South Florida and the Keys
Butterfly Trip
With Alana Edwards
Saturday May 21 – Friday May 27, 2005

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Butterfly List

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Friday (5/20/05)
We flew into the Miami Airport via American Airlines and arrived around 3:30PM where we caught the shuttle to the nearby Hampton Inns/Blue Lagoon Hotel. Collared Doves were everywhere and a Common Moorhen was swimming in the lagoon outside my window. We had dinner across the street at a mediocre Cuban restaurant. Although it was evening, the weather was very warm and humid, a hint of things to come.

Saturday (5/21/05)
After meeting Alana for breakfast at the hotel, we loaded up our car and headed out for our first stop on the trip, Castellow Hammock Nature Center which is located south of Miami, near Homestead on Farm Life Drive. They were having a festival that day but we were able to wander on our own through their garden and the hammock/woodlands behind the nature center. It was sunny and very hot already and the woods were a bit quiet.

Returning to the garden Alana announced that an Amethyst Hairstreak would be waiting for us and, sure enough, Alana spotted one lurking in the very bush we’d been searching earlier. This was a very rare and exciting find and we all got brief but excellent looks although, unfortunately, no photos.

Atala caterpillars photographed
at the Deering Estate

We then drove over to the Deering Estate for lunch and a guided walk through the extensive grounds. This is a Miami-Dade County Park located off Old Cutler Road at 168 St. SW. It’s only recently been opened to the public. It contains the largest tropical hardwood hammock extant on the Florida mainland (150 acres). We were hoping to find the Atala here but we found only caterpillars and chrysalises on the coontie before the rains came and we had to leave.

We then had a nice seafood dinner that The Mutineer with Alana’s parents, Dave and Lana Edwards before retiring to the Best Western in Florida City.

    SPECIES SEEN:
  1. Polydamas Swallowtail
  2. Giant Swallowtail- 3+
  3. Florida White
  4. Great Southern White
  5. Cloudless Sulphur
  6. Large Orange Sulphur
  7. Barred Yellow
  8. Dainty Sulphur
  9. Amethyst Hairstreak - 1
  10. Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak- 6+
  11. Fulvous Hairstreak - 6+
  12. Red-banded Hairstreak- 1
  13. Gray Ministreak - 1
  14. Cassius Blue
  15. Gulf Fritillary
  16. Julia- pretty common
  17. Zebra
  18. Ruddy Daggerwing
  19. Monarch
  20. Mangrove Skipper- 1
  21. Dorantes Longtail
  22. Horace's Duskywing- 1

Fulvous Hairstreak photographed
at Castellow Hammock

Florida White photographed
at Castellow Hammock

Sunday (5/22/05)
After breakfast at our hotel we went out to the Everglades. Our first stop was at the Gumbo Limbo Trail . We had very few butterflies as we walk out along the boardwalk but we did witness an awesome display put on by the alligators. All around us came the incredibly loud sounds of roaring alligators. We got to see one giant male rear up out of the water, inflate his throat and set the water around him vibrating with his roars. It was amazing and not a little disconcerting because the only thing separating us from them was a 2 foot high split rail fence.We also got some great looks at Green Herons.

We then continued on to Long Pine Key (Gate 4). Things here also were very quiet as we walked through one of the few remaining pine rockland habitats in the state. We were searching for Florida Leafwings but had no success. It was very dry everywhere and there were very few butterflies flying. There were, however, thousands of dragonflies everywhere.

Contiuing to Eco Pond at the end of the road we walked around the pond looking for balloon vine, larval food for the Silver-banded Hairstreak. This time we couldn’t find any sign of the plant, let alone the butterfly. There were some nice herons about but not many butterflies.

After a brief stop at the Marina at Flamingo, we drove back to Mahogony Hammock . Again the wooded walk was very quiet and dry.

Rain put an end to this day after fruit milkshakes at “Robert Is Here”, a funky farmers mart at the entrance to the park. Dinner was back in Florida City at the local Mexican Restaurant where we were serenaded by the local mariachi band.

Cassius Blue

White Peacock

    SPECIES SEEN
  1. Giant Swallowtail
  2. Palamedes Swallowtail
  3. Great Southern White
  4. Cloudless Sulphur
  5. Little Yellow
  6. Cassius Blue
  7. Ceraunus Blue
  8. Gulf Fritillary
  9. Zebra
  10. Phaon Crescent
  11. Common Buckeye
  12. Mangrove Buckeye
  13. White Peacock
  14. Viceroy
  15. Queen
  16. Fiery Skipper
  17. Baracoa Skipper
  18. Monk Skipper - 1

Monday (5/23/05)
After checking out of the hotel, we traveled south along old Rt. 905 through the Keys. We met Jim Duquesnel, Park Biologist at Pennekampe/Key Largo, at Pole 89-90 who took us into the back country of Key Largo Hammock . Much of this area is along the old original roadway. Our target here was the highly endangered Schaus’ Swallowtail. A group in this area a week ago had 9 flying but we couldn’t find one. It was disappointing. Was it too dry? So little is known about these guys anyway, it’s hard to know why they weren’t flying. We spent several hours looking but saw very little.

There was plenty of balloon vine so we looked for Silver-bandeds but didn’t find any. Poisonwood Trees are everywhere and must be avoided as they are highly irritating if touched.

We did get great looks at all sorts of anoles, the native “chameleon” with a pale pink throat; the American Anole or Anole carolensis . We also got to see an amazing moth called a “Faithful Beauty” and was it ever beautiful. We had several Black Witch moths flying through the woods. Some people had a possible Statira Sulphur but I never saw it.

At an artificially created pond, created by removing part of the old road, we found a Reddish Egret and a Tri-colored Heron, plus the southern most live oak in North America.

We walked a trail called Dynamite Trail and a trail at Pole 18-19 but it was quiet here as well so we continued our way south, stopping off at the Crocodile Lake Butterfly Garden on Rt. 905. Their garden was lovely with excellent signs but not many leps.

Before continuing on to our hotel in Marathon we stopped off at Julie Meade’s house to see her lovely garden. She had a pond in the front filled with enormous koi. Everywhere there were blooming orchids and bromeliads. A wooded lot next to her house was like a mini nature center with a lovely trail and beautiful signs. It must be lovely to have a garden in this climate although I don’t think I could take the heat and humidity.

    SPECIES SEEN
  1. Polydamas Swallowtail (2)
  2. Giant Swallowtail
  3. Florida White (2)
  4. Great Southern White
  5. Large Orange Sulphur
  6. Cassius Blue
  7. Gulf Fritillary
  8. Zebra
  9. Pearl Crescent
  10. White Peacock
  11. Mangrove Skipper
  12. Florida Duskywing
    CATERPILLARS/EGGS:
  1. Schaus’ or
    Giant Swallowtail's egg
  2. Hammock Skipper caterpillar

Hammock Skipper caterpillar
photographed at Key Largo Hammock

Caterpillar of either a Schaus' or Giant Swallowtail photographed at Key Largo Hammock

Tuesday (5/24/05)
The place we were to stay was not yet finished when we arrived yesterday so we ended up at a former Ramada Inn, a bit shabby but with a nice canal in the back.

After a nice breakfast at the “Stuffed Pig” we traveled south down the Keys and across the 7 mile bridge to Ohio Key where we found a couple of nice bugs and some nice birds (Wilson’s Plover). We continued south to Bahia Honda where the Miami Blue is found. Nickerbean is everywhere along the trails near the nature center and we found lots of Miamis flying. The park itself is lovely with gorgeous beaches. The water looked very inviting and it would have been nice to spend more time here to enjoy both the water and the leps.

Nickerbean...host plant for the Miami Blue

Miami Blue photographed
at Bahia Honda

We then continued on our way south, making a stop at West Summerland Key before continuing on to Big Pine Key . Here we drove up a small dirt road and stopped at a scrubby field on the left filled with acacia. This is the host plant for the Nickerbean Blue and we were lucky to spot them as soon as we arrived. Miami Blues feed on Nickerbean and Nickerbean Blues seem to feed on Acacia; seems to me a name change is in order.

The Miami and Nickerbean Blues look similar: note the Nickerbean Blue has only 3 black spots below at the base of the wings while the Miami has 4, although 1 is very faint.

Nickerbean Blue
photographed on Big Pine Key

For lunch we stopped at a nice little park called Blue Hole . We couldn’t walk the trail around the lake because alligators were nesting there but we did eat out on a nice little platform overlooking the lake. Green Herons were nesting next to the platform and we got to see the scruffy chick.

After lunch we drove over to No Name Key and had drinks at the Non Name Pub. A great place. Every inch of the walls and ceilings at lined with dollar bills tacked up by visitors. They estimate about $65 - $75,000.

Not a lot of species today but some really nice “lifers” for me. We then drove back to Marathon, stopping off again at Bahia Honda and Spanish Key, and had a great dinner at The Islander, over looking the water.

Bartram Scrub-Hairstreak
photographed on Big Pine Key

Martial Scrub-Hairstreak
photographed on Ohio Key

    SPECIES SEEN
  1. Giant Swallowtail
  2. Great Southern White
  3. Large Orange Sulphur
  4. Dainty Sulphur
  5. Martial Scrub-Hairstreak
  6. Bartram's Scrub-Hairstreak
  7. Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak
  8. Cassius Blue
  9. Miami Blue
  10. Nickerbean Blue
  11. Eastern Pygmy-Blue
  12. Gulf Fritillary
  13. Zebra
  14. American Lady
  15. Florida Duskywing
  16. Southern Broken-Dash

Wednesday (5/25/05)
We did a quick drive south this morning after another great breakfast at the "Stuffed Pig". We drove all the way down to mile marker 11, almost as far as Key West, to visit the Key West Botanical Gardens on Stock Island. This is a lovely garden with a beautiful selection of native plants including lots of butterfly pants. We were looking for Milk Pea (larval food plant for the Zestos Skipper) which we found but we didn’t have many butterflies here and NO Zestos. It is highly likely that the Zestos has been extirpated.

We returned to Key Largo Hammock for another try at the Schaus’. Jim couldn’t join us so he left us a back country permit and the combination to the locks. We re-visited the spots from Monday (Dynamite Trail, Gate at 89-90 and at 18 ½ ) . Again, it was very quiet and no Schaus’ could be found. Oh well, I’ll just have to come back if I want to see the Schaus’.

We stopped to eat our lunch at the Key Largo Botanical State Park at Pole 255 on Dagny Johnson Key. They have picnic tables set up at their “butterfly garden” which is a pretty sad garden for a botanical area. Jim had asked Alana for suggestions so I’m sure she’ll have many.

Then it was back up to Florida City and a stop at the Glen Garrett Park / South C-31 Canal before checking back in at the Best Western and going out for a great Italian dinner at Capris.

We did a lot of driving today for not many bugs. But it reminds you that you often have to work very hard to find butterflies. Even if you’re in the right habitat at the right time of year, there are so many factors that can affect what’s flying and what’s not.

    SPECIES SEEN
  1. Giant Swallowtail
  2. Florida White
  3. Large Orange Sulphur
  4. Dainty Sulphur
  5. Fulvous Hairstreak
  6. Cassius Blue
  7. Ceraunus Blue
  8. Gulf Fritillary
  9. Julia
  10. Zebra
  11. Variegated Fritillary
  12. Phaon Crescent
  13. White Peacock
  14. Florida Purplewing
  15. Mangrove Skipper
  16. Monk Skipper

one of the many Anoles seen on the trip

Thursday (5/26/05)
After an early breakfast at the hotel we set off for the long drive west to Fakahatchee Strand which is west on the Tamiami Trail, west of the Big Cypress Swamp. Krome Ave. where our hotel is located goes directly north to the Tamiami Trail.

The park encompasses 70,000 acres and much of it was originally supposed to be a housing development so streets radiate throughout the park as do manmade canals. We drove the roads, stopping at various spots.
  • Everglades Road & I75
  • Miller 52nd
  • Gates 18, 16 and 12
  • 1 ¼ miles from the office
The highlight of this visit was an awesome number of Little Metalmarks found alongthe roadside. Over 75 butterflies were swarming allowing a real overdosing for the photographers.

On the drive back we stopped at Burns Road on the western edge of the Big Cypress Swamp. Here we had great looks at Georgia Satyrs and more Little Metalmarks. Back to the hotel and another meal at the Capri.

Red-banded Hairstreak

Ruddy Daggerwing on Buttonbush

Twin-spotted Skipper

    SPECIES SEEN
  1. Giant Swallowtail
  2. Palamedes Swallowtail
  3. Little Yellow
  4. Red-banded Hairstreak
  5. Ceraunus Blue
  6. Little Metalmark
  7. Gulf Fritillary
  8. Zebra
  9. Variegated Fritillary
  10. Phaon Crescent
  11. Pearl Crescent
  12. Common Buckeye
  13. White Peacock
  14. Viceroy
  15. Ruddy Daggerwing
  16. Georgia Satyr
  17. Queen
  18. Silver-spotted Skipper
  19. Tropical Checkered-Skipper
  20. Neamathla Skipper
  21. Least Skipper
  22. Southern Skipperling
  23. Whirlabout
  24. Twin-spotted Skipper

Friday (5/27/05)
Today is to be a clean up day. After breakfast and check out we headed to the Mary Krome Bird Refuge - Florida Audubon Center at the corner of Krome and Avacado where we had a few nice bugs.

Then we drove back to Castellow Hammock to try and re-find the Amethyst Hairstreak but with no luck . That first one was clearly a "gift" and we were all very grateful.

Our next stop was back to South C-31 Canal but this time up where it crosses Richmond Rd. We walked along the right side of the canal and picked up a few new species for the trip including a Cabbage White and Tropical Buckeyes.

We then drove back to Bauer Hammock (Cape Owissa) and walked in to find one of the key leps on our search list, the Dina Sulphur. We had good looks at several bugs flying around but they were very difficult to photograph because they wouldn't sit still for a minute. It was a bit frustrating but I was able to get off 1 photograph of a female and even found an egg which I able to photograph as well

Dina sulphur

While eating lunch we made the drive back to Long Pine Key in the Everglades to work on the Florida Leafwing again but we still had none flying. This is another of those strange misses. They should be here. Their hostplant is here but something is obviously going on with this butterfly.

We then drove back to the Deering Estate to see if we could find any Atalas flying. We got permission to go up to the house to check the coontie. Most of the caterpillars we had on Saturday are now chrysalids and I was able to get photos but no adults were found.

Atala chrysalids photographed
at the Deering Estate

Before driving back to Miami we decided to swing out to Key Biscayne and the Bill Baggs/Cape Florida State Park. Alana’s friend works there and she’s had lots of Cuban Crescents there. She left a map for us to follow and we were soon able to locate the hostplant (lots of it) but we couldn’t find any leps.

With that we decided to call it quits and head for the Hampton Inn/Blue Lagoon. It seemed like we did a lot of driving today and missed most of the target species but, in looking over the list, it was one of our highest count days.

We had a lovely final dinner at the Bomber Squadron Restaurant facing the airport. We'd come to the end of an excellent trip. We'd seen some very unique habitats and some very special butterflies. It was sad to have missed a few like the Schaus' and the Leafwing but that just means we have to come back again. Not too bad an idea.

    SPECIES SEEN
  1. Polydamas Swallowtail
  2. Giant Swallowtail
  3. Palamedes Swallowtail
  4. Checkered White
  5. Cabbage White
  6. Great Southern White
  7. Cloudless Sulphur
  8. Orange-barred Sulphur
  9. Large Orange Sulphur
  10. Barred Yellow
  11. Little Yellow
  12. Dina Yellow
  13. Sleepy Orange
  14. Dainty Sulphur
  15. Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak
  16. Fulvous Hairstreak
  17. Gray Ministreak
  18. Cassius Blue
  19. Gulf Fritillary
  20. Julia
  21. Zebra
  22. Phaon Crescent
  23. Red Admiral
  24. Common Buckeye
  25. Tropical Buckeye
  26. White Peacock
  27. Ruddy Daggerwing
  28. Monarch
  29. Mangrove Skipper
  30. Dorantes Longtail
  31. Clouded Skipper
  32. Fiery Skipper
  33. Baracoa Skipper

Mangrove Skipper photographed
at the Deering Estate

Dorantes Lontail photographed
at Castellow Hammock