Thursday, November 12, 2015

20th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival Field Trip Day 1

I was fortunate enough this year to be one of the drivers for the National Butterfly Festival, which meant I got to go on the field trips, and see, learn and photograph the butterflies that were seen.

We had trip leaders which were some of the most knowledgeable butterfly people around.
People come from all over the U,S and other countries for the festival for a chance to see a Rio Grande specialty butterfly. The Rio Grande Valley is home to roughly three hundred species of butterflies,

Our first day we went to Cielo Escondido (Hidden Heaven), a private home that has wonderful native plants that attracts some of the butterfly species we were searching for.  Our trip leaders were Mike Rickard, Ginny Musgrave & John Yochum.  Mr. Rickard is a local butterfly expert who has been "butterflying" in the LRGV for decades and has contributed several discoveries to the natural histories of various LRGV butterflies.   Mr Yochum is a Park Naturalist at Estero Llano Grande State Park, and is knowledgeable about all the local plants and wildlife, which was good for me because I kept getting distracted by the spiders we saw and kept asking him what they were. Thank goodness he is a patient man!

The property was very beautiful and we saw many, many species. One of my favorites was the Blue Metal Marks.

Some butterfly enthusiasts.

Of course while you are out you will see more than just butterflies, like this Texas Spiny Lizard shedding his skin.

We also saw this rare shrub, Snake Eyes, so called because of it's creamy, translucent, fleshy fruit holding a single black seed inside, which gives the impression of a snake eye.

Another rare plant for Texas was David's Milk Berry

Our next stop was Hugh Ramsey Park, where Mike Rickard spotted a Shadowed Hairstreak, a first U.S. record!  Most people commented that they would have walked right by it, thinking it was a common Gray Hairstreak, but not Mike! He immediately noticed something different about this butterfly.

There was a lot of excitement being with the group that saw and photographed this butterfly.