Field Notes: Rio Grande Valley Day 4

Laviana White-skipper

Laviana White-skipper

My third day in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV), Aug. 16, started out with mostly birding at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.  The sun was up and hot very early; there was very little butterfly activity in the parking lot or around the building (not much in bloom in the butterfly garden, and the bait log had not been replenished recently).  Highlights were a couple of Black Witch moths flushed from the bird blind along the Willow Lakes loop.  Unfortunately, both Willow and Pintail lakes were bone dry, and Refuge staff neglected to mention that the loop might not be very productive for birds because of all the earth-moving equipment busy gouging out dry lake beds, but at least the Witches can’t hear very well.  The only one I managed a picture of is more tatter than wing, but there were two very dark, fresh individuals I kept flushing out of the hide.  While I kept my eye out for the Refuge specialty, Malachite, I was disappointed.  The best butterfly was the small swarm of Laviana White-skippers on territory among Turk’s Cap along the trail – but not a single Turk’s-cap White-skipper among them!

One very tattered Black Witch at Santa Ana NWR

One very tattered Black Witch at Santa Ana NWR — hard to tell from the pic, but even worn the wingspan is more than 4 inches wide.

Mike and Ginny Rickard saved the day again with an afternoon walk at Estero Llano Grande State Park, where most of the hot sightings were in and around the parking area.  Mexican Ebony was in bloom, and one tree in particular seemed to be a beacon for every interesting butterfly in the area.  One large white pierid turned out to be a pristine Florida White, and both Angled-sulphurs and an Orange-barred Sulphur worked the tree along with a couple of Southern Broken-dashes.  A surprisingly Mazan’s Scallopwing was nectaring well up into the tree, a species one normally associates with keeping low to the ground and flitting through low vegetation.  More Mexican Bluewings kept to the shade along a couple of the other trails we checked out.

As we wrapped up the walk, I asked the Rickards where I should spend my time on Day 4:  east to Brownsville, for Sabal Palm and coastal specialists, or off to the thorn scrublands west of McAllen/Mission over toward Falcon State Park.  Hands down:  Go west, young man!  More on that in the next post.

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