I had originally planned on doing a Cameron County Big Day this day, but then got to thinking that it might be a little late in the month to catch migrants, so decided at the last minute to do a Bug Day, seeing as October and November are prime months for odes and butterflies! So shooting to get to Bentsen Rio Grande SP by 8:00, I took off around 7:30, and after checking in starting perusing the gardens and the canals for odes, seeing as it was still a little too early for butterflies (they need the sun to be shining to get the nectar flowing from the flowers). It was actually more birdy to start, with Chachalacas running hither, thither, and yon, Green Jays yakking from the trees, and an Altamira Oriole whistling happily from across the canal. The canal is where I ended up spending most of my time, as that can be a great place to find odes, and indeed picked up a few things: a pair of Common Green Darners in tandem and ovipositing in the water, a pair of Black Setwings doing the same (only they weren’t in tandem: the female was ovipositing by dipping her tail repeatedly in the water, while her hubby hovered over her), and Black Saddlebags patrolling the area.
Early morning Laviana White Skipper in Bentsen's garden
Common Green Darner
Canal along the levee
By the time I was done with that the sun was shining on the flowers, so I did a repeat run, mainly in the gardens in the entrance walkway: a female Black Setwing posed nicely but posed some ID issues until I got some help from the Ode Man himself, Dennis Paulson! A Straw-colored Sylph finally perched and allowed a mediocre photograph, and some of the butterflies that allowed their pictures to be taken included Whirlabout, Snout, Soldier, White-patched Skipper, Phaon Crescent, and White Peacock. A Red-bordered Metalmark was not cooperative at all, however… L
Female Black Setwing
Whirlabout male (two dorsal views and a ventral view)
Next stop was the National Butterfly Center, which is easy to spend all day at (and indeed I planned on spending the rest of the day there, but my body wouldn’t let me L)! Even before you set foot in the Visitor’s Center there are butterfly bushes out front which are usually covered in Queens, but this day I was able to find a couple of Monarchs in with them! The little grass skippers were also all over, with more Whirlabouts, plus Southern Skipperling, and Fiery and Celia’s Roadside Skippers. In the ode department, was pleased to shoot a nappy Checkered Setwing, and a subdued Eastern Amberwing.
Queen (compare to the Soldier posted above)
Yet another White-patched Skipper
Celia's Roadside Skipper
After checking in I headed to the Sunken Gardens, a rather new area where many rarities have shown up but consists mostly of good butterfly-friendly bushes in a more open area. They also have a new bird blind overlooking a creek-like water feature, and since it didn’t look like they had food out for the birds, I went ahead and checked the “creek” for odes; about the only thing I could kick up was a female damsel of some kind that even the experts took the Fifth on (many species are plain brown, and that’s all there is…)! On the other hand, the bushes were full of butters, the most interesting ones to me being an Olive-clouded Skipper and several Giant Whites, both South Texas specialties! From big to little I enjoyed Giant and Pipevine Swallowtails, more Queens, Gulf and Mexican Fritillaries, a Painted Lady, Great Southern White (that I thought was a Florida White at first until the pictures revealed the tell-tail black in the wingtip veins), Southern Dogface, Large Orange, Cloudless, and Lyside Sulphurs, Dorantes and Brown Longtails, Long-tailed, White Checkered, and Eufala Skippers, and a female Sachem. A couple of colorful moths showed up: the tube-like Ailantha Webworm Moth, and the un-mothlike Texas Wasp Moth! In the ode department added a Slough Amberwing (the other expected amberwing in South Texas), and a very green Thornbush Dasher! Interestingly ran into another one of those “Yellow-sided Wood-borer Beetles”, and a Short-winged Katydid tried to blend in with the bush!
Texas Wasp Moth
White Checkered Skipper
Mystery female pond damsel that even the experts wouldn't touch...
Short-winged Katydid (it's hard to see, but the antennae go clear off to the left!)
This rare in-flight shot shows the dorsal pattern
From this angle, this Great Southern White looks entirely white, so I mistook it for a Florida White at first...
...but this shot shows how the black of the forewing tips bleeds in along the veins (also, the blue antenna clubs are diagnostic)
Ailantha Webworm Moth
A Glaucous Cracker had been reported along the Hackberry Trail, so I took that to the “old gardens”, but only found Tawny Emperors that were coming in to the bait logs. The old gardens are more wooded with a bird-feeding station, and although the feeding had died down, the Chachalacas were running all over the place here as well, along with more Green Jays and even a Cardinal that came in to see what was going on! Checked the screech owl box for the owl, but saw that it had been overrun by a thick cluster of Africanized bees! The best find here, however, was a Mexican Scarlettail, a dragonfly that has so recently settled into the Valley that it’s not even in the books yet (except as an addendum)! Butters here were pretty much the same as up at the Sunken Gardens except for a brief showing of both Julia and Zebra Heliconians, and the signature Mexican Bluewing that finally showed! A female Red-tailed Pennant posed (I thought she may have been a female scarlettail, but again Dennis came to the rescue J)! Alas, couldn’t kick up the reported Mercurial Skipper, either, another mega-rarity.
Two views of a Mexican Scarlettail, a recent arrival to the Valley!
Beat-up Tawny Emperor
Female Red-tailed Pennant doing "The Obelisk" (it's their way of "panting"...)
Screech Owl box taken over by bees
Headed back to the VC for snacks and a drink (and to cool off), but couldn’t help taking another run through the Sunken Gardens on the way, this time picking up a very fresh Purple-washed Skipper (where you could actually see the purple sheen) and a tiny Lantana Scrub Hairstreak trying to hide! Drove back down to the old gardens and poked around some more, but the only new thing I could kick up was actually an Indomitable Melipotes moth in the conservatory! I had honestly planned on spending the whole day there, but at 2:30 it was already 92 degrees and my feet and back had had it, so decided to reluctantly throw in the towel.
Below are two separate lists for the bugs:
Lantana Scrub Hairstreak
Below are two separate lists for the bugs:
Pipevine SwallowtailGiant Swallowtail
Great Southern White
Large Orange Sulphur
Mallow Scrub Hairstreak
Lantana Scrub Haistreak
Fatal (probably) Metalmark
Mournful (probably) Duskywing
White Checkered Skipper
Tropical Checkered Skipper
Laviana White Skipper
Southern Broken Dash
Celia’s Roadside Skipper
Pond Damsel sp.Common Green Darner
13 SPECIES (would probably been more had I had a real ode-hunter with me J)