Monday 31 October 2022
Cloudy. Today was arrival day, and we had pick-ups from the airport spread throughout the day.
Tuesday 1 November 2022
The first full day of the tour and it was cloudy. Not a good day for butterflies, so we went to the coast for birding. Our first stop of the day was South Padre Island World Birding Center. Surprisingly, despite the cloudy conditions, there was some butterfly activity in the flowers around the parking lot. We quickly spotted a Red-crescent Scrub Hairstreak, Long-tailed Skipper, and Great Southern White. We then walked the boardwalk and were entertained by a large group of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. Ample opportunities to photograph Tri-colored Herons, Common Gallinules, and Alligators. At the end of the boardwalk, we noticed some butterfly activity in the grass below as we walked back to the parking lot. Of course, we had to investigate. We found all three possible Buckeye Species in the grass – Common, Mangrove, and Twintip. We also found several more Red-crescent Scrub Hairstreaks.
Lunch on the deck of the birding center, where we spotted our first Reddish Egret of the day. After lunch, we drove to the beach next to the Convention Center to check out the shorebirds huddled on the sand. Of course, it started to rain as we prepared to get out of the van for a closer look at the birds, but most of the group decided to brave the weather. Several species were on the shore, including Piping Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Black Skimmer, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, and Franklin’s Gull.
Heading back east, we stopped at the newly opened South Texas Ecotourism Center. We didn’t add any new butterflies, but this was a nice stop. We managed to locate several very distant Nilgai, which most of the group saw.
One final stop of the day at Estero Llano Grande State Park. We arrived at 4:30 to a raucous group of Black-bel-lied Whistling Ducks. Flyovers of Cooper’s Hawk and Peregrine Falcon were fun to witness, and some of the group had views of Wilson’s Snipes tucked away in the grass.
Wednesday 2 November 2022
Cool and cloudy to start the day as we arrived at Edinburg Scenic Wetlands. Very little activity when we arrived, so we searched hard for roosting butterflies. We turned up our first Zebra Heliconian of the trip, but a few only saw it. The cool and cloudy weather provided great photo opportunities for Gulf Fritillaries, Queens, Monarchs, and Red-bordered Met-almarks. As it warmed up, the group was treated to great views of Clytie Ministreak. Before leaving, we headed across the street to check the mistflowers and found quite a bit of activity. Several of the group spent time chasing a nectaring Titan Sphinx Moth in hopes of photographing this fantastic creature, and a couple managed some decent shots.
We decided to leave Edinburg Scenic Wetlands to have our lunch at the palapa at National Butterfly Center. As we were prepping for lunch, the group was distracted by our first sightings of Tropical Leaf-wing. After lunch, we walked to the front gardens, stopping to photograph a Hermit Skipper that was found along the Hackberry Trail and then finding the White Scrub Hairstreak in the sunken garden on Skeleton Daisies. We heard a report of a Pur-ple-washed Skipper in the front garden, so we went to investigate. After a quick search, the skipper reappeared and was seen by most. While we were still out front, we heard the call of “Green Hairstreak,” and we were soon looking at a Clench’s Greenstreak. This was the butterfly of the day! After the excitement of the Greenstreak died, we headed to the back garden, where we located two Curved-winged Met-almarks. Some of the group watched birds where they saw Altamira Orioles, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Green Jays, and a Buff-bellied Hummingbird. The last butterfly of the day was a Viceroy on a bait log; this is an unusual sighting for the valley and was a write-in on the checklist.
Thursday 3 November 2022
We headed west to Falcon State Park, arrived at 9:30, and quickly found the Townsend’s Solitaire perched at the top of a small tree. It was still cloudy on arrival, and the garden was pretty slow. We searched the garden until lunchtime with little activity. We added another Hermit Skipper (relatively rare) just before we stopped. We ate lunch near the garden and then took one last walk through, finally turning up a single Coyote Cloudywing before leaving.
After Falcon State Park, we made a stop at Roma Bluffs. The walled garden at the World Birding Center produced a Potrillo Skipper and an Olive-clouded Skipper, both uncommon sightings. After we finished up in the garden, we walked to the bluffs to look at the Rio Grande River, and a peek into Mexico.
A quick stop at the hotel and then dinner at the Mercado District. This is a new spot for us that everyone enjoyed. We finished dinner and headed over to the interstate overpass at Conway Road. We were all entertained by two Peregrine Falcons flying in to perch on a nearby sign, waiting for the bats to emerge from their roosts. Around 7:15, the bats started to appear, the wind was strong, and the bat numbers seemed down, but the group enjoyed the spectacle. After we finished with the bats, we headed to Oleander Acres for some mothing. We quickly had two Black Witches that dazzled the group. Moth numbers weren’t great, but we documented several species, plus the Mantis Flies, Beetles, and Spiders. Most of our group saw two Tropical Leaf-wing caterpillars on some Croton. Several of us got fantastic shots of the giant Owl Moth before it was released.
Friday 4 November 2022
A very windy day. Hugh Ramsey Nature Park to start the day, right out of the parking lot, we spotted a small group of Javelinas. It was still a bit cool, so we took our time along the trail spotting dragonflies and damselflies, Carmine Skimmer, Rose-ate Skimmer, Thornbush Dasher, and Spot-tailed Dasher. We spent some time trying to photograph a Buff-bellied hummingbird and found several Red-bordered Metalmarks. As we were nearing the parking lot on our way out, we spotted a Mexican Bluewing, which posed for photos, a secretive Ovenbird, and a Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake.
After we left Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, on our way to Resaca de la Palma State Park, we received a phone call with permission to access Loma Alta Trap and Skeet. We decided to alter our plans as Loma Alta had produced a Xami Hairstreak, Pale-rayed Skippers, and Definite Patches earlier in the week. After pulling into the property, we had our picnic lunch at their shelter, trying to keep out of the wind. With lunch behind us, we searched several places, adding Mexican Fritillary and Definite Patch to the list. However, we did miss the Xami Hairstreak and Pale-rayed Skippers.
Next, we returned to our original plans and made our way to Resaca de la Palma State Park, hoping to find our Blue Metalmark. The Crucita in the garden was nearly spent, and there wasn’t too much flying about. We didn’t have luck on the Blue Metalmark, so we decided to check out Ebony Trail. While we were walking Ebony Trail, we found our first Dusky-blue Groundstreak, and Chris found an incredible Longhorn Beetle, Stenaspis verticalis. Sue dubbed it “Christmas Longhorn Beetle.” As we were getting ready to turn around, Michael spotted a fresh Guava Skipper. Everyone was able to get excellent shots of this accommodating Skipper. A second Guava soon showed up, and we took photos until our heart’s content; however, we missed the rest of our targets, Band-celled Sister, Boisduval’s Yellow, and Mazan Scallopwing. One final stroll around the garden turned up a Nine-banded Armadillo.
After striking out on the Blue Metalmark at Resaca de la Palma State Park, we quickly drove to Coastal Fisheries. Most of the Crucita was also spent here, and disappointment was starting to set in over the lack of Blue Metalmarks when a Walker’s Metalmark was found. This was a lifer for the entire group and allowed everyone to get photos.
Saturday 5 November 2022
Later start this morning because we were staying local. 9:00 am meet up in the lobby. It was still cloudy when we hit the road, so we made a detour to the Alamo Inn, where I was told we could find Polydamas Swallowtail. No luck, in fact, no butterflies. We then proceeded with our original plan and on to Oleander Acres.
After checking in at the office, we headed on to the garden. A bit slow on arrival, but we quickly found our first Guava Skipper of the day. Seth, the owner of Oleander Acres, found us a Blue Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus cyanogenys) followed by a male Texas Tan Tarantula (Aphonopelma anax). Butterfly activity increased as it warmed up and the sun peeked out. We found Mimosa Yellow, Giant White, and five species of tailed skippers – White-striped Longtail, Zilpa Longtail, Brown Longtail, Dorantes Longtail, and Long-tailed Skipper. Several of the group could photograph a Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar that Seth brought over from the nursery. A non-butterfly Lepidoptera sighting of note was the rare day-flying Geometrid moth, Heterusia atalantata. We had our picnic lunch near the garden and then spent another hour after lunch searching the garden before heading over to NBC, hoping to find our Red-bordered Pixie. We were not able to find one.
Upon arrival at NBC, we were told of several rarities that had recently been seen in the back of the property. We decided to hike back to see what we could find when a Statira Sulphur was reported near the sunken garden in the front, so we spun around! The Statira was active at the flowers, and several of the group managed to get photos. We then resumed our trek to the back gardens to seek out other rarities, finding our first South Texas Satyr along the way and a beautiful male Audubon’s Oriole. Not long after we reached the back gardens, Alison called out an unfamiliar butterfly we quickly identified as a female Silver Emperor. Then, a Gray Cracker was flushed off a bait log and posed obligingly for photos, and on our way out, a White-angled Sulfur impersonated a leaf to significant effect. While looking at the White-angled Sulphur, we were tipped off to an Eastern Screech Owl roost location and got excellent looks.
Sunday 6 November 2022
Departure day. We packed the van for one last quick trip to the National Butterfly Center before making our way to the airport. The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for butterflies. Our first stop was to check to see if the Statira was still around, no luck, and then off to check the White-angled Sulphur. The White-angled Sulphur was relocated on the same leaf from the day before and then off to check on the Screech Owl. Next, we walked to the back gardens, turning up our only Hackberry Emperor of the trip and a couple more South Texas Satyrs. We examined the Coma Tree (Sideroxylon celastrinum) for hairstreaks. After a few minutes of searching, we located the trip’s first and only Silver-banded Hairstreak. This butterfly was unusually uncooperative, and only a few in the group were able to see it. Near the bird feeding station, the Silver-banded Emperor was relocated, and the Gray Cracker made another appearance. At 10:30, we wrapped it up and made our way to the airport.