Oaky Woods Darner

Dragonfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

Mike brought me to the Zebra Heliconian butterflies. We watch their in-air ballet moves, and I shot them as I could. I was so pleased, knowing that I would long remember this extraordinary day, the day that the Zebra long wings (their other commonly used name) came on stage for me. Appreciative I was to meet Mike, who led me to a butterfly that is commonly seen in Florida, but unexpected, unless you knew Mike, in Kathleen, Georgia. Virginia enabled this field work, and I thank you Virginia, once again.

Mike and I shot out the area surrounding these Passionflower habitat. That done, we headed out in my Tundra for Oaky Woods Wildlife Management Area. Oaky Woods was off road from a HuGe Lays potato chip plant, huge being an understatement. Oaky Woods was a fine destination for wildflowers, and there we met this good-looking dragonfly. I’ve been known to write that when a fine darner allows my close approach, I shoot away.

Darners attract, and this one is attractive. You like?

Jeff

Oh, Not A Gray Hairstreak

Gray hairstreak Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center in New York

There it was. Quick thinking, was, it’s a Gray Hairstreak, and although its here at the Jamestown Audubon Center’s lush reserve, I have many good images of Grays. Nevertheless, always aware that unique looking individuals can be fun, I shot, shot, shot.

Here now, Oh Wow! a Gray Hairstreak, Not! It’s a . . . Banded Hairstreak. Deep gray color shows here, the blue marginal patch is bright blue, and the banding on the hind wing resonates, Banded.

Hairstreaks sometimes startle, because we spend most of our time chasing butterflies or staking-up to them while they are nectaring, or while they are on trails or mud puddling. This look typifies many of our Hairstreak finds, males, perched on leaves, 3 feet to 5 feet off of the ground.

Cech & Tudor’s Butterflies of the East Coast surprised me, for they tell, “This is the most common and widespread of our Satyrium hairstreaks.” I have ID’d no more than 3 of them in these 20 years, so, “common” for them is rare for me. This is a forest butterfly, found near oaks, hickories, and walnut trees. I rarely find myself in hickory or walnut forests, so that may play some factor in my infrequent encounters with Satyrium calanus.

Passive when I met him, I am now enthusiastic with this unexpected identification. Good. Very good.

Jeff

My name is Dragon’s-mouth

Orchid, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

How’s that for a catchy name? You’d think that Colgate or Crest would have made this pert beauty a sometimes celebrity.

Scrutinizing the sphagnum moss bog for Bog copper butterflies, and finding them! was very exciting. Seventeen years of pursuing butterflies, and finally, bog coppers. Working through the bog matt of bouncy “carpet” you knew you were liable to find very, very exotic butterflies, insects, animals and plants.

When this orchid was spotted, I felt like using one of those old lines, “Hello baby, where have you been all my life?” No more than 7″ tall, it just stood there, a fairy princess, looking as delicate as delicate can be, and not a court attendant in sight. Nearby were several others, separated nicely from one another.

The sense was, this is a rare and extraordinary orchid, described by Paul Martin Brown, in his Wild Orchids of the Northeastern United States, as a “regionally significant species.” That is how I viewed it, a rare, hard to find, fragile example of G-d’s handiwork. I was there at exactly the right time, for days earlier, nope! and a few days later? nope!

For thousands of years, Arethusa bulbs Linnaeus has persevered in this unique, western New York bog.  Allenberg Bog is also known to some as Waterman’s Swamp, Congdon’s Pond, and Owlenburg Bog and is on the border of the towns of Napoli and New Albion, New York in Cattaraugus County. A unique and fascinating refuge of 390 acres, it is the jewel of the Buffalo Audubon Preserve System. The orchid looked fragile and vulnerable, but surviving, and producing anew. If this slight, delicate flower can, then we surely can, is what I thought.

Jeff

Jeff Begins Planning for Trekking Israel in ’17

Meliteae Phoebe butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel 

Field work in Israel, the Holy Land, is well . . . a great joy for me. Knowing that few of you have walked that hallowed ground, I also know that most of you harbor thoughts of making that trip to Jerusalem, Capernum, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, and so many destinations you learned about in Sunday school.

I’ve been fortunate to go there every year since 2008. Frieda A”H passed, Rachel moved to Tel Aviv to her new job, married, and now has 2 sons. Fortunate I have been to make these annual trips. Rachel, and our extended family, refuse to allow me to stay in hotel$. These last many years I have stayed with Rachel and her husband, Uri. I love that, but we have an expression, that if you stay with family too long, ‘You begin smelling like the fish.’ So what I do is, I split my time. 5 days with them in Mishmarot, 5 days off in my Hertz rental, to the Golan, the Galilee, the Carmel region around Haifa. I photograph on those away trips, and mornings and afternoons in Mishmarot, I photograph in the fields nearby, or make short runs to Ramat Hanadiv, a superb nature reserve, just 15 minutes away.

This image of a Middle Eastern fritillary butterfly, Melitaea phoebe, was taken just a short hike from Rachel’s home. It was very early, perhaps 6:45 AM, and he was warming himself up in the early morning sun, before he began his nearly constant, frenetic flying, in search of mates.

I plan again now. My plan is to go there in April. 3-4 weeks. What to do with Petra during that extended time is another concern. My 82 pound Black russian pup is a handful, big, powerful and such Big love requires commitment. That part is not worked out yet.

The planning I’m now considering includes where to make my usual 2 extended trips. The Galilee region, way up around Mt. Meron always excites, never fails. The Upper Golan and Mt. Hermon (which by then should have lost its snow cap) also always produce. But then there is the Negev region, and the highly mysterious, very different area just south of the devilish Gaza area. Ein Gedi was OMG! several years ago, but that’s a long drive down, and a good stretch through hostile communities. I grew up in real Brooklyn, and hostile is something I no longer need, thank you.

Which butterflies are left for me to find? Believe it or not, quite a few. These fly now, those fly after, these fly after that, and those fly after all of the rest, then along show yet another these/those.

I trail alone. Finding hiking buddies is akin to finding gold. Though I’ve tried, my Christian friends, many, have bought the media crap that Israel is dangerous. Not. I knew where not to go in Brooklyn, and it’s clear where not to go in Israel. Same deal, just different crazzies.

Photographing butterflies? How many do it as I do? I do not know? I do  know that . . . I Love That Challenge, and I really enjoy capturing images like the instant one above. Oh, and I love seeing H-s handiwork, up close, and real.

Jeff . . .who went long here, but I believe you understand why.

Reaping Rewards in Georgia

Phil Delestrez and his sons, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Panola Mountain State Park, GA

In 2015, Phil guided me through remotes corners of Hard Labor Creek State Park in Georgia. This is a very skilled, experienced wildlife expert, Phil. He pointed out Gemmed satyr butterflies, and they posed, I thought then that they were doing that with his wink and nod, so to speak.

This year, ’16, I contacted Phil and asked again, would he meet and guide me somewhere in Georgia. I was based in Eatonton, Putnam County, near Lake Oconee. His reply was well, OK, but it’d have to be on a Sunday, and he’d come with his family. Dada!

We met at Panola Mountain State Park, east of Atlanta. I held my breath when I saw where he was taking us. A Restricted Area!! I could not and would not have known it existed, or have entered there. What total Fun we had, hiking to the top of this rocky hilltop. This extensive microhabitat has not changed for 10,000’s of years, and with Phil’s keen eagle eyes, we found Juniper Hairstreak butterflies, a very rare grasshopper that eats lichens only, and a spider so rare, that it remains, unnamed.

His children, two shown here with Phil, were a delight, and adept at trail work.

Phil is with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He is a fine testament to the excellent job they are doing, at each and every one of the state parks I’ve visited.

Jeff