Mission, Texas
October 21-24, 2004

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Since I've nevered butterflied in the Valley, I could not pass up the opportunity to attend the 6th Biennial NABA Members Meeting held in Mission Texas. I've only ever attended one such meeting, the first meeting in Stockton, NJ.

Because I would be encountering a world of new butterflies I decided to add a couple of days onto the trip to explore on my own and it was a VERY wise decision. The sheer number of butterflies was incredible and most of them were "lifers" for me.

I flew down on Wednesday, October 20th. Continental to Houston and then on to McAllen where I picked up my rental car and made the short drive to Mission.

I spent the evening settling into my room at the Hawthorne Suites on Sharyland Road and getting all my gear in order. I couldn't wait to try out my new Canon Eos Rebel digital camera and the new IPOD I brought along to download all those wonderful photos I anticipated getting.

Thursday, October 21st :
No need to rise early, so after a nice breakfast I left the Hawthorne around 8:30AM for the short drive to Bentsen State Park. I had some great birding experiences in Bentsen 15 years ago but I hadn't been back since then. It was a short drive west on Hwy. 83 to Bentsen Palm Drive, then south. I arrived at the boat ramp area and began seeing butterflies almost immediately, especially lots of Tawny Emperors and zillions of American Snouts.

They no longer allow camping in Bentsen and, in fact, are closing the entire park to auto traffic so it was not surprising to find lots of peccary wandering around. There was a herd of over 10 right around the old picnic area. With the opening of the World Birding Center this weekend, visitors to the park can ride a tram into the park and be dropped off at designated stops. The park has been severely damaged over the years and it is hoped that by controlling access they can restore it.

After Bentsen I wandered next door to the new NABA Park for the dedication of their new gardens. The place was jumping with lots of guests and tons of butterflies. Only a portion of the park has been planted so far but it promises to be an awesome destination for all butterfliers.

Visitors gather under the palapa for the opening ceremonies
followed by a hearty Texas lunch.

There were many hot butterflies spotted during the day including: a female Silver Emperor, Glazed Pellicia, Tailed Orange and one Silver-banded Hairstreak.

Around 3:30 PM, people began gathering at the Cimarron Country Club to register and sign up for field trips. Later in the evening we all re-convened for the welcoming ceremonies and a program by Jeff Glassberg on the Butterflies of the Rio Grande Valley.

Friday, October 22
We gathered in the parking lot of the Cimarron to set off on the first day's field trip. I signed up to explore the Mission area with Lizzie Cavassos and we set off for a great day. Like all days in the Valley the temperatures climbed to the mid-90's and a brisk breeze followed us everywhere making photography a bit of a challenge.

Places visited during the day were:

  • The World Birding Center at Bentsen where new gardens have been installed around the several buildings and small wetlands they've created. We had great looks at Common Mellana, Red-bordered Metalmarks, White-patched Skipped, Celia's Roadside Skipper, Lavianna White Skipper, Whirlabout and Sleepy Orange.
  • NABA Park gardens across the road
  • Chihuahua Woods off Business 83 west of Bentsen Palm Drive where eupatoriums were in full bloom along the railroad tracks.
  • 8th Street gardens (west of Bryan Road); 2 gardens, 1 in front of the Butterfly Festival headquarters on the corner of 8th and Bryan and the "NEW" Lucy's garden further down the street.

Gardens around the new World Birding Center at Bentsen

We got back to the Cimarron in time for afternoon workshops. I took one on Photography with Lizzie, Dave Hansen, Mike Hannisian and Suzanne Herzing. There were lots of useful tips, especially on the use of digital cameras. Dinner was a Mexican buffet with speakers Sue Sill and Jeff Rupert.

Saturday, October 23
Off today to Santa Ana with Mike Quinn who seems to know alot about everything; plants, insects, etc. We were greated on arrival by a Fitzgaertner's Flat that's been hanging around for a few days. Excellent looks were had by all. We then explored many of the trails around the visitor's center (trails A and B especially).

After lunch on the deck we then explored the 2 gardens in front. So many good butterflies, so well seen. Highlights included: Mexican Bluewing, Malachite, Texan Crescent, Mimosa Skipper, Purple-washed Skipper, Glazed Pellicia and Southern Skipperling .

We then drove down to the old cemetery were we had Elada Checkerspots and Turk's-cap White Skippers.

Dinner was back at the Cimarron Country Club with a program by Larry Gilbert on the Heliconians of Costa Rica.

Sunday, October 24
Another day in the field with Mike Quinn, this time to Edinburg World Birding Center, with a quick stop at the Burger King off Hwy. 83 and Raul Longoria for great looks at Red-bordered Pixies.

The vast gardens around the center were wind swept but we were able to find a new bug for the trip: Clytie Ministreak. There were also lots of birds in the area.

Back at the Cimarron for Jeff's program on the Butterflies of Mexico. Many of the attendees are off to Mexico tomorrow for 2 days but I've decided to hang around Mission and re-visit some areas. Photography is tough in a group so I hope to be able to wander around on my own. It'll also give me a chance to see how much I've learned.

Monday, October 25
I decided to return to Santa Ana today. It was such a great place but the large group made things a bit hard. I ended up with a great morning that included many of the same butterflies as Saturday but also added GREAT looks at a Bobcat on the "B" Trail. I was also able to find a lovely Banded Peacock which was new for the trip.

I then drove to Weslaco to find the Frontera Audubon Society which has a great garden and a large woodland area behind it. Lots of butterflies although the only new bug was a Crimson Patch. There was also a nice collection of birds.

Before leaving Weslaco I made a quick stop at the Valley Nature Center.

Tuesday, October 26
I decided to go west this morning; a quick trip out to La Grulla in Starr Co. before returning to Hidalgo Co. and NABA park, WBC at Bentsen and Lucy's Garden. It was even more windy today. No new butterflies but lots of good looks at the, by now, familiar bugs.

The NEW Lucy's Garden on 8th Street west of Bryan

Wednesday, October 27
Up incredibly early for a 6 AM flight out of McAllen but back in Philadelphia by 12:30 PM.
A great trip with some great memories. The sheer number of butterflies was staggering. There are gardens everywhere and it makes it so easy to get great looks at most of the butterflies. Getting around is very easy so it would be no problem to go back on my own.