But that wasn’t the end of great surprises that Santa Ana had in store for us. Shortly after the Flasher took a powder, the word began spreading about an Evan’s Skipper that had been seen back toward the visitor on the trail. We followed and soon were on this purplish skipper that looks like an Ocola on steroids. We would find three all told, eventually, but that first one really blows you away.Purple seems to be the “in” color for skippers this seasons, and this Purple-washed Skipper was among many we saw on the refuge:
We kept scouring the Crucita and other nectar sources until hunger forced us out of the refuge, picking up along the way Julia Longwing, While-striped Longtail, Great Purple Hairstreak, and Potrillo Skipper prominent among them.
After lunch we reconvened at the National Butterfly Center, where Malachite and Silver Emperor had been reported but with only sketchy details. Soon after we arrived, reports came in by text of a Silver Emperor in nearby Bentsen State Park; Jim and Tom Feild opted to go chase it while Tom Stock and I decided to stay put at the Center’s gardens and see if we could relocate the one there. Moments after they departed we got a text that they were looking at the Silver Emperor at Bentsen, which was showing quite cooperatively. Tom and I almost dropped everything and ran, but decided to finish out the trail we were on first — we were just a few hundreds yards from the terminus. Glad we did! On one of the last bait logs on the trail Tom spotted the gaily striped Silver Emperor (a female; the Bentsen one was male) and word quickly spread on the grounds and folks started drifting over to see it.We chided our Bentsen-bound colleagues, now on their way back to the National Butterfly Center, for being so quick to give chase while we got our Emperor with relative ease. We walked through the grounds a bit more as the day wore on, and were about to call it quits when the cry “Malachite!” rang out from the so-called “Olive Circle” part of the gardens. Sure enough, end of the day, a somewhat tatteted Malachite had taken up residence on a different bait log, contending with Red Admirals and Tawny Emperors and a hodgepodge of other insects. The size of this bright, acid-green butterfly impressed many of us, who had been thinking it was sized more like an Admiral or large sulphur, but no, this one was swallowtail-sized. By this time, we were completely and utterly exhausted — the temperature had been in the high 80’s all day, in brilliant sunshine, and the humidity was reaching sauna levels. So we decided to take a page from the playbook of one of the screech owls at the Center and call it a day. But not before one more stop: watching the flocks of Red-crowned Parrots return to their roosts in a neighborhood in Weslaco, about 30 minutes away. Once we checked that box, we finally stopped for dinner at the primo locale in the LRGV for tamales, Delia’s.
Tomorrow I plan on sleeping in a bit before checking on what is now promised to be rainy weather. If so, it’s a birding day!