Saturday, October 22, 2016

Butterflies at Hornsby Bend

We went down to Hornsby Bend to look for some reported rare birds sightings. No luck with those but we did see a dozen immature White Faced Ibis, something we have never seen there before. They were feeding far out on the mud flats.

In addition to the ever-present Least Sandpipers, we also saw quite a few Killdeer. Here is a pair that were posturing at each other, something new for me. There were also many hundred European Starlings lining the power lines like a Hitchcock movie.

At the observatory shelter along the south road, we stopped and looked at butterflies foraging in the native flower garden. I had not paid much attention to these before but as we began taking pictures we realized just how many different types there were. I found a checklist of butterflies posted at the shelter and took a picture of it for reference. It includes an expectation of how rare each is at Hornsby. Once home, we got out our copy of Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America and identified 18 different species. I also went back over my image archive and found others to identify.

Giant Swallowtail - Listed as (A) abundant. These are truly monsters, even bigger than the Tiger Swallowtail I have seen at home (see next images). We only saw two of these.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - For comparison, this is one we saw at home in August 2014.

Pipevine Swallowtail - Also listed as (A) abundant. We only saw one. This was a very spastic butterfly. It never stopped fluttering, even when feeding. This one was particularly ragged with most of its hind-wing damaged. The metallic blue marks this as a male.

Julia Heliconian - Listed as (U) uncommon. These images are of females as noted by the black band across the middle of the fore-wing and the browner tones on the underside. We saw perhaps perhaps a half dozen of these.

Dusky-blue Groundstreak - A type of Hairstreak, these are marked as (C) common at Hornsby. We only got this quick view of the one individual.

Tailed Orange -  A type of Sulfur, this one is mark as (R) rare for Hornsby. I found this surprising since they were numerous today - we saw perhaps a dozen. This one is in its "winter form". Both forms have the distinctive tail spike.

Queen - This one is listed as (A) abundant, though we only saw a couple. From the underside, easily confused with a Monarch. However the upperside lacks the black veining. The black spots on the inner hind-wing mark this as a male.

White-striped Longtail - This one was marked as (U) uncommon. Kaufman shows it as common in Mexico and straying up into southern Texas, similar to the Tailed Orange. The markings are very distinct. We only saw one.

Tropical Checkered Skipper - Whereas the Common/White Checkered Skipper is listed as (A) abundant, the Tropical is listed as (O) occasional. Identification based on the merged black bands on the fore wing fringe near tip, the more pronounced white spot on the fore wing cell. These marks are evident on the first image but less obvious on the second image. We saw several of these.

Cloudless Sulfur - Listed as (A) abundant. I was never able to get a photo of the upperside but observed it as being pure yellow with little or no markings. That coupled with the wing shape, double spot on hind wing, and range lead me to conclude the Cloudless. We saw many of these; in combination with the Tailed Orange were the most prevalent species.

Common Mestra - This Brushfoot variety is listed as (C) common but only in the Fall.  We saw a few of these.

Bordered Patch - Listed as (A) abundant.

Texan Crescent - Listed as (A) abundant.

Pearl Crescent - Listed as (A) abundant.

Phaon Crescent - Listed as (A) abundant.

Tawny Emperor -Listed as (U) uncommon.The emperor butterflies were very interesting. They were not feeding on the flowers but rather lapping up sap from a small branch of wood. This more uncommon Tawny has two complete bars on the leading edge of the fore wing and no  dark spot on the outer edge.

Hackberry Emperor - Listed as (C) common. Similar to the Tawny but note the extra spot on the edge of the fore wing.

Question Mark Comma - Listed as (C) common. In this mixed image, it is the lower-most butterfly with the pointed hind edge. The others are more Tawny Emperors. The butterflies were tangling with several species of wasps for the sap.

American Snout - Listed as (A) abundant. A fairly drab moth-like butterfly with a long proboscis sticking out from the front of the head.

Great Purple Hairstreak - This is one we actually saw at Hornsby last March but I had not tried to identify it. It is listed as (U) uncommon.

More at Home - This was quite interesting. Over the next week at home, I had a more careful look at the denizens of our own native flower patch. On the milkweed, we found both Queen and Monarchs in droves. We also found a number of the same butterflies as at Hornsby plus some little skippers.

Monarch - Listed as (C) common at Hornsby. I was pleased to see a Monarch on our patch of Tropical Milkweed. The first one, lacking the black spots on the inner hind wing, is a female.

Queen - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. We have a number of Queens visiting the milkweed and there are currently several Queen caterpillars. Here this one is on the Gregg's Mist flower.

American Snout - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. Here is another American Snout. This side veiw shows the proboscis more clearly.

Common Mestra - We saw a half dozen of these at home as well.

Dusky-Blue Groundstreak - I found another one of these on the Apache Plume and got a better view.

Gray Hairstreak - Listed as (C) common at Hornsby. Found this one on the Apache Plume, right next to the dusky-blue. These are subtle differences in the patterning of the hindwing.

Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak (Texas) - Listed as (O) Occasional at Hornsby. This one was much smaller than the other Hairstreaks. The two spots towards the front of the hind wing are field marks.

Fiery Skipper - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. One of two Skippers I identified. They are very small and I would have previously guessed they were drab moths. These first two are females.

This one with more orange in the wings and the black "stigmata" on the fore wing is a male.

Sachem Skipper - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. This one, with the large glassy spot on the upper forewing is a female.

Clouded Skipper - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. Note the dark band on the hind wing.

Julia Skipper - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. This is a very drab butterfly. Other candidate identification is Swarthy Skipper. I am going with this choice based on range, warmer hue, and less pronounce paleness of veins.

Southern Skipperling - Listed as (C) common at Hornsby. These were noticeably smaller than the other skippers. The white band is a field mark.

This last one was from Nov 6

Phaon Crescent - Another one of these at home. I saw several low in the grass but this one photo-bombed my movie of Queens on the Tropical Milkweed.

Pearl Crescent - On the milkweed, a single Pearl made an appearance, repeatedly mixing it up with the Queens.

Tailed Orange - A couple of these made an appearance. I tried very hard to get a picture of the upper side as it was flying but the light was too dim to stop the motion. It is bright tangerine colored with a bit of black on the leading edge.

Little Yellow - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. At first I thought this was another Cloudless Sulfur but the patterning is different. This was distinguished from similar yellows by the spots a the base of the wings