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Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

Once again we set off to drive an hour to a butterfly garden before it gets too hot and humid. We were told by a person at the NABA butterfly gardens that “we were likely to see the Blue Metalmark ” at Resaca De La Palma State Park.  After expressing our doubts that this glorious event would actually happen we agree to get up the next day and go TRY to see  it.

We drive and drive and finally arrive at the park and look in disbelief at a sign on the gate blocking our way. It says “CLOSED – open Wed thru Sat” and today is Tuesday. We can see the visitor Center ahead of us … so we gingerly unhook the gate and drive in.  Ambling over to the hedges we see many plain brown butterflies sitting there with their wings closed.  This is disappointing as we wanted to see a BIG Iridescent BLUE butterfly, and then we hear shouts from Tom and D.L.

“Come quick!  We have found it!” and they point to a half-inch, tiny, blue butterfly. It is the Metalmark … we just had unreal expectations. When they close their wings they become a drab brown. . After looking it up in the book it says the guy should be half an inch … but what a color he flashes at us!! We spend a happy hour combing the bushes for more of them and sure enough there are quite a few. I make a mental apology to the young lady who told me they were at this place as I had so many doubts that she knew where they could be found.

Another wildly successful day out in the thickets of Rio Grande Valley.

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We went out to Estero Llano to see the Mexican Bluewing and got caught in thunder, lightning and RAIN ! It was very exhilarating. There we encountered the Mexican Bluewing butterfly.

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Closed

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Closed

What wonderful camouflage.

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Open

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Open

And then it spreads its wings and SPLENDOR.

The day before Easter, while writing about these ephemeral creatures, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the history of man has been dropped on Afghanistan. It is hard to imagine that these tiny concerns over what a butterfly might like to eat exist on the same planet as the massive destruction of habitat seen on Ameican TV. Mind-wrenching!

 

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A sweaty-humid day and we seek the shelter of some towering oak trees. Whew!  It’s hot. Then I hear a cracking sound and am instantly alert … is a branch of the tree going to fall on my head? Moving hastily away and looking up, I can see no branch appearing to tilt or fall.  The cracking sound continues as I look around. A man walks by and smiles at us as he remarks “Don’t worry … it is only a Guatemalan Cracker butterfly.”

The cracking sound diminishes and he walks over to the trunk of the tree and points upward. Squinting at the spot I see nothing. He waves me over and says “It is so well camouflaged that it takes a while to see it.”

Guatemalan Cracker Butterfly

Guatemalan Cracker Butterfly

Lifting my binoculars I scan the spot and there it is! Above my head, resting on the bark, is a butterfly the size of an apple. “He is a rare one this far North in Texas. He belongs in Central America,” the man says and bids us goodbye.

D. L. points to the location of the butterfly

Once home I look up this strange gray butterfly and find that the cracking sound is from clapping his wings together to warn other male Crackers that this tree is HIS or to attract any female in the vicinity to his tree. Will wonders never cease … Crack away you marvelous butterfly trying to insure that your species will go on into the future. We wish you success.

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Under a cloudy sky, crowds assembled to celebrate the huge, remarkable onions produced in this valley, the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Fields of onions are being harvested and at the festival grounds they are turned into delicious blossoms to be eaten a petal at a time. The process is visually wonderful from the vibrant young woman smiling and waving in the van which is called “The Lord Of The Onion Rings” to the customer holding her newly purchased blossom. Served with tomato ketchup or blue cheese dip it is a pleasure to pull off a crunchy petal, dip it in yummy dressing, and then pop it in your mouth and celebrate the taste of THE ONION !!

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An intriguing thought – a steak from cattle who have been fed on oranges, grapefruit, watermelons, corn meal and minerals! The Tractor Club at VP in Texas has arranged for us to tour a 700 acre ranch where Giovanna Benitez will show us how she uses the abundant fruit in the area to feed her cattle and fatten them up for market. She shows us the hay, ground up fruit, and supplements which are put in giant white tubes to be turned into acceptable feed. A long process involving her 5 workmen and big equipment, her explanations, as she leads a drive around the ranch, are excellent and the members of the club are impressed with this 22 year-old woman (the youngest rancher in the area) who is innovating this feed and hopefully will succeed in making her ranch profitable. She explains that if you buy cattle at $1.65 a lb. (as she did) and sell it at $1.37 a lb. ( the current price) you can innovate away and go broke. All my tour mates and I are crossing our fingers that the price will rise and Giovanna will sell at $2.00 a lb. Good Luck, Giovanna!!

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"Texas Palm Trees" watercolor, 22" x 30"

“Texas Palm Trees” watercolor, 22″ x 30″

Steady wind … strong wind …
Fine sand whirling past.
Palm trees bending low …
and ever lower … Break ?
Will the trunk snap ?
Never!  I have never seen
it snapping … Pieces break off
but never a broken tree.

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A hum … a buzz … a ripple through the birding community … it has been reported that a Tropical Parula has arrived at Quinta Mazatlan. The gardens at this splendid, restored, adobe house provide shelter and food for migrating birds.  Carrina and I brave the cold morning to arrive at 8am when they open the gates and join the shivering group … wandering amid the thickets, hedges, and lawns.  Ten o’clock and no bird has shown up to sip from the fresh orange halves adorning the feeders …and then!! there he is!!

Tropical Parula

Tropical Parula

A tiny bird with blazing yellow tummy and blue-gray back.  A rare tropical treat … seldom seen in the U.S.

Ringed Kingfisher

Ringed Kingfisher

Across the pond a Ringed Kingfisher swoops down and poses for us.  This bird is seen only here on the border with Mexico. He is BIG!

We are delighted and frozen, so off to get coffee and marvel at the Green Jays and Kisskadees energetically stripping the feeders of seeds and suet.  We see these local wonders every day and are continually amused by their antics. They restore my soul.

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