In Doak Field, a Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly with Royal Blue and Coral Spotted Patterns

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly on a Common Milkweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA
When one flies in, and you’re sure it’s a black species of swallowtail, lots of us immediately speed to determine if it is that uncommon Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. Not easy that, for they move their wings very rapidly, as they hover over the flowers they’ve common to enjoy. Making it even more difficult to decide the ID, the definitive ventral (under) wing surface is usually tough to see, that because those wings are in rapid motion.

What do I do? I quickly position myself knowing that my object of possible elation will be gone in one minute or less. Then I shoot way, with my Canon film camera’s shutter choice set a 3-exposures in a second or so. Sometimes all this results in success! This time, I score an fine image of this Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly nectaring on a Common Milkweed flowerhead. There’s no doubt about it. The wash of royal blue extends forward of the sweet coral spots, the abdomen and thorax and head feature the characteristic pattern of Pipevine white body spots, and this one is Fresh! Very Fresh!

Have I ever thought that the incoming butterfly was a Pipevine, only to be disappointed, or to find that it was a Pipevine, but a ‘worn’ individual? Well, yes, perhaps hundreds of times over these years.

Doak field, Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, just an 8-hour drive from Grand Central Station/Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.

Jeff

My Heart Beat Jumps when I see a Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Ventral View of a Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly on a Teasel Flowerhead photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Your heart beat jumps when a Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Butterfly flies in! Mine does. You just never see them in pairs or threes, and do you expect to see one? No. East of the Mississippi River, they are a northern butterfly.

When this one flew in, and set on this Teasel flowerhead, I was so Thankful for being there, being there then. Add to that the Milbert’s slowly worked the Teasel flowers, one by one, methodically. Better yet, it did not flee when I made my long, protected Macro- lens approach. Icing on the tiramisu cake was that the one was . . . gorgeous. Just look at that flash of nourishing orange on the dorsal surface of that right forewing.

I’m humbled by such limited experiences. I expect that few of you have been so fortunate as I’ve been, to have met and spent many minutes with Milbert’s (this one went to several Teasel flowerheads before it flew).

Raccoon Creek State Park, Nichol Road trail, southwestern Pennsylvania, about an 8-hour drive from the Statue of Liberty boat landing.

(Teasel is an alien plant, FYI, although truth be told, many, many butterflies adore its nectar (as do bees, such as the one shown on the far side of the Teasel)).

Jeff

Great Spangled Fritillary . . . Nectaring

Great spangled fritillary butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

She was feeding. concentrating on consuming as much nutrient-rich nectar as she could, from these robust Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) flowers. Some butterflies hover over bloom like mini-helicopters, others perch on the blooms with their wings in furious movement. Great spangled fritillaries set nearly motionless on one flower, then move to the next. This feeding is deliberate, and maximizes the volume of nectar that she can obtain.

It was the morning of the 4th of July, and surely she was readying herself for a moderate flight to the nearest town to Raccoon Creek State Park‘s Nichol road. For the Fourth of July parade of course. A major holiday here in the United States (commemorating our independence as a nation), she was a Pennsylvania butterfly, flying in a state that takes this holiday . . . very seriously.

Were not her “spangles” or silvery spots on her ventral (undersurface) wing surface reminders of our anthem, The Star Spangled Banner?

Speyeria cybele busily working Asclepias tuberosa on the 4th of July. A sweet sight? No?

Jeff