Saturday, November 23, 2013

Before the storm at NBC and Bentsen, 11/22/13

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.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Strophius Hairstreak at NBC, 11/21/13

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.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lacey's Scrub-Hairstreak at Resaca de las Palmas, 11/18/13

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. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Marius Hairstreak at NBC, 11/12/13

Honey and I made a quick run over to the National Butterfly Center this afternoon where we discovered the approaching cold front was already on its way.  Despite the cool blustery weather we saw six species of hairstreaks.  Mark and Holly Salvato from Florida found this Marius Hairstreak.

The greenstreak present for the past couple of days was not found in the blooming chomonque.  It was filled with Clytie Ministreaks and Dusky-blue Groundstreaks.

And yet another Purple-washed Skipper.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Zebra-striped Hairstreak NBC 11/7/13

Yesterday a Zebra-striped Hairstreak Panthiades bathildis (also know as Zebra Cross-streak) was found at a residence north of Bentsen State Park.  A little later a second was found at the National Butterfly Center.  Unfortunately I was doing stuff for the Rio Grande Bird Festival and was unable to join the group who enjoyed these second and third records for the country.  The first record for this tropical species was found and photographed last fall at the NBC but only seen by the finder.

Then a strong cold front with much rain blew in last night and I thought my chances of seeing one of these guys was about nil. But Honey and I ran out to the NBC after the day brightened a bit and, sure enough, the butterfly was refound by Susan Morris (who volunteers with her husband Steve at Estero) and I got some pretty good pics.  Like many tropical hairstreaks the upper surface of the wings is an amazing bright azure.

I saw one of these in the Canal Zone of Panama last March.  Never thought another would be seen in the RGV.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rio Grande City Ranches, 11/3/13

Today I co-led a field trip for the National Butterfly Center's Butterfly Festival to  couple of ranches in the Rio Grande City area in Starr County.  Our final tally for the day was 74 species including some great stuff.  I was shocked to find my second East-Mexican White-Skipper in the past three days.  I wonder if this is a first Starr County record.

Everyone enjoyed this immaculate Florida White.

And his larger cousin, the Giant White was also popular.

The most popular butterfly was far from the rarest.  We had at least 8 Great Purple Hairstreaks that wowed our group.

A worn Coyote Cloudywing had me a bit confused till a flawless one came along and tried to mate with it.

Saw my third Purple-washed Skipper of the past week.

A common butterfly up north, the Hackberry Emperor is hard to find in the Valley.  I was surprised to find this one with few hackberries around.

The nature of the coloration of Texas Powdered-Skipper always makes it look a bit out of focus.

And Z is for Zilpa Longtail.

And I finally found what I think is a good Desert Checkered Skipper.  Wish I could have gotten a better underwing shot.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Santa Ana NWR, 11-1-13

The response to my Sachem vs. Fiery Skipper question in my last post was unanimous.  They are Fiery Skippers.  Color, shape and black spots pretty much rule out Sachem.

Lately Mike Rickard has been telling me about the good crucita bloom over at Santa Ana NWR.  So I finally made it over there and though I missed much of the bloom there was still a lot going on.  They were loaded with butterflies but not a lot interesting.  In fact the best one was not on crucita.  I found another East-Mexican White-Skipper in the exact place where I had one six weeks ago.  They're still loyal to the little patch of crotons along the tour road.

It was hard to walk on the trails without stepping on a Mimosa Skipper.

Is this the world's most colorful Pale-banded Crescent?

How about some long-tailed skippers?  This is a Long-tailed Skipper (but the following aren't despite their long tails, which really aren't tails at all)

I can't resist White-striped Longtails.

And a colorful Dorantes Longtail.

This has been a great fall for Potrillo Skippers.  This my first at Santa Ana.

The last few days I've seen more Soldiers than usual.

Upon arriving home I found my first yard Julia Skipper.