Greetings everyone! Good news, we survived the storm that passed through Galveston Island last we chatted. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to be in a trailer with a Tornado barreling down on you. We only reached 60mph gusts and that still put a rockin’ on our small RV. As promised, headed out to the beach to see what interesting things were brought ashore as soon as Mother Nature gave me the chance. Combed the beach and found some really nice (intact) shells, first giving them a nudge to make sure I wasn’t disturbing the sea version of a mobile home – beyond the blue jellyfish washed up everywhere (already gonners), no creatures were harmed.
The plan was to publish the latest from Brad’s queue while we started our trip back to the tundra. Checked the WordPress drafts and shock, it wasn’t there. Craptastic! Hoping it isn’t in the bit-bucket – will check on that when we stop for the night (worst case I have the original copy and can just paste it back into blocks). In the meantime, a perfect time to get a post out I promised B. (from across the pond) several months back. Now for the disclaimer – if you want to see incredible Butter pictures, go to his site (link here). My long-rig is not designed for these delicate looking creatures and my species knowledge would barely fill a thimble.
When the birds are slim in the field, I start looking for other targets to keep me entertained – no Dragons, no furries, might as well give the arms a workout and target these rather spastic flappers. Hit the jump If you want to see some of my better clicks – again, Linda won’t let me take her macro in the field without some ridiculous amount of honey-do commitments, so soft shots it is ha!
If you are still with me, you’ve accepted the sub-par conditions for the following images. There is one more caveat I should have mentioned ahead of the jump – I generally have little idea what species these colorful creatures happen to be. Ron did buy me a nice book to help me identify a majority of those in central/east US. Grabbed the shorebird guide and then forgot to pack that reference, thus flying completely blind here. Case in point, no idea what that first Butter is (forced to guess or be hanged/drawn/quartered … would go with the WAG White Peacock).
Might help if I tell you where these were found. All finds come from South Texas, To be more specific, primarily at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen and a few at Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas back in January 2022. I can confirm these same species can still be found there as of two weeks ago.
Two of these I’m willing go out on a limb on – corrections are always encouraged – hell, I’ll even accept disparaging remarks at this point as long as they include some hints as to what they might be. The orange and black one above was mistakenly mis-identified as a Monarch when I first spotted them. Primarily orange, black lining with some white highlights similar to ones we have back home. Ehhh, wrong, thanks for playing.
Two older ladies at Quinta with Butter adorned clothing from hat to shoes corrected me on the spot and called them Queens – even whacked me across the knees with their trifold cane bringing back horrific memories of growing up with nuns that could fend off a horde of ninjas with just a wooden ruler (pretty sure they spent their nights running a sharpening stone across that little metal insert).
Mental note, stand at least 4 feet away when asking for help from elderly lepidopterists. A quick peak at the Internet says they are common in both North and South America
Of note, birds do not consider them very tasty which likely answers the riddle of why there were sooooo many of these pumpkins hanging out at Quinta. There is an abundance of Flycatchers patrolling those grounds. Average lifespan of an insect that dares to leave the safety of ground cover is about 2.1 seconds.
Next up is the only other Butter I happen to know off the top of my head in this series. It also happens to be my second favorite Butterfly, only losing out to the Mexican Bluewing (link here).
This guaranteed staple at Quinta Mazatlan is the Zebra Heliconian or Zebra Longwing as us non-specialists refer to them as. Kind of hard to miss as they a) look like a Zebra without a tail and b) have long wings.
This beauty is abundant in Central and South America with populations pushing up into Southern Texas with a residency in the peninsula Florida. Wikipedia also indicated they are known to migrate further north during the summer months. Oddly enough not the only Zebra thing we have found on our trips to Texas (link here).
Included this side shot as this was the first time I’ve noticed they have a few spots of red on the underside near their abdomen. Oh, and the leaf looked similar to a giant Butterfly wing.
Next up is a burst of color.
I’ve seen this particular Butterfly in a number of Texas birding locations. They also happen to be less spastic than the other species I’ve encountered. Translated, at least a fighting chance to get something decent in the tin. They also happen to be quite pretty for the double bonus.
Thought those two vertical bars on the front part of each wing and the eyeball spots would be good keys to get an ID. Brought up a South Texas Butterfly list to give it a go. To my surprise a very similar reference shot was found 4 options down – the Common Buckeye. Note, for some reason “Common” is the word of the week if you’ve been keeping up with the latest posts.
According to the reference site, these colorfully decorated Butterflies are resident in the southern states and into Mexico, but will push north during the year. Some even make it all the way to Canada. Later in the year they head back south with a large population wintering in Florida. For the curious, added a weak shot of their underwings which are dramatically boring compared to how ornate their top side is. It’s possible that is a common trait for these proportionally large winged insects.
Decided to press my ID luck with this last specimen in this series. Granted, I did not have a lot to go on beyond..well, “white”. Threw in some additional markers..”south”, “Texas” and Leonabelle (where this one was spotted).
To my surprise the first option on the query was a Great Southern White. Even referenced the National Butterfly Center in Hidalgo County, TX. Ron and I visited that location for the first time a few weeks ago in the hunt for a rarity (that outcome for another post). To my untrained eye it looks pretty close to the reference shots. My specimen looks a little roughed up – maybe hitting it a little too hard a the local “nectbar”.
Well, that is all I have for today. Hope you enjoyed this quick diversion. Insects do not get a lot of attention here and there is one primary reason for that – Linda! She has even trained the Poodles to make sure I stay at least 10 feet from her macro glass for an added layer of security.
Now I need to go figure out what happened to Brad’s post. Take care and can someone back in Illinois please turn up the heat before we get there!