Party Crashing Viceroy

Viceroy Butterfly on Sumac (Woody Pond) photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

That very same week, the Georgia Native Plant Society (GNPS) shared a FB post, letting us know that native Sumacs were just about ready to bloom. Back up in Pittsburgh, all one heard of was a “poison sumac.” Ellen of the GNPS sung of two native sumacs, and I was interested, wanted to meet them.

I saw them days later, along county and state roads, they just hinting of the telltale dark rust indicative color.

Sunday I drove to Townsend, Georgia, and arrived at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge the next morning. Coastal Georgia is wondrous, and Oohs and Aahs! reigned. Great blue herons, Wood storks, Glossy Ibis, Lots and lots of alligators, Clapper rails, maybe 3 species of snow-white egrets, Zebra heliconians, Palamedes swallowtails, Anhingas, Salt marsh skippers, the biggest spiders I’ve yet to see and the sense that snakes were at hand, but hidden out of sight. It was a dreamland for folks like us.

I think it was Wednesday, along the Wood Pond Trail that I saw it. One of those natives Sumacs, and its flower buds were beginning to open. A first for me, native sumac, in bloom, at the edge of Woody Pond, and those alligators seen and . . . unseen . . . ?

A shadow flew in. What! A fresh, deeply hued Viceroy butterfly. They are always “Uncommon” (Glassberg’s Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America), for I see them rarely, and always briefly, they with something more important to do, some other wetland away, that how it seems.

I shot away, lots of film exposed. It was a clever one, remaining within the inner bounds of the sumac. When it flew, I just stopped, and cynically laughed, at how, with all that was around me, this likable Viceroy came in and stirred the pot, the party crashing Viceroy . . . on a McLaren day in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

Jeff

 

What’s in a Name?

Giant Spider photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

I’m working the cut-grass trail that abuts Woody Pond. That’s one of about 5 or 6 ponds in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, just a short distance from the Georgia coast. Magic. Why magic? Magical because every step I took along that trail produced. Laura was correct, this is a serious destination.

Butterflies abounded that late August 2018 week: Palamedes, Cloudless Sulphurs, Gulf Fritillaries, that gorgeous Viceroy, Monarchs, Saltmarsh Skippers, Pipevines, Zebra Heliconians, and such. Bees, flies, wasps, moths and more. The botany was lush and much in bloom: Liatris, native sunflowers, thistles, frogfruit, sumac in bloom and more. Alligators in large numbers, they scaring the bejeebers out of my (me, a grad of Brooklyn’s streets back when) that morning when I was on this very same trail, early, and without warning, what sounded like a 20 foot gator bellowed, nearly at feet . . . and just as suddenly some 7 or 8 male behemoths joined in. I’m thinking how I’ll save myself if they come after me, the cold steel I carry no match for such. G-d was along with me, for I never had to . . .

The birds are the #1 reasons that Refuge is a National Refuge, for birders were there those 4 mornings, this being one of the best Wood Stork Refuges in the USA. Hundreds of wood storks in those rookeries!

On Woody Pond’s trail, I leaned in to get a better look at a Lep, and Holy Spaghetti! I found myself staring right at this. What you see here is almost life-size. Her web strands were yellowish, her abdomen a soothing brownish/oprange, with those comely yellowish spots. Six of her 8 legs had tufts on them. I waited to see if she would resent my Macro- Len’s close approach? I felt like when I was at those Boys’ Club boxing sessions, seeking to learn my opponent’s moves and fakes.

She had a tiny male resting on her abdomen. Tell me about this stark difference in size? I did some reading when I Googled this spider, and I learned. I never knew that there are others species of tiny spiders that earn their sustenance by living close to Big webs like this one, and dash out to grab scraps that the resident spiders overlooks.

This native spider’s name? The Golden Silk Orb-Weaver. Common in the southeastern USA. She and her tiny buddy never reacted to my several approaches. A good, though formidable looking model, she.

Jeff

Silver Spotted Skipper on Liatris

Silver Spotted Skipper Butterfly on Liatris, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Cloudland Canyon State Park, GA

“Wrought” is the word that popped into my mind. This evokes the work of Caron and Phyllis and Peggy and Sherrie and Yaron and Kenne and Marcie and Melanie and Kelly and the rest of you who go out and work to capture the beauty that can be found if you know where to look, what to look for and how?? to get it.

This moment in time, of a Silver Spotted Skipper on Liatris in rich bloom, was enjoyed at Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia. When I want to compare a slew of exposures taken in machine gun staccato, I sit there with my light box and loupe, and examine for positives, what are the positive captures in each image.

This one scored well. I was pleased with the translucent yellow cells of that left forewing, the right eye which seems to be keeping an ‘eye’ on me, the good look at the head and antennas, those right legs, the good position of the butterfly (not at center but a bit right of center), the absolutely yummy! color of fresh, happy Liatris and that comely green wash that serves as background  (I’m shooting Macro- and depth of field helps sometimes). What did I miss?

August 2018 in a very sylvan National Wildlife Refuge, looking beyond the wood storks, egrets, rails, herons, lizards and alligators.

All reminds me of the wonders that H- has wrought.

Jeff

Gulf On Liatris

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Liatris photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife, GA

That August trip to Townsend, Georgia was fantastic. I photographed butterflies and more in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge (a national birder destination) and at Ft. Federica on St. Simons Island.

Go back in 2019? Oh, I hope. Little Metalmark butterflies and Eastern Pygmy butterflies eluded me, and I so miss these tiny winged beauties.

The coast of Georgia features a ‘necklace’ of very special refuges, and I never did get to Sapelo Island, Jekyll Island and . . .

My life will be forever richer for the sights and critters that I saw those 6 days, alligators, wood storks, egrets, great blue herons, green herons, rails and maybe 1,680 butterflies.

This was a big year for Gulf Fritillary butterflies, like this one, nectaring on resplendent Liatris blooms.

Good for you Georgia, successfully preserving so much of your Rich coastal habitat!

Jeff