Whoa, it’s been nearly a month since my last blog update and time to catch up. I’ve been on the road since October 23 first visiting my mother in San Antonio and then driving down to Alamo, Texas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley for almost two weeks of butterflying – 2800 miles of driving with only one problem, a huge crack in the windshield of my new car that got replaced yesterday. Met up with Rebecca, our Houston friend, Steve, and even had my sister, Jenifer, come down from Austin to join us for a few days. We ran into a number of other good butterflying friends there for day trips to many of the excellent butterfly locations in the valley from Falcon State Park to Brownsville. All in all, we saw 99 species of which 22 were new for me, bringing my life list to a respectable 405 species. Arriving home with more than 1100 photos, all I’ve done this past week is work through them to the 183 shown on my webpage at http://sandianet.com/lrgv15/index.htm. Shown below are some of those pictures from the trip.
It wasn’t all about butterflies; there were a few other cool creatures about that posed to have their photographs taken. One day at the National Butterfly Center in Mission Texas, someone spotted a cool Walking Stick. This guy was about 8 inches long and crawled up on a woman’s arm before she returned it to the bush.
Keeping an eye on things there at the National Butterfly Center was an Eastern Screech-Owl.
During our stay in an apartment at the delightful Alamo Inn B&B, we’d occasionally see these tiny lizards hunting about in the flower bushes.
A couple of times at Santa Ana NWR and this time at Resaca de la Palma State Park, we’d spot a large Indigo Snake either working its way along the ground or resting quietly in a tree.
Santa Ana NWR also gave me an excellent look at a couple of Harris’s Hawks, which I’ve only seen before in southern New Mexico and Arizona.
During one of several visits to Estero Llano Grande State Park, we were fortunate to see the rare Northern Jacana that had surprised birders by visiting for a few days from its usual home in Mexico.
Pretty much everywhere were noisy Great Kiskadees
and Green Jays.
Coolest bird of the trip, though, was pointed out to us by a worker at Quinta Mazatlana – a Common Paraque (and we spotted a second one nearby) hiding in the leaf litter.
On to the butterflies! We saw quite a few good butterflies in each of the six families of butterflies during the trip. Among them were four types of Papilonidae (Swallowtails), including a very beat up but also very uncommon Ruby-spotted Swallowtail (Papilio anchisiades) and numerous Giant Swallowtails.
Among the nearly dozen members of the Pieridae (Whites & Sulphurs) family we’d see, we got good looks at several Giant Whites. I likely mistook a number of them for the Great Southern White, which is a similar size and also has the unique turquoise antenna clubs, but it was pointed out to me that the Giant White has large black spots on the forewing.
On our first visit to the undeveloped property at the National Butterfly Center, Steve and I (while fighting off a ridiculous number of inquisitive wasps) got a good look at the underside of a Southern Dogface.
These guys usually perch with their wings closed and you see the “dog face” when it’s backlit, so this one must’ve been in some distress or perhaps being preyed on by a ghost spider.
We’d see a dozen members of the Lycaenidae (Gossamer-wing) family, small butterflies usually with striking colorful patterns. Possibly my best picture of the trip was this one of a very fresh Silver-banded Hairstreak.
A couple of others include the Dusky-blue Groundstreak
and the Clytie Ministreak.
Back home in Albuquerque, we only rarely see any of a single species of the Riodinidae (Metalmarks) family, so it was a treat seeing numerous individuals of six different species on the trip. One, the Curve-winged Metalmark, was a lifer for most of us and spotted at a single location on Rio Rico Road on two different days.
Only found in south Texas are the spectacular Red-bordered Pixie and Blue Metalmark; the latter we’ve seen in large numbers on every visit to Resaca de la Palma State Park.
Another one that always grabs my attention is the Red-bordered Metalmark.
The Nymphalidae (Brushfoot) family includes lots of the large and colorful butterfly species we see flying around. Resaca de la Palma State Park is also one of the most reliable places for seeing the secretive Mexican Bluewing.
A dramatically colored and fairly common member of the brushfoot family in most of the southern U.S. is the Gulf Fritillary.
Much rarer but of a similar striking orange color is the Ruddy Daggerwing that was spotted hanging around the National Butterfly Center one afternoon.
Seen just about everywhere on the trip was the first of two Emperors, the Tawny Emperor.
More amazing, however, was another species with the Emperor common name despite being in a different genus, the Silver Emperor.
The Silver Emperor is a stray visitor from the tropics to south Texas and caught everybody’s attention while it nectared on a patch of Crucita (aka Blue Mistflower, Eupatorium odoratum) for more than three hours one day at the National Butterfly Center (We’d see another one at nearby Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.). Most of the time it perched with wings closed, but now and then would open its wings, and if you were in just the right spot and angle to the sun you’d catch that iridescent blue reflection.
Another fairly common brushfoot in the area was the White Peacock, one of which was so fresh it must have only recently emerged from its chrysalis.
About 40% of the 99 species we’d tally for the trip belonged to the Hesperiidae (Skipper) family. Generally small and not well-marked, a few of them are both larger and more colorful than most. Not all that colorful but certainly larger than most skippers was the Sickle-winged Skipper that we’d often see nearly everywhere.
Nicely patterned and again larger than most skippers was the White-patched Skipper.
One we’d see occasionally at a number of locations was the outrageously colorful Guava Skipper.
Another one that was fairly common and kicked up the color scale a notch was the Two-barred Flasher.
One day at Santa Ana NWR, I spotted a butterfly that looked similar but had a little different marking. Not realizing it was anything special, I took a few pictures before calling my friends to take a look. Turned out to be a Frosted Flasher, a rare stray to south Texas.
Fortunately for some of us, it hung around for about a half hour while the call went out to others who quickly headed to the area. One couple came running up the path after having driven at speed from quite a distance away and were thrilled to finally get that lifer butterfly that had eluded them for years. (They’d return the favor the next day tracking down the Double-dotted Skipper at Sabal Palm Sanctuary that would be a lifer for our group.) A few other folks showed up a little later and missed seeing it, and quite a few others showed up the next morning in hopes of seeing it.
Steve would nail another lifer for all of us later at Estero Llano Grande State Park that also had quite a few folks out hoping to spot it, the Falcate Skipper.
An excellent road trip; hope you enjoyed taking a look at the pictures. No doubt I’ll have another update to the blog soon since more pictures are starting to pile up around here.