So, if you live in the East, your best prospect for any of the metalmarks — best known as a tropical butterfly in an array of dazzling species — is Northern Metalmark in its short flight in the middle of summer where you find its relatively uncommon and local host plant, Round-leaved Ragwort. You can also head south to Florida for Little Metalmark, and west for Swamp Metalmark, but you’re putting hundreds if not thousands of miles on your car.
Imagine, then, my delight at finding FIVE different metalmarks in the span of one afternoon in the company of Mike and Ginny Rickard at Resaca de la Palma State Park just west of Brownsville.
Fatal Metalmark showed up right away in the gardens around the visitor center; nice, but I’d seen it already on its host plant (a clematis) back at the National Butterfly Center in Mission. Six days in Texas and I was already jaded about this little beauty. But Mike and colleagues pointed me to a dry resaca, or oxbow lake, with a fringe of blooming knotweeds that they said held a number of other metalmark species. The very first clump of these flowers sported a metalmark they had not promised me: Red-bordered, with its intense red-orange underside. And rapidly followed by Walker’s Metalmark and then, sparking like bits of bluish tin foil in the flowers, Blue Metalmarks. It was hard to drag me away even as the afternoon wore on!
But the park does close, and they lock the gate, and besides I had not seen the Zebra Heliconian everyone else had when I hived off on my own to find the metalmarks (sadly, it did not reappear for me). So Mike came back to round me up and head back to the visitor center, and we made one more round of the plants in the garden area for yet another metalmark! This one gave us a challenge, but we finally resolved the ID as Rounded Metalmark. FIVE metalmark species in one day.
Resaca de la Palma also gave me the last of my lifers for the trip: Pale-banded and Vesta Crescents, Band-celled Sister, Southern Skipperling, Julia, the park specialty Boisduval’s Yellow, the skipper Common Mellana, and Mimosa Skipper. It also gave me the opportunity to compare Tropical Checkered-skipper with Common Checkered-skipper flying side by side, and brought my trip butterfly life list total to well over sixty new species.
This being my last day, I bid farewell to Mike and Ginny and motored a half hour eastward to South Padre Island to experience day’s end at the beach, watching Reddish Egrets sun-shading and catching small fish in the shadow.
An epic end to an epic trip.