinating flowers you’d find in a pond habitat.

Barbara Ann is expert identifying native orchids, and I’ve been seeking butterflies since what? 1995?

It’s the little Skipper butterflies that I have much difficulty identifying. Lehman, Pyle, Zirlin and some others of you are more adept at determining the Skippers.

I love these little pookie butterflies, especially when they are fresh, vividly colored, and I admire their energy, purposefulness and courage, what with so many predators about.

Curt, Bob, or Harry, can you help with ID’ing this robust fella, with his long proboscis and splashed of bright yellowish orange?



Comma Butterflies Eat the Nutrients from Animal Poop

Comma Butterflys at Raccoon Creek State Park

August and 3 Comma butterflies have settled on a workable arrangement for all to share scat set on the Nichol Road trail at Raccoon Creek State Park.

Preferring to be at woods edge, this section of trail is ideal Comma habitat, with a small stream running just 15 feet from this spot.

The Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) on the left bears the browns and consistent markings that are pretty reliable. The Comma on the right I identify as a Gray Comma (Polygonia progne). Agreed?

Commas keep you company along certain stretches of trail. They much prefer shade to direct sunlight. Very, very rarely do you see them fly to flowers.

Commas are vividly colored when ‘fresh’ and wear over the weeks that they fly. They are examples of the species of butterflies that like puppies, exude ‘personality.’

Difficult to photograph, as we’ve noted before, our subjects here were so fixed on their purpose that they allowed my belly to the ground slow approach. The things I do for a good shot!