Another fun trip looking for butterflies, this time in South Florida from Miami to Key West May 12-20. Organized through Sunstreak Tours, our quite knowledgeable and entertaining guide, Alana Edwards, showed our group of seven butterfliers around a number of good locations just outside of Miami, into the Everglades, and down through the Florida Keys all the way to Key West. The nine-day trip would turn up more than 60 butterfly species, including 21 that were new for me and several that were quite special and not often seen. Our very first stop of the trip gave us excellent close-up views of one of the species I’d hoped to see, the Atala. They are always a highlight of a visit to Albuquerque’s PNM Butterfly Pavilion, but the first naturally wild one for me.
Later in the day, a passion vine flower caught my eye and is always good for finding nectaring butterflies.
It seemed like just about everywhere we went there were huge spider webs, usually with a large Golden Orb-Weaver waiting for prey.
The next day, Sunday, we headed into Everglades National Park where several stops would turn up a good list of species and several new ones for me. On Long Pine Key after a pretty good hike surrounded by an incredible number of mosquitoes, we would finally spot one of our target butterflies, the Florida Leafwing. Oddly enough, I survived that day with basically no bites despite having them all over me and dispatching large numbers of them along the way. Later, we’d invest in and use more bug spray and head nets, but the mosquitoes were never anywhere near as numerous the rest of the trip.
In addition to butterflies, we’d also see some good birds and other critters on these outings, including one of several Osprey that made for good photos.
A marvelously diverse meadow turned up some Eastern Pygmy-Blue butterflies, one of those 21 “lifers” I’d add during the trip,
and pretty much anywhere we’d see the common, but gorgeous, Gulf Fritillary.
Fun to see toward the end of our day in the Everglades was a manatee, drawn to a leaking freshwater supply that it seemed to enjoy.
Monday morning at a spot in Key Largo, we were treated to a rare and endangered Schaus’ Swallowtail that posed nicely for us for more than 40 minutes. An absolutely amazing experience, this species is just not seen very often, and apparently is usually seen flying around without ever landing.
Our next stop a short distance away gave us nice looks at another “lifer”, the Florida Purplewing.
At any number of locations we’d notice large colorful snails clinging to the trees; this guy was slowly making its way across an asphalt trail.
Tuesday morning, we checked out of the Quality Inn in Florida City and headed down the Florida Keys, where we’d spend the next two nights at the Holiday Inn Express on Marathon Key and checking out various locations all along the Keys down to Key West and back during the day. More good butterflies along the way, but also some good birds, such as this White Ibis,
a Reddish Egret,
and a Green Heron showing off its wacky hairdo.
At Bahia Honda State Park, we’d get good looks at the Martial Scrub-Hairstreak, one of three scrub-hairstreaks we’d see on the trip.
That first day also took us to the butterfly gardens of a couple of Alana’s friends, the first having good numbers of Fulvous Hairstreak, new for me and a quite attractive butterfly,
along with several other goodies. There and at several other spots during the trip, we’d see lizards posing in the trees occasionally popping out their colorful dewlaps.
Our second stop that afternoon had us scoping out the tree tops for quite some time waiting for sunset and a chance to see the quite rare Amethyst Hairstreak. High fives all around when one was finally spotted high in a pine tree and everybody got good enough looks to identify it, even if it was too small and far away for a decent photo.
On Wednesday, we drove to Key West checking out a few spots for butterflies along the way, and then back to Florida City for the last 3 nights of the trip. At Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park we were greeted by a couple of huge green iguanas, including this one waiting in a tree.
Thursday had us working Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in the Everglades, where some diligent searching of the grasses finally turned up both the Little Metalmark and Georgia Satyr that we were hoping to see there.
Amazing to me, however, were the huge grasshoppers everywhere in the park known as Eastern Lubber grasshoppers.
Along one trail we came across a blooming buttonwood, which attracted several different butterflies. This one of a Three-spotted Skipper on the buttonwood is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.
On our last full day of butterflying before heading back to the Miami airport on Saturday morning took us to several locations to add a number of butterfly species to the trip list. At the Deering Estate, we’d add species like Statira Sulphur, Dina Yellow, Hammock Skipper, and Mangrove Buckeye.
Later in the day, we’d see Pink-spot Sulphur flying in a small park and returned at the end of the day to spot one sitting in a tree long enough to get a good look. On what Alana referred to as our “clean up day”, we made a return visit to Navy Wells Pineland Preserve hoping to see that third species of scrub-hairstreak for the trip, the endangered Bartram’s Scrub-Hairstreak. We’d looked for it unsuccessfully there and at several other locations during the trip, so it was a real highlight to spot several of them on the last day.
A wonderful trip with a good group of folks, there’s more pictures from the trip on my website.