I Photograph Butterflies

Gray Hairstreak photographed by Jeff Zablow at Fort Federica, Saint Simons Island, GA

It’s frustrating to watch sylvan habitat lost to development. I’ve been bemoaning the loss since as far as I can recall. That must have begun when I was some 12 years old, and fine ‘bay-side’ land was invaded by bulldozers in the Arverne Section of Rockaway Beach, in New York City’s Queens. I roamed those acres before the ‘dozers came, and their loss, even for a wide awake 12-year old, was forever irreversible.

We didn’t travel at all, and I had no idea how vast the United States were. Pre-teen me thought that soon there’d  be nothing left between Brooklyn and Los Angeles (where many of my friends ended up moving to).

It sure may well be that I still retain that apprehension that butterflies and orchids (didn’t know about natives back then) and bumblebees and darners and such will disappear, on my ‘watch.’ It’s true that back in about the 4th grade, in Public School 244 in Brooklyn, my teacher told us that bald eagles, beavers, and mountain lions would all be gone, during our lifetimes. I’ll never forget that, for it was clear that I’d never even get a chance to see them, except for those sad, forlorn captives in the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn.

So there I was celebrating the losses sure to come, of so much, including plants and animals that were then unknown to me: wildflowers, trees, snakes, lizards, birds (I still hate knowing that the Ivory Billed Woodpecker is lost), bison, the Eastern Timber Wolf, the Regal Fritillary Butterfly that flew where my East 58th Street, Brooklyn house stood, when the British and Hessians marched through there, as they prepared to make their pincer attack on New York, New York.

I am thrilled to go into the bush to find and photograph butterflies. They are still flying, and often in good enough numbers to dissuade me from believing my 4th grade teacher.

There are way too few of us, who seek and shoot butterflies, but that’s what we are doing, and will seek to continue to do. My move, 2 years ago to central Georgia’s Piedmont region pleased me, for there I’ve seen so many new butterflies, some of them in my own yard, it, now busy with hostplants whose siren aromatic signals draw butterflies that we greet with Oohs! and Aahs!

I photograph butterflies, as for example this spiffy Gray Hairstreak.

Jeff

Angela Said It Would!

Edwards Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie, OH

Barbara Ann made a new friend, Angela. They scheduled a trip to the southern tip of Ohio, Adams County, on the Kentucky border. There was no way this was not going to be anything other than an excellent several days of orchids, wildflowers and . . . butterflies. Angela assured me that I’d be fine going with them, and Joe, David, Flower and one or two others, and she assured me that butterflies there were plentiful and special.

It was and more so. We started our week further north, near Dayton, Ohio, and there I finally met my very first Showy Lady Slipper Orchids. That should/shall always remain a clear, happy memory for me.

Our small group then drove down to Adams County, and more days of new, amazing, Wow! and success.

Lynx Prairie and Kamamama Prairie were extraordinary. Wildflowers of pastels and more boasted large numbers of butterflies, nearly all fresh, and some never before seen.

Lynx Prairie Reserve had a fresh flight of this butterfly, Edwards’ Hairstreak. They stop often to rest, as seen here. When they nectar, they tolerate close approach. Their colors were strong, distinct and eye-candy.

I shot away, dozens of Fuji Velvia exposures, all the time so wanting to cop an image of those rich colors. I feel like I did just that.

That voice in my brain is urging me to return in June 2019, for there was that phantom Fritillary butterfly that I almost photographed, ‘cept it fled, and I had no spotter to tell me where it . . .

Jeff

The Excitement Of A Fresh Flight

Edwards Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie, OH

I’m struggling to count the number of times it has happened to me. How many times have I come up a finite area of habitat . . . with a fresh flight of butterflies aloft? That’s, how many times have I arrived at a destination, to find alot of butterflies, all of the same species, and all very recently eclosed (exited from their chrysalises)?

Magical Adams County, Ohio treated me with a double-header in June 2016. I waded into Lynx Prairie to gape at this Edward’s Hairstreak, spectacular in its reds, blues, gray, white and black as well as dozens of others, perhaps 40 Edward’s about. They were some resting as this one, while others were mobbing Butterflyweed and other wildflowers. I wanted a capture like this one, of the beauty of their Edward’s’ ventral hindwings. I am satisfied that this one accomplishes that.

I somehow managed to get separated from my friends that day. That is not the first time that has happened to me. I’ve quit joining tours in the field, for tour leaders well, hate me, for when I see something that fascinates me, in habitat or in a museum, I get lost in my enthusiasm, and kind of put the tour off schedule, as in “Where’s that guy, Jeff?”

So, very separated from the others in the sizable Lynx Prairie Reserve, I came upon yet another prairie, and OMG!! I found a lifer for me (!!!) a Northern Metalmark butterfly. Then a 2nd one, a 3rd one and soon had seen more than 40 Edward’s Hairstreaks, all fresh and yummy to the eyes.

Lynx Prairie, just miles from the Ohio/Kentucky border drove me nuts! that day, late in June. Two new butterflies for me, and large flights of so so fresh ones at that.

It was a very rewarding Thank You G-d day for me. A very nourishing day for my eyes and a fine adrenaline wash for Jeff. Such days remain long remembered.

Jeff

Ceraunus Blue Beaut

Ceraunus Blue Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

I broke the rules here. I did. I never ever share images of butterflies on my hand, or on my clothing. When I’m opening your post of Facebook, I don’t hit “Like” if your butterfly image is like that. I’m not in favor of contact with butterflies in the field, for a host of reasons.

This one tested that practice. I was working a trail that stretched from one pond to another, at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge on the Georgia coast. There was a sizable area that had once been disturbed, and Blue’s were flying there, with wildlfowers beckoning them, here and there. I sought to ID those tiny blues, were they Cassius Blues or Ceraunus Blues . . . when the comely butterfly flew onto the Cellphone!

Loved those ‘eyes’ on its hindwing. Its marking were sharp and fresh. Wings newly minted and not birdstruck. I wanted this Ceraunus, for my images of this species, several years ago at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area . . . left me awaiting my next chance to shoot Ceraunus.

This was a Beaut! But, but it had come to the Cell to imbibe the minerals I continued to leave, from my sweat, that hot Georgia coastline morning.

True, I am a (stickler), but, but . . . Yep I shot away, and here is the image I want you to see, of a fine Ceraunus Blue Butterfly, who’d make it’s mother and father proud.

Jeff

Br’er Rabbit, Brooklyn and the Briar Patch

Briar Rabbit statue photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, Eatonton, GA

Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch II will soon be entering its 2nd year at the Eatonton, Georgia site. Virginia Linch and her band of volunteers, by necessity, had to move this Butterfly wonderland from the other side of town to this new, much larger location. Many, I included, were reluctant to make that move. I’d driven down from Pittsburgh in 2015, 2016 and 2017 just to shoot butterflies there.

Y’all showed sign of tiring of solely northeastern USA butterflies, even with a sprinkling of Israeli, Mississippi and Arizona Leps thrown in. The challenge was how to travel to 7 different Southern U.S. states, and without anyone to guide me, find dozens of southeastern U.S. butterflies. When I came across Virginias’s Facebook page, and learned of the 2-acre Wonder, I visited the Briar Patch Habitat. OMG! Two acres with several hundred butterflies aloft at any given time. Imagine that.

Virginia took this once thriving aluminum factory site, now a brownfield, and converted it into the best butterfly destination this side of the Mississippi River. I’ll not go into how she did it without any significant grants or financial Big Daddy, how they acquired hundreds of hostplants and who/how they got planted.

Br’er Rabbit here, greets you as you enter Briar Patch II. He was hand carved from carefully chosen Florida swamp trees. Joel Chandler Harris’ series of childrens’ books tell the tales of the denizens of the old-time Briar Patch, right here in Eatonton. Written before the Civil War, he writes of the wit and cunning of this Br’er Rabbit, of the challenges presented by Br’er Fox, the lovable lumbering Br’er Bear and the lesson offered by Br’er Tortoise.

How do I know this? Back in Brooklyn, New York, I sat on my Mother’s lap, as she read me the Br’er Rabbit tales penned by that same Joel Chandler Harris. I’m told that I made her read them to me over and over and then again and again. Now when I pull into the Habitat’s Eatonton parking lot, there he is larger than life, Br’er Rabbit, and that evokes the good memories, back up there, some 840 miles north!

This Butterflies & Blooms Habitat will be exceptional in 2019, once those 7.7 million seeds sprout, and they put in an additional 359 hostplants and wildflowers.  Give me a call before you head out, won’t you?

Jeff