It is 1,264 miles from my home in Woodward, Iowa to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Google Maps says you can drive it in 18 hours and 7 minutes. I just got back yesterday. You probably need to add a couple of hours of driving time–mostly for Dallas. Add times for breaks, also. I split it into two and a half days down and two days back.
The Texas Butterfly Festival has been going on for 25 years, with an interruption last year because of the pandemic. I was fortunate enough to attend it a few years back and always wanted to go back, so this year I did.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley is a hot spot for both birds and butterflies, so events and natural areas can cater to a large number of eco-tourists coming to enjoy the wildlife.
There are lots of ways to enjoy butterflies. Birders tend to stick with polite little groups, watching through binoculars and the long lenses on their cameras. They will point out the rare ones, and generally attempt to encourage everyone to have a chance to look. Most take pretty good notes about what they see, and where and when they see it.
I chase butterflies with a camera. I use a shorter lens than most (although it is still a telephoto lens), and I am more likely to be crawling around on the ground than the birders. My behavior is tolerated as long as I don’t interfere with the enjoyment of others, but it does not lead to a high social status. Using a net would make one a social outcast with this group, however. (Confession: I do not use a butterfly net myself, but I have associated with people who do.) But we still all get together and enjoy a good meal and talk butterflies at the end of the day.
I am still organizing my photographs–I took a few over 600 in the five days I was there. But I had so much fun I still want to share some of them now. I will post more later.
The first butterfly I photographed was an orange sulfur. That photo was not very good, so I am not including it here. In Iowa, one in every four butterflies is an orange sulfur, but it seemed to be a rare butterfly in the LRGV. On the field trips, every once in a while we would hear someone call out “orange sulfur” and everyone rushed over.
This is a fiery skipper. They seem to be common everywhere.
This is a marine blue. I have only seen it a few times–I have run across it twice in Iowa, and was fortunate enough to get photos of it on those occasions. But this one struck up a pretty nice pose for me.
This is a ceraunus blue. My only exposure to this butterfly was my previous trip to the Texas Butterfly Festival.
This is a lantana scrub-hairstreak. It was new to me–a “lifer” in birder terms.
This is a phaon crescent. I took this photo on my first day at the National Butterfly Center. I have encountered this butterfly before, but I always like the challenge of trying to get a better photo of something I am familiar with.
The second day I was there I spent more time photographing phaons in the same location. I like parts of this photo better than the first, especially the view of the eyes. The first butterfly was fresher, however. The work is never done.