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

My First Ringlet

Common Ringlet Butterfly on Daisy photographed by Jeff Zablow at Frewsburg, NY

I’d expected to see my first Common Ringlet some 15 years ago. Not to be. True I saw a species of Ringlet in 2016 along the Israeli Mediterranean coastline, just south of the Lebanon border. That was unexpected, and exciting. When would I finally see the American Common Ringlet?

The first encounter with a USA Common Ringlet, this one, could not have been predicted. Barbara Ann and I returned from doing field work in her far western New York state. I dropped her off in her Frewsburg, New York home. She suggested that before I went back to my rented cabin, I scour the wildflowers on either side of her road. OK, it was a beautiful day, and who knows?

Bingo! My first Common Ringlet, nectaring peacefully, on those hundreds of tiny flowerhead.s.

Lesson learned? Listen to Barbara Ann and lesson #2, don’t discount the possibilities offered by your own, and your friend’s nearby blooms?

What’s your best remembered find, right there under your own nose?

Jeff

The Steady March to . . . 2017

Cardinal flower wildflowers, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center in New York

Enjoying the images shared by so many on Facebook these recent days, it reminds how patiently we endure these cold, snow-showery days. Blessed we were to so enjoy our 2016, with its sunny days, and luxuriant fauna and botany.

These years, we travel more, bust-out more, and if you’re here now, want, want to see more butterflies, fresher butterflies and butterflies just NOW re-discovered in the corner of some not too far away privately-held farm or tract. ’16 in the butterfly-bank, we allow ourselves the luxury . . . thinking ahead to that place you will, will, get to in 2017, and get there not to early, nor too late, but just when they are aloft.

I’m certainly with you there, and there are several places I have in mind, so long as life, and fund$ and folks to guide, remain good for this. Pardon the slip, but I much want to see very, very rare Showy lady’s slipper orchids this year, and I have a very good chance of success.

This was met at Jamestown Audubon Center in western New York state. Their reserve included sizable wetlands, and I just had to stop and admire this tight little stand of cardinal flowers. I grow natives in my home garden in Pittsburgh, but these were so richly red, so hotly sensuous, that I clicked away. I was there for some minutes, but no ruby-throated hummingbirds showed up. Back in Pittsburgh, it’s every hour on the hour.

The steady march to 2017 is in progress.

Jeff

Hairy Pink Flax (Israel)

Wildflower, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Society for the Protection of Nature Hermon, Israel

I was up there, March 2015, near the base of Mt. Hermon, in the hilly reserve of SPNI Hermon. The trails was busting bountiful with wildflowers, and the butterflies that I came to see and photograph. I’d brought 53 rolls of Fuji slide film (ASA 50/100) through Security in Pittsburgh and JFK New York and again through Ben Gurion airport. Each time Security and I spent more time together than most, with my “Hand Check!”requests, usually met with frowns and shrugs. My film did not get x-rayed once, despite some pleas that the irradiation does effect film. That a chance I do no wish to take.

So it was supposed, supposed to be butterflies only, but . . . the wildflowers could not be denied. New to me, fresh and beautiful.

These Hairy Pink Flax (Linum Pubescens) were just so pretty, perky and inviting. Why they are not pink, Quien sabe? Three field guides seem to ID them as such.

I love butterflies, wildflowers, cantaloupe, black russians, babaganoush, Breyers mint chip, . . . .

Jeff

Middle Eastern Wildflower ID’d

Lizard Orchid (Protected), photographed by Jeff Zablow in Rosh Hanikra, Israel

Butterflies, it was butterflies that I was after. Good enough that I was finding them here in Rosh Hanikra National Park, at the very northeastern tip of Israel, right at the border with Lebanon.

I was also discovering many wildflowers that I had never seen in Israel. Stop and expend valuable slide film each time? And time, that too was limited (always limited in the field).

When I noted this extraordinary tower of bloom, I stopped. I’d expect to see such an other-worldy plant, like maybe on Mars. How could I not photograph it? It’s an orchid, No?

I have searched my field guides of Israeli Wildflowers, and awaited word from Israel. Well, enough waiting. Without word from expert botanists abroad, I determine that this is NOT an orchid, but a bloomhead of . . . Syrian Bear’s Breech (Acanthus syriacus). Different. Reallllly different.

I’m telling you, come visit Israel, see the HolyLand, and leave some time to split off and work the OMG! habitats that have awaited your visit for 1,000’s of years. You’ve worked too hard, and this trip is deserved. No doubt about that.

Jeff