Syria, Butterflies and 2008

Cattle on Mt. Hermon, Israel photographed by Jeff Zablow, 6/16/08

These cattle are doing what they used to do, for perhaps hundreds of years. Their Arab owners lived down the mountain, in Syria. Why they chose to climb 7,000 feet to the peak of Mt. Hermon, still puzzles me. When Eran Banker guided me across the top of this peak, at the northeastern edge of Israel’s Golan region, I was surprised to see . . . cattle. We came up on a ski lift, then hiked across the mountain top. The cattle climbed the mountain. City boy remains baffled by this.

I was up there to find as many of the very rare butterflies of Mt. Hermon as I could. Some of those species can be found nowhere else in the world, only on this mountain top. In one case, as of 2 years ago or so, my images were the only ones of a species of butterfly, on the entire internet.

It was June 16th, and very, very hot on the mountain. Eran, a bull of a man, carried many liters of water for us. No water means, they see your car down at the lift base, at the end of the day, and when they search for you up there, are forced to contact your family to . . . . It’s the Middle East, and mountain-top or not, it’s arid, drier than dry. How do the cattle endure it up there, I have zero idea.

Cringe at this. This 2017, the background of Syria is a killing field. I expect that the villages there are either leveled or full of murderous ISIL or Rebels or Hezbollah or Hamas or Iranian Regulars or Russian ‘advisors’ or Assad’s Army and/or all of them together. The farmers and ordinary folk who lived down there, as you look at those 80 miles of land, dead or fled.

The Middle East has long, long been torn by violence. It came in fits and waves. This is such a time, and when I fly there on March 28th, you need not worry for Jeff, for the reason that those barbarians do not cross that border, is a very strong, very well armed and very disciplined Israeli military. And, after many years, Israel’s Big Buddy, the USA has reaffirmed that in the ‘schoolyard’ of the Middle East, Israel has a very capable Big Buddy, who would prefer that no schoolyard bullies show their face.

Jeff

Teary Moments . . . .

Earring Series - Jeff with Black Swallowtail Earrings (Best shot), at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

This is the shot with the Eastern Black Swallowtails fully on my right ear.

She battled Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma from the moment she was diagnosed, nearly eight years and Stem Cell Transplant later. Leukemia’s ‘side-effect’ so weakened her, that the Hillman Cancer Center specialist told her, at her demand, that there would be no last-ditch sprint to the NIH in Washington, DC, for if she could not walk in the door, they would not treat her. She thanked him, demanded that we all go home for our Sabbath night meal, and passed away some 3 hours later.

Frieda A”H was in Hillman for a total of 150 nights, and her last 2 years were horrific. She was home one-half of the time those last years. She demanded that I continue my field excursions to find and photograph butterflies. She loved my work, and she loved beauty.

There have been less than a handful of times that I have come to tears in the field, after butterflies have startled me with inexplicable behavior? The first was with that Mourning Cloak. Now I must stop for a moment, for that Mourning Cloak rocked my boat.

This experience, chronicled in our new Feature, ‘Jeff’s Earrings,’ took me to a tear in each eye, with Sylbie there to capture it on film. My strong, strong resolve to not cry before women (Yes, guilty as charged) prevented me from a full cry.

When we posted ‘Jeff’s Earrings,’ I invited friends on NABA-CHAT to see it, and many hundreds accepted my invitation. Dozens of Georgians came too. Teary moments in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, Eatonton, Georgia. The best place to see scores of different butterflies, no better place from Toronto to the Florida Panhandle.

Some have shared experience with butterflies that reduced them to pudding, so to speak. What do you make of this? Why? What are the associations that we make that open the floodgates of emotion? I ask you this.

Jeff

Agree or Disagree?

Years and years into photographing butterflies now, and you would think that I would be steadily approaching, well, saturation. If that makes sense to you, surprise! The challenges, opportunities and thinking continues, unabated, and not diminished. Here’s an example of a present new idea of mine.

I shot this exposure of an American Copper some years ago. When I light boxed the dozen or more images of it, I was very Happy with this one. Very. Some of you may think: I see things here that Jeff likes. Others of you may think: Why does this image stand out from the nearly 800 in wingedbeauty’s Media Library?

Me? I have always liked this share of the head. Michal has 2 Shih Tzus, and they used to refer to them as ‘pookies.’ Small, and very cute. Munchkin and Shnookie were, and are, even at 12 and 13 years. This head struck me at first sight as a ‘pookie.’ Eyes, palps and sweet antennae. The left wings, ventral sides, are clear, colorful and dramatically colored. Those wings are fresh and not bird-struck. The legs are nicely shared, and set in a way that pleases the eye. The plant stem that this Copper is standing on boasts those fascinating fibers over its length, and that stalk is set at a slight angle, adding personality to the image. The leaves toward the right of the image bear red borders/veins, further jazzing up the shot. Bonus to all is the background, a comely green, minty and persuasive to the eye.

Digging further, a Georgia friend recently shared that she had never yet seen an American Copper butterfly. As soon as she wrote that, my mind shot to this look, and that was the ‘seed’ that led to this very post. Thanks Nancy.

Sometime soon we will add a new Feature to wingedbeauty.com, Jeff’s 8 (10?) Favorite Images. This should be amongst those 8 or 10, for how many times I’ve scrolled down the Library, and stopped to smile at this one.

Do you Agree or Disagree that this photo deserves broad exposure?

Jeff

Summoning the Little Boy

Monarch caterpillar on Asclepias leaf, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Just as quickly as I just opened this image of a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar, the Little Boy in me showed up, summoned by the Mystery of this phenomenon. At the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, in Eatonton, Georgia.

We have photos in my archival photo albums, of Jeff as a boy, in Brooklyn, at the beach at Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York and at the other side of that Peninsula, at the water’s edge of the bay. I have photos of Jeff on Grand Bahama Island, turning over rocks, searching for living things. That has long been a family giggle, Jeff, Dad, examine, searching, following, studying living things, usually bent over, crouching.

This Danaus plexippus caterpillar just mesmerizes me. The color, the body plan, those true and false legs, its slow, plodding movement, that slower, carefree feeding. How it’s goes through instars, how it seemed too big to exit from its tiny egg. I grew up in Brooklyn, on the streets, and it took several years, when I moved to Pittsburgh, for me to lessen the need to always know who was behind me . . . and this larva packs its own defenses, without need to carry cold steel just in case. How with so many predators in its neighborhood, it has reached this level of success?

I’m telling you, this image just summons the Little Boy in me. Forget the image of me you’ve seen, that Little Boy is just . . . .

Jeff

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