Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The blurry photo of a zebra swallowtail is not excellent, but I was happy to get it at all.
There were far more butterflies and songbirds when I was a child. Back then my brother was mad about insects and had a fantastic butterfly and moth collection. For my part, I kept birdwatcher's notes.
The two of us remain passionate about nature, and we've taken to contacting each other by cell phone or email to note phenomenon such as the first night of hearing spring peepers, or the spotting of an unusual bird. In one of these exchanges my brother mentioned to me that he hadn't seen a zebra swallowtail, quite common when we were children 40 years go, in ages. Neither have I. We've been both on the lookout ever since.
Last summer I finally spotted one, and I didn't have to go farther afield than my backyard flower garden to do so. I had been sitting on the patio, basking in the morning sun, when out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something fluttering up around the eaves of the house. Although the sun was nearly blinding to me at that angle, I thought it looked black and white--it had to be a zebra. It fluttered up and over the house, but I figured with all the luscious flowers in the garden, the swallowtail would be back. I got my camera ready and waited. After lunch I was rewarded for my effort: the zebra swallowtail returned. As it floated from blossom to blossom I followed, camera in hand. It let me draw near, but it kept "shivering" its wings. There was no hope of a sharp image, but at least I did get several that were clear enough for positive identification--and for sharing. I was delighted to send them to my brother with the one word message: ZEBRA!
That was a day that filled me with happiness and hope. My little garden--a crazy mix of nectar-rich flowers and fruit bearing shrubs--is an oasis in the middle of acres and acres of soybeans and corn. Eventually, I'd like to fill the entire yard with fruits and flowers. It pleases me to think of how many more butterflies and birds will come to rest and dine here. It's a little thing, really, but there is such satisfaction in knowing that my garden is helping to sustain the natural world that I love. Zebra Swallowtail photo by JulenaJo.


  1. Oh, that Zebra is gorgeous! No wonder you were so excited. What are those purple flowers that have tempted it so much?

  2. Welcome to my blog, Sunita. I believe the zebra was feasting on Nepeta x faassenii 'Dropmore Blue.' However, as the photo is blurred I cannot be sure. I also grow lavender and caryopteris, both of which produce small, tubular flowers in a similar shade of purplish blue.