It's been a cold damp December. Finally the sun came out today for a while and butterflies soon followed. I think I saw only 18 species. Most interesting was this brightly patterned Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak.
I started our yard list on Aug 30 and today picked up butterfly #76, a Sleepy Orange.
Every time the sun pops out, our local Monarch comes to visit.
I arrived at the National Butterfly Center at 9:30 this cool morning. Yesterday's cold front had blown out the cloudy humid weather and left us with beautiful sunshine. Mark and Holly were already there hoping for a repeat performance from yesterday's Tiger Mimic-Queen. Well, it took a while but Mark found in the ditch at about 11. I ran about 50 yards to where he had seen the butterfly only to get a glimpse of it sailing through the trees. We split up and headed north through the woods. After a bit I saw this huge orange and yellow butterfly bouncing rapidly toward me..........and passing about four feet away from my face. So I went running after it but lost it again. We eventually refound it nectaring on some Lantana. What a cool bug.
It took off again and we found it in the ditch and got our final shots before it left for good. There's only a handful of records for this species north of the Border. I don't know if any of those were photographed alive.
Earlier the Blomfild's Beauty put in an appearance. This is one far out butterfly.
Mark and Holly had put the Mexican Silverspot to bed last night. It was sleeping in late at the same spot this morning. And eventually it got up and did a few laps around the Lantana.
It's not everyday one gets to see four members of the Monarch subfamily, Danainae. But we had the Tiger Mimic-Queen, Monarch, Queen and Soldier.
It's been a few weeks since I had seen a Purple-washed Skipper so this one was a surprise after a mostly skipperless yesterday.
So it turned out to be a darn good day. As they say, "I'd rather be lucky than good."
After a lot of cold weather and few butterflies we finally got a couple of warm pre cold front days. So today I checked out the National Butterfly Center where best bugs were a couple of Mexican Silverspots. These are the first I have seen in several years.
This is the only underwing shot I could get.
This winter has seen more Mexican Yellows that the past few.
If Monarchs mate with Queens (so thought my wife Honey) then who mates with the Solders? Well, it's got to be the Painted Ladies!
Otherwise there was nothing too fantastic (at least while I was there). Here's a tattered Band-celled Sister.
Well, I thought there wasn't anything else. But about a half hour after I left Shane Patterson from Iowa found found a big tiger striped heliconian type butterfly. Turns out it was a Tiger Mimic-Queen. Guess I gotta get back out there tomorrow. So instead of a Tiger Mimic-Queen photo, here's a very red Southern Broken-dash I found in our yard the other day.
Our last last front really knocked down the number of butterflies in the RGV. They've been slowly rebounding with the recent warm weather but instead of seeing more than 70 species at the National Butterfly Center as I did a few weeks ago, today I got only 56. With another cold front due tonight I was hoping for some good stuff to blow up from the south. And though it was an interesting day there was nothing fantastic. Best butterfly was an Isabella's Heliconian that refused to stop for a photo. A Julia's Heliconian proved to be much more cooperative.
Here in the RGV I would rate the Zilpa Longtail as the fifth most commonly seen of the long tailed skippers so it's always a treat for me to see one.
The day started with Honey finding this sharp Great Purple Hairstreak in the garden behind the visitor's center.
There's been a few Malachites around for the past few weeks. Today there were at least four of them in the park.
This one refused to move as Honey moved in for the photo. The Topical Leafwing was a bonus.
It's been several weeks since I had seen a Varigated Fritillary.
Here's the Questionmark for the day.
I saw at least eight Giant Whites on this warm prefrontal day.
Here was the best looking of many Dusky-blue Groundstreaks seen today.
Yesterday I made a run over to Santa Ana NWR and was pleased to see the East-Mexican White-Skippers had survived the last cold spell. They have another cold week coming up.
Yesterday was one of those warm breezy days before an approaching cold front that often produces a flurry of exciting butterflies in the RGV. With the front expected to arrive in mid-afternoon I decided to hang around the National Butterfly Center to see what goodies would show up. Minutes after my arrival a call came in alerting us of an Isabella Heliconian at Bentsen. It's a bit beat up but I'll take it.
A few minutes later I drove the mile back to the NBC and I immediately got a call from Linda Cooper that they had just found a Yojoa Scrub-Hairstreak at Bentsen. So I raced back to photograph this first of the species for this fall in the RGV. We had quite a few last fall.
And it was back again to the NBC where with a little searching I managed to get lucky and find this beat up Falcate Skipper, my second this fall.
And a few minutes later I found this Lanata Scrub-Hairstreak, one of seven hairstreaks on the day.
After noon and not finding too much new for the day, I returned to Bentsen where one of their Malachites was putting on a show. One was also reported at the NBC.
A breif stop at the "wall" north of Bentsen to check out the blooming Duranta turned up three species of Whites, Great Southern, Giant and this Florida. I only discovered it as I was editing my photos.
With the front only minutes away, I drove back to the NBC and there was Dave Hanson poring over the Betony Mistflower where he had found both Common and Tropical Buckeyes.
I then went to check out the gardens behind the visitor's center when I received a call from Linda that she had just found a Guatemalan Cracker near the picnic table. I ran inside to tell Louie who was writing down good species for the day on the marker board. Then I stepped outside to approach my car when an icy, dusty wind caught me and blew off my hat. The front had arrive and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in just a few minutes. I was finished with 71 species for the day. With temps in the 40's for the next few days I guess it will be time to switch back to birding.
After a relatively dull day at the National Butterfly Center south of Mission, Honey and I decided to check the betony mistflower in front of the visitor's center one last time before leaving. After a bit she asked "What's this little brown hairstreak?" Well, after I got on it, I realized it was a Strophius Hairstreak, a pretty darn good bug for the Valley. Luckily we were able to get a few people up to see it.
Otherwise it was a bit of a weird day. Numerous Giant Whites and at least ten Purple-washed Skippers were really unusual. On the other hand, I was only able to dig out one Ocola Skipper. Here's a lovely Giant White, another species I can't resist.
And here's a striking Purple-washed Skipper that was along the "wall" just north of Bentsen.
We had two or three Malachites.
And a beautiful Questionmark.
A few brief views of a strange haistreak got me all aflustered (Is that a word?). But eventually it stayed put for a photo and proved to be just a sharp Clouded Skipper.
And lastly, here's a Hermes Skipper that could use a good shave.
Yesterday Linda Cooper found a Lacey's Scrub-Hairstreak at Resaca De Las Palmas State Park in Cameron County. With heavy cloud cover I wasn't going to chase after it today. But the sky brightened so I decided to make the trip over to look for what would be a lifer butterfly. There were lots of butterflies in the garden including a couple of dozen Blue Metalmarks on the Scorpiontails, but no Lacey's Scrub Hairstreak. So I walked the Ebony Trail seeing little but Mexican Bluewings, Band-celled Sisters and Boisduval's Yellows. When I returned to the flower garden, a nice lady from Maryland ashed me "What's this little hairstreak?" Well, it was the beautiful Lacey's Scrub-Hairstreak.
The Blue Metalmarks really responded to the rain this fall. They are being seen in several places in Cameron County. Don't know why we can't get them in Hidalgo County.
Here's another Giant White, my first for Cameron County.
I saw about a dozen Boisduval's Yellow, another Cameron County specialty.
I guess this is a Julia's Skipper. Sure is bright but I can't seem to turn it into anything else.
Here's a very tropical looking Zebra Heliconian.
I called Robin and Troy to get over and see the Lacey's Scub-Hairstreak and they were there in a few minutes. Later Troy led me down the Ebony Trail to where he had found a Pale-green Darner a week ago. I was amazed when he was able to find this rare, crepuscular, highly camouflaged dragonfly without any trouble. It was another first for me.
He found a Bar-sided Darner also, another south Texas woodland specialty.