Southern Beauties

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En route, S. Texas—N. Florida

It took me three weeks to drive from home to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. On the way, I prowled Nevada ridges, Arizona canyons, and New Mexico borderlands. I moved a dozen black-tailed rattlesnakes off a lonely road one night, the Border Patrol investigating me almost every time; and I watched a roadrunner pecking big grasshoppers off the grills of autos at the Basin in Big Bend. Butterflies increased all along the way. At last I reached the storied Valley — the almost-ruined Texan tropics, where reserves and butterfly gardens abound among the sprawl.

For several days now, I have reveled and sweated my way from one butterfly hot-spot to another. Yesterday, in the western valley, master-birder/butterflier Benton Basham (who first broke 700 species on a birding Big Year) guided me to flowery spot after spot. We saw 79 species, almost 1/10 of the American fauna, 8 of which were new for my own Big Year. All day, we swam through high heat, humidity, chiggers, sand burrs, and 10’s of thousands of butterflies. I wish every one could have seen those two massive Malachites together on purple mistflower, and the five species of impressive long-tailed skippers. I’ll be back to the valley for two more periods. Meanwhile, here is a collage of a few of the prominent species. RMP.

These species are, in order:
White Peacock
Snout (the most abundant of all — millions)!

This butterfly is certainly not here — it is South American. But another indigo & black beauty, the Mexican Bluewing, abounds!

I found this card floating on the surface of a stream near Big Bend Nat’l Park. Quite

appropriate, as it turns out, since it was at Sotol viewpoint between Panther Junction and Cottonwood Camp on the Rio Grande where I found both the Chinati and Fulvia Checkerspots — two uncommon beauties. Chinati is a specialty of the Chisos Mtns.

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  1. Bob, You are a major inspiration to me. I just discovered you and your writings, at 65, begining retirement.
    I am an artist (was art teacher) and amature naturalist.
    I wonder if you can help me. I just spent Sept 10 to Oct. 8 in the canyonlands of Utah, where I reveled in the butterflies I saw. (I used to collect when I was a kid, now I just love looking at them).
    One was so small. I had never seen a butterfly so small. Maybe 1/2 of an inch wingspan, bluish but also a bit coppery, Flew so fast and zig-zagy that it was dizzying to watch. It landed on a prickly bush at a roadside in Escalante, Utah. Also saw it in Headquaraters Canyon in the Waterpocket Fold. I want to call it a Canyon Copper, or maybe a Canyon Blue.
    No tails that I could see.
    Have you seen this miracle of flight yourself?

    I also enjoyed a Morning Cloak in Lick Wash so much that I wrote a poem about her.

    If you can send me your mailing address I could send you the poem, also I want to send you a copy of my book “Earth, Moon, Sun” of Earth Art images I make from mud, earth and watercolor, and companion poems.

    I am half way through “Wintergreen.” Your love of, and defense of, ecosystems is so important and vital, and written with such grace, power, and panache. Thank you!!

    I have a small butterfly garden here in NJ. Lots ot Tigers, Spicebushes, Monarchs, and silverspotted skippers.
    Once in a while the rare Frittilary comes through, a small one, not the Great spangled I used to see when I was a kid in NY State.
    A Black Swallowtail is a rarity, but I am trying to grow more fennel for their larvae. Or is it dill they like also?

    If you are ever in NJ again you are welcome to come by. We are near Philadelphia, and could put you up.

    Taylor Farm nearby has some interesting finds . I remember seeing a richly black, small butterfly early in spring, too dark for a dusky wing I think, and not a red admiral. What could that be? And a White with orange spots, small butterfly, never seen before in these parts. In April, and then gone.

    Many thanks, and more later.

    Peter Kinney
    6531 Maple Ave.
    Pennsauken, NJ 08109

  2. How wonderful it is to go from being a writer, to becoming a traveller, and travelling around to discover new species of butterflies. Not many people have a chance to do this, and that is probably why we are so envious of him.

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