Trip Report for Southern Tamaulipas, Mexico, August 31 — September 2, 2007
Participants: Richard Lehman, Will and Gill Carter, Willie Sekula
The four of us left south Texas early Friday morning motoring directly to Cd. Victoria with a brief butterflying stop at “Banner Blvd.” near San Fernando. The Teneza trees (Pithecelobium pallens) were in full bloom and seemed to be everywhere. Only a moderated number of butterflies were attracted to the flowers while we were there. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen the 200 roadside miles between south Texas and the Sierra Madres at Cd. Victoria as lush and verdant as they were this day. Lots of butterflies were on the move. Radiator inspection confirmed the presence of numerous Lyside and large orange sulphurs and Giant Whites.
Butterflying the canyons at Cd. Victoria was mildly productive. Troncones and Novillo seem to be among the best places in Mexico to see a large variety of swallowtails. There were of course, Giants in numbers but also many, many Ornythions, quite a few Variable and Black Swallowtails, and a sprinkling of Broad-banded, Torquatus, Palamedes, and Dark Kite Swallowtails. In total we had 10 species in the canyons and picked up an additional 2 species the following day at La Florida further south near Gomez Farias. The rivers in both canyons were out of their banks due to the recent rains thus limiting the distance we could drive even with 4-wheel drive. (Note: The road into Novillo Canyon is completely destroyed before reaching the Shrine area.) We arrived in the Gomez Farias region late in the afternoon.
The next morning in the El Encino area near the Rio Sabinas, we had lots of Melwhites busily working to increase their numbers. There were Red-bordered Pixies, a few Pearly-gray Hairstreaks, numerous Malachites, and scads of Pavon Emperors, both male and female. Zebras were the most abundant heliconians. There were a few eratos but no Isabelas. Certainly the best butterfly of the area and also of the the entire trip was that perfect female Arcius Swordtail found and photographed by Willie. The grounds at the new Las Cumbres Hotel in Gomez Farias have lots of flowering plants which normally attact butterflies. Ricardo Jimenez, resident butterfly and birding guide at the hotel pointed these out, but little was flying in the heavy overcast and occasional mist. Normally, he says these plants attract lots of the gaudy metalmarks and hairstreaks — alas, not this day.
At slightly lower elevation at La Florida we were surprised to find the Rio Frio flooding most of the park. The usual profusion of butterflies was absent. We did get to watch and photograph a female Variable Swallowtail as she laid eggs. (See photo on Mimoides phaon page.) And then the rains came, and we took off for El Naranjo in San Luis Potosi hoping for clearer skies the next morning. Boy were we mistaken. The already flooding rivers, creeks, fields, and roadside were on the rampage after a hard all night rain. We gave up and headed for the border in constant rain, sometimes very heavy, all the way back.
So, with less than favorable conditions, over only a few hours of actually butterflying, we had to be happy with the 110 species that we managed to tick off.