Red Admiral Butterflies Appear without Fanfare

Red Admiral Butterfly on trail, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

There are butterflies that I’ve now seen hundreds and thousands of. I’m near embarrassed to admit that I no longer pursue them, for my Neumade slide cabinet (a gift from a friend in Pittsburgh) has strong photographic images of them.

Know too that there are butterflies that I’ve seen dozens of, give or take, and that I still rush to go after. Why? Because though I have images of them, I believe that there will come along a fresh one, and I want an even better photograph.

Here’s one that I will jump up from a crouch, from shooting others, to rush to score an image of. The Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) appears without fanfare, usually lingers for moments, and then speeds away. I have seen several over the years that just stunned me, they so vividly colored, so gorgeous (this word here correctly chosen). My careful, patented, robotic approach near always was futile, with the stunner gone before I could close the Macro-distance to it.

This one here is a tad worn, but so reminds of what I had hoped it might be. The Fuji Velvia film used here provides exactly how sweet it looked, real-time.

Raccoon Creek State Park, southwestern Pennsylvania (+/- 8 hours west of New York City).

Jeff

Spicebush Spooks

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Me? I have several thoughts when a Spicebush Swallowtail flies in.

1) I reflect on how infrequently I see them in the field. I spend much time in “open woods and edges” (Glassberg, Swift Guide to Butterflies of  North America) and I may see one or two over the course of a full morning.

2) They fly in silently, without fanfare, avoid me totally, nectar on flowers with brevity and great shyness, and like C.I.A spooks, do not want to be seen or approached.

3) Their range extends from Massachusetts to Florida to Texas and Illinois and along the northern border with Canada. Strays are reported much to the west and north. Despite such an enormous range, I have yet to meet a single person who adores them or can be deemed ‘the’ authority on this large, handsome butterfly.

4) Few of us share good images of Spicebush Swallowtails. Like an effective ‘Spook’ most view this butterfly as unremarkable in its appearance, and readily forgettable.

I’ve planted a 10′ Sassafras tree in my garden, and  and 3 little Spicebushes, and I hope that these hostplants for Spicebush butterflies brings ’em in, from far and wide.

Jeff