Earlier this year my friend Keely had inquired if I wanted to attempt to go backpacking with her and another friend. This was before vaccines were prevalent and at that point I hadn’t had mine, so I declined. Well, a few weeks ago she emailed again and asked if I had my vaccine yet and if I wanted to go backpacking. Of course I did! We pinned down a date and of course as the time got closer the rain chances went up. In fact, it’s been rainy for the last week! First it was thunderstorms coming from the west and then an unnamed tropical system came up from the Gulf and has been dropping rain. Good times!
Last Wednesday we altered our plans for this rain contingency. We had planned on a 12 mile loop connecting the Richards and Sand Branch Loops on the far west side of the Lone Start Hiking Trail. Knowing that the Sand Branch section could easily be pretty wet and also knowing that the trails there had been sloshy when we went a few weeks ago, we searched elsewhere. Of course, the further east we got we ran into bayous and tributaries that flow into the San Jacinto River as well as the San Jacinto River being an issue, too, so sections on the east side weren’t really open to us. But then I found the Phelps segment up near Huntsville. It was only a 5 mile section, had a campsite one mile in, and is the highest elevations on the trail—plus no major bayous or drainages, just some small little ephemeral and intermittent streams. Sounded like a plan!
Of course, the rain continued all week but the hourly forecast suggested it would taper off in the evening on Saturday. And if we were hiking a mile in, we could start fairly late in the evening. It would be wet, we knew, but why not just go for it?! So, we did!
On the drive up there the rain was hit and miss. Some roads hadn’t seen any rain and others had downpours. I hoped we would luck out but as I sat on the shoulder waiting for Keely to arrive at trail mile 42 on FM2296, the bottom finally fell out. There went that hope! We left her car parked there and shuttled my car to trail mile 37 on Evelyn Drive where we sat in the car for 45 minutes while the heaviest rains passed. Finally, I decided we had to get on the trail otherwise it would get dark on us. So, at 6:45pm we headed down the trail in a light rain. It wasn’t that bad, actually, and I have a strong aversion to hiking in the rain from a few experiences on the AT. But I knew I would be home the next day so that relieved that worry a bit.
We made it to the campsite in due course and then had to figure out where was the best place to set up the tents. The campsite had a single tent pad and a fire ring and someone had left a camp chair there, which ended up being perfect later that night as I sat in it with my rain pants on to eat my dinner. But there were other cleared areas around the site in the woods a bit where other hikers had camped. They looked promising until we walked on them and the ground was soft, soft, soft. It didn’t take much for my boots to sink a bit and water to slosh up. Great.
I ended up finding two, more solid areas, one in front of the tent pad (which, the tent pad was a puddle of water), and another near the entrance to the site. Keely took the tent pad area and I took the campsite entrance. And wouldn’t you know that minute after getting our tents out, the light rain turned to moderate to heavy rain. Now, also, mind you, this was the first time I had set up this particular tent. It’s a 3-person tent that we got so we could take Forest on our backpacking trips and we’ve used it several times but Chris has been the one to set it up. We had our Big Agnes tent from our thru-hikes that I can set up no problem, but the fly needs to be repaired and we haven’t done that. So, I had this new tent and had watched a video on how to set it up a few times right before I left. It wasn’t hard, just a little different. And while I was making progress with setting it up, my problem happened to be the soggy ground. The tent stakes would. not. hold.
So, Keely is making progress with her tent and I am playing this asinine game of setting one side up and its good, only to get to the other side (which requires my hiking poles to keep that side up) and the stakes for that line on the entrance don’t want to stay, and every time I try to pull it taut, the back side stakes come loose. Meanwhile, it’s still pouring rain and there’s a nice pond going inside the tent. Thankfully there’s mesh along the bottom sides of the tent and I knew I could easily get the water out and wipe it down with a bandana (of which I brought three of because I just had that feeling…) Finally, Keely’s tent was mostly up, though water was also now an issue for her too, but she was able to come to one side and hold it while I got another side up. Then I finally gave up on staking the front and realized I had my bear bag rope and I rigged up the front rope of the tent to that rope and tied it to a hickory tree right in front of the tent. One problem solved!
Eventually the rain lightened up, after many checks of the radar with my head hunched over the phone in an attempt to keep the rain off of it, and I was able to get the wide sides of the tent staked, too. It took forever for one of them because the soil was so loose and moist, that I had to jam a bunch of twigs in with the stake to get it to even think about staying. I told Keely later that I was thisclose to saying “Eff it” and going back to the car! But her help and the idea for tying the tent rope to the tree helped make that be a fleeting thought.
I managed to dry out the tent as best as possible and get everything set up in there. Before we had left our respective houses, I had texted to let her know I was bringing a sandwich for dinner so I wouldn’t have to cook and was doing bars for breakfast. No stove, so easy! She did the same and so she ate her sandwich in her tent and I sat on that camp chair while I ate, head lamp on at like 9pm. It was an event but we made it work! If there had been a chance for rain that night we wouldn’t have made the trip but we knew it would clear up and that’s why we opted to go.
The next morning, after a fitful sleep, we woke around 8 and slowly got up and going on the trail. The trail itself was a combination of wet and dry, some areas soggier than others. The mosquitoes were terribly so we didn’t stop much for any breaks. There was one small road walk along a dirt road that was nice to walk on and be dry for a while. I was glad to have just bought brand new boots about a month ago and my feet were never wet, except for a small section that splashed up when we had a deeper creek crossing we couldn’t just jump across. We were out of the woods by 11:15 and glad to see her car still there. We shuttled back to my car to arrange things and decide where to go for lunch in Huntsville, hoping to get breakfast, and definitely some coffee.
It was a short hike and a quick trip but I really enjoyed it despite the rain. First, it was my first backpacking trip where I wasn’t with Chris or anyone in my family. I had been wanting to go for a hike solo at some point soon and this was a great transition to that. Plus, I was getting to hang out with a friend I really don’t see too often–she lives on the south side of Houston and has a full life and I’m on the north side of Houston and have a full life. We actually met because we were into nature and hiking and I found her blog when I moved to Houston. The trip was the start of hopefully more trips on the Lone Star Trail and maybe other trails with Keely in the future.
I think one thing I need to think about for future backpacking trips is my NeoAir sleeping pad. My lower back killed me on Sunday when I got home. I bent down to try to do something and had a horrible time trying to straighten up. I’m unsure if it was just not being used to that pad from not doing a lot of backpacking in recent years or if I’m aging out of it as my body ages. I love that pad—it’s lasted thousands of miles and takes up minimal space, but it is something I’m going to have to note next time I backpack and see if I need to find something else.
When things get hectic, blogging is the first thing that goes for me. It always has. I’ve tried to keep up during hard times over the years, the biggest adaptation happening when Forest was born to some themed posts to keep me going. And it works, usually.
I certainly don’t want to quit writing here. When you’ve been putting your writing online in some form since 2002 it is hard to give it up because you’ve turned into one of those hardcore old-style bloggers and, well, I don’t want to stop blogging yet. But….writing and reading blogs has been more time consuming this last year. And I need to adapt it into something that fits me for now. So, while I will probably still take a bazillion photos I just won’t be writing up every little trip for a while. If I have problems keeping up and reading blogs, surely my readers have the same with my writing.
I find myself wanting to read more, of the book kind, and I have been reading voraciously this year so far. I’ve had a lull over the last few weeks, the pull of the phone outweighing the piles of paper and digital pages that are compiling. I also have a stack of magazines from the last year or so I want to read but I’ve found my focus is not long enough to digest it all. Another item I need to work on.
But most of all, I’ve felt the need to be creating elsewhere than writing here to share. I’ve been trying to sketch in my sketchbook and do some small watercolors in another watercolor journal. As much as I want to even focus on some Actual Paintings, I also find myself lacking the discipline and time to devote to that at the moment. So, smaller tidbits of art where I can. I’m also trying to encourage Forest to join in and I’ve been trying to have art time one or two evenings a week. A couple of years ago, I found a stack of 6×6 paper books at the Dollar Spot at Target. He created through those quickly and I bought some similar books at Michaels online last summer during the height of quarantine. And he goes through those and creates little art books and I see that in a short time he will be also writing stories in them. The evolution of his reading abilities in the last few months has taken off and while reading and sounding words out is different than actually putting them down on paper (it’s harder, more help is requested!), I know that the ease and ability to do it himself is just around the corner.
And that’s where we’re at right now, a transition to leaving kindergarten and into first grade soon. A transition from staying away from folks to seeing folks and venturing out more. Spring to summer. Quiet to busy. And it’s a lot.
I can’t guarantee how this blog will look and I am not going to state that I’m committing to writing once a week or anything like that because putting some kind of confined space around what I put here is a guarantee for me to rebel and not do it.
In the meantime, I’ll be around. Probably puttering in the garden or with a nose in a book, and sometimes putting down words and photos here.
Let’s pretend this isn’t a dusty post languishing in my drafts folder since last summer! I wanted to post it a few months ago but lacked the interest in getting it out. And seeing as I took these photos in June 2020 and a new June is rapidly approaching I figured I might as well get this one up. And I am itching to get back to the Big Thicket soon, too.
I am leaning towards this being a Carolina satyr Hermeuptychia sosybius however Intricate Satyrs are very similar and this one has that look like it is just slightly different and could be an Intricate.
Going through my iNaturalist recordings to jog my memory, I noted this one as being Amanda’s Pennant, Celithemis amanda with the caveat I would come back to make sure. Did I ever go back? Nope. But I think the ID is correct.
Triantha racemosa, coastal false asphodel. Localized to this area of Texas but more common along the Florida panhandle into coastal Alabama and Mississippi, with some sporadic hits around the coastal Carolinas.
Rhynchospora latifolia, sandswamp whitetop sedge. I would love to get some of this established in our ditches and pond shoreline or especially in our low spots in the front yard. I saw R. colorata in a ROW swale last year in the neighborhood and almost stopped on my bike to rip some out of the ground. I should have because it was mowed the next time I went.
Yes, must get back to the Thicket very soon.
The last time I did one of these was in December and I lamented then that I hadn’t done one since August. I don’t have a very good track record lately, do I?
Well, a lot has been going on behind the scenes.
I first found Rusty and Dusty on the Petfinder app back in January. Forest and I had started looking for cats and I was favoriting ones that were kid friendly and those who were in bonded pairs. These two were brothers and they had/have three sisters. Chris wanted to wait until we took our Arkansas trip before we started looking for cats and while we were on the trip I emailed the rescue group to find out more about them. I filled out their application and we made plans to meet them. Their living situation wasn’t the best, though they were well cared for. They were born in a garage from two feral cats and a woman took them in and cared for them, though she had at least one cat of her own. So she started raising them in her laundry room and once they were old enough she would shuttle them to her screened-in porch during the day. Which is how they had lived for most of this last year. We were the first people to have come to see them. After a few days of thinking, we decided to go ahead with adopting them and made plans for after Easter to have them dropped off at the house. A few days out from that we almost didn’t get them as the woman who had been raising them decided she wanted to keep them. It was a dramatic evening afterwards with tears all around but circumstances changed later that night and the next morning when she thought better of it and realized they would be better off with us. This is a synopsis of what happened, of course, it was a terribly evening and we were really upset. Finally, they arrived at our house and have been with us for the last week and a half.
They are a pair of sweet goobers and yes, sometimes we have a hard time telling them apart. Rusty is the more social and less scared one so if you see a cat first it is likely Rusty. Dusty is a scaredy-cat but he is also sweet and Dusty is smaller. Both really are very sweet to each other and don’t really fight all that much. They’ve gone from hiding under our bed for days on end to sleeping on the bed at night. And they love to hang out on the couch upstairs while you watch tv because they haven’t figured out that tv isn’t real yet. And they love Forest, though he is too rambunctious for them still and they haven’t gotten used to all the movement and noise, even with us sometimes, they will scatter quickly if you move too fast. We love them and they will be a fun addition to the household for the next decade and a half.
In Forest-land, he’s lost two teeth in the course of a week and a half. He’d had two loose teeth for a few months and finally the bottom one that was loose came out the night before Easter and his top one came out about a week ago. The tooth fairy has been busy around our house lately! And Forest is doing great, otherwise. He’s currently in a very imaginative place and wants to play battle dragons, which is a made up game adapted from one of his games off his tablet!
Ugh. The garden.
It was doing pretty well until a week ago. Even the deer weren’t being terrible assholes. Plants were recovering from the freeze in February and most plants were rebounding.
I had seen earlier in the afternoon this storm moving in from the hill country and it had dropped hail out that direction. The storm had shrunk by the time it reached our area but it also made a beeline for us. Chris said it still had hail in the center so he moved my car under the carport and cleaned up a few things. We sat outside to watch the rain and hoped the hail wouldn’t come but it did. It was light for the first thirty seconds but after that the clouds started dropping buckets of ice and Chris and I just looked at each other in amazement and shock. It was very loud because of our metal roof. The only good thing was we got to see the new drain in action that Chris installed in early February that will help drain water from the front walkway area to the backyard. It worked!
Needless to say the garden was torn to shreds and then the deer came by to add insult to injury the day after.
We still haven’t started the new edible garden beds, yet. I did end up planting zinnia seeds in the perimeter bed near the blackberries so I am excited to have some flowers out there this summer. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind a half flower garden/half edible garden out there since we will never be able to grow what we want in our actual flower garden without the deer browsing. We don’t usually use all the space in the edible garden anyway and we don’t eat a lot of the edible plants we do grow. Anyway, there’s a lot we can re-envision out there—more perennial edibles instead of annual edibles—something. I don’t know….
I have been reading A LOT! I have a lull occasionally but then will complete 2-3 books in a week. I’ll hit some high points from the last few months:
+Open Book by Jessica Simpson: I loved this! I listened as an audiobook and I highly recommend as Jessica reads it herself. It’s a memoir and you get a glimpse of her life over the last 30 years. You see some behind the scenes of her and Nick but you really get a feeling of what a dipshit John Mayer really is.
+Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail by Melanie Radzicki McManus: Audiobook—I loved this book! Melanie is an ultrarunner who wanted to FKT the IAT. The book gives you glimpses of her hike/run but also goes into other stories of other hikers on the IAT that she meets but also some of the historical aspects of the IAT. It isn’t a play-by-play of a thru-hike. Definitely add it to your hiking trail memoir collection!
+New Naturalism: Designing and Planting A Resilient, Ecologically Vibrant Home Garden by Kelly D. Norris: This is a very pretty book that guides gardeners into transitioning into the Piet Oudolf style of naturalistic gardening, which isn’t strictly native plants but a more wild design. I would say this isn’t for beginners but also beginners should read it. There are plenty of basics covered but there are also a lot of in depth analysis and ideas to go with it. It is a book you will be referencing for a long time.
+Floret Farm’s Discovering Dahlias: A Guide to Growing and Arranging Magnificent Blooms by Erin Benzakein: So, I’ve been falling in love with dahlias on social media. They are gorgeous and generally aren’t considered to do well in Texas and the south. Except—people are growing them! You have to give them more shade than you would think in the summer but people are being successful with them. So I ordered some dahlias tubers from Etsy and am trying my hand at them. I am growing them at the office, though, because they wouldn’t survive the deer. Unfortunately I didn’t account for the fact that the landscaping company comes in and sprays sometimes and a few were sprayed so I’m not sure if they will recover. I need to put a sign or fence them off somehow. We shall see. The book is beautiful and really details how to grow them and all of the varieties there are.
+Under Western Skies: Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast by Jennifer Jewell and Caitlin Atkinson: Another beautiful book to add to your garden book collection! So many gorgeous gardens from the American West are chronicled in here and you will want to pull so many design elements from there. Page after page will have you wanting to stand in each photo and wish that was your garden to enjoy.
+The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: A fiction book based on Hemingway’s first wife. I knew Hemingway was an ass but you really get a glimpse of it here and I really felt bad for his first wife and their son. It’s 1920s glitz and glamour but also you feel the dirty underbelly of that lifestyle.
+The Light Through the Leaves by Glendy Vanderah: If you loved Where the Forest Meets the Stars, Glendy’s debut novel a few years ago, you will love her second book! I really adore her writing and because she has a biologist and naturalist background the details are where it matters. You know how you read a book and someone is writing about nature or science and they get some detail wrong? And it is annoying because they used the wrong term? Well, Glendy doesn’t do that because she knows what she’s writing about! Definitely add it to your summer beach read list!
+The Way of the Gardener: Lost in the Weeds Along the Camino de Santiago by Lyndon Penner: Another trail memoir that goes against the typical grain, though I was left wondering if the author totally enjoyed his walk! Lyndon is a gardener from Canada and had the chance to hike the Camino with a friend a few years ago. He brings his gardening knowledge to this book so you get the plant aspect of what is found along the Camino as well as some historical tidbits along the way. And since he is not a thru-hiker are heart you see some of the antics that you wouldn’t see from a typical thru-hiker. I found myself wanting to reach through the book and prepare him a bit more, though.
I have not been making a lot of art but I have been doing blind contour drawings to stay in the creative groove and have started doing sketchbook work again. I am cleaning up my studio so I hope to start painting again soon. I have made two crochet pieces in the last several months, a shawl and a shirt. I have a photo of the shawl but it isn’t great and I never took a photo of the shirt so I’ll have to remedy that and share soon.
Seeing family in May! My parents are coming down and brother’s family are coming down later in the month. And finally seeing some friends again! I had my first friend date last weekend and it was fantastic! I’m also hoping for some hiking trips to east Texas and looking forward to getting beach time in as well.
*A note*: I was alerted that Feedburner is going to phase out the email subscription service for feeds soon. I need to figure out how to migrate that to another service so if you see any changes and get this via email, that’s what happened. They had said they were phasing out Feedburner totally about 8 or 9 years ago and that never happened so I’m not going to hold my breath too much but will try to take action to migrate it anyway. Just FYI*
It’s been a few weeks.
I haven’t felt much like writing here and to be honest, I’ve got a huge back log of things to share from not only Thanksgiving but I still have Alaska items to share, and now I have posts from Arkansas and a camping trip we took over Easter—and it’s a lot. I have enough photos processed to write a few weeks worth of posts but the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down and writing. I feel stuck in my writing here. I basically feel like I just do trip reports and while I enjoy that I need to figure out a new way to write and make it work for me. It might be sharing less photos. And as much as 2020 felt hard and was difficult in its own way, 2021 and the return to “normalcy” feels even harder and that has put a damper on my mood.
Looking back at these photos and seeing Skater Boy Forest with his hair cracks me up! This feels like eons ago and yet it was not quite six months ago! He’s since lost two more teeth, the most recent one last night, a top tooth! And even just remembering the feeling of life in November versus now—not knowing when vaccinations would be getting to the general population and here we are now and some areas are having trouble getting enough people to come out to get vaccines by appointment that they have even started having first-come, first-served days at some hubs around here. You could never have seen that sitting back there along the Guadalupe River in November.
I am glad it is spring, though that also feels like it is rapidly hurtling along and we will be in summer conditions before we know it.
Hopefully I’ll get out of my writing funk and get back to sharing more soon.
Reaching back into late February with this post to go with a couple of others I wrote about our hike at the REL Sandyland Sanctuary. I actually had to look it up because I was unsure of who Mr. Larsen was, and it turns out he was an executive with Time, Inc. and as a conservationist later in life he organized the Nantucket Conservation Fund and joined the board of The Nature Conservancy, who later dedicated this tract of land to him when it became a sanctuary.
I imagine it is a much different scenario out there at the sanctuary this time around. I had hoped to possibly visit it again when I was in Lumberton and Silsbee on Friday to get my second COVID vaccine but I had too much to do at work and needed to get back to the office for the afternoon. And being that it is a 2+ hour drive each way, I didn’t have much time to dally, though I did pop into the Southern Gardens nursery in Silsbee to look for a couple of plants.
I’ve begun to really love bulbous cress. It is an early spring bloomer and is an underrated spring ephemeral wildflower in our area. Of course you have to be in some more mesic or wetter areas to see it but it is a delight.
This particular species are only active in early to mid spring when the vacciniums are blooming and are considered to be one of the most efficient blueberry pollinator species. There’s a lot more great information here if you’d like to read more. A really cool niche species!
I am hoping we can trek over to SE Texas again this spring to catch some plants we didn’t see last year during our late spring/early summer visits.
It’s back to the grind for us this week, but last week Chris, Forest, and I checked out of state and drove to Arkansas to spend the week in a cute AirBnB cabin on the SE edge of the Ozark National Forest. Between cooler weather and the state of Arkansas not being on their spring break, it was fairly quiet for us on the trails except in a few areas. We could see that ramping up as we left our cabin on Saturday, the start of a glorious weekend meant an influx of ORVs, and canoes and kayaks being driven into the Ozarks as we passed heading south to I-40.
We hiked, we waterfalled, we did some rock scrambling and bushwhacking, put some out and back miles onto the Ozark Highlands Trail (and now I want to hike it!), did some relaxing on the front porch while reading and playing games, and overall enjoyed having very little cell signal. We even got to meet Old Man Winter once again on Thursday when we briefly saw snow at higher elevations in the mountains. Thankfully it only stuck around briefly but it was a very cold day for us, though we did explore one of the cooler sets of waterfalls we visited in the Boen Gulf area of the NF that day.
And between when we arrived and when we left, many of the spring ephemerals were beginning to open. I managed to nab a few Life List goals because of this and left very happy with our botanical finds. Chris did some salamander searching and I think Forest only wished it was summer so he could have splashed in all of the pools of water at the base of the falls.
The return was a bit somber because we had an inkling one of our last two remaining feral cats might have died after Chris saw a loose dog on our property via our outdoor cameras, and the cat never showed back up on camera later in the week. Sure enough, we found Ruby dead on the garden path not far from the front door. Little Callie has been mourning her and I’m more than a little worried for LC now that she doesn’t have an outside companion.
So, we are easing back into life. I’m looking forward to my second COVID shot later this week and Chris will likely find out if he received the placebo shot this week as J&J is telling trial participants now and will vaccinate them if they didn’t get the shot the first time. And of course, spring is in full swing here and I’ve got a garden to get working in.
Hope all is well out there with my readers in Blog Land!
Coming out of the stupor of winter has been cathartic. February was a mess but even in February I felt a shift in life. Getting my first vaccine shot amplified that shift but the return to blooming plants and insects flying about has really set in motion this feeling of life switching again. Being able to witness the evolution of spring in the yard has been delightful this year for so many reasons. It is always something I enjoy but I think February just wore me down that everything in nature is a marvel.
I was heading out to the edible garden on a walkabout with Forest last weekend when I noticed a fluttering shadow as I looked down on the driveway, just as we were passing the Chickasaw plum. It was a butterfly, so I looked up trying to find it and expected it to be flying directly overhead. Instead I found it nectaring on the plum alongside various bees and after a couple of photos with my phone ran inside to grab my camera. I don’t often see question marks around our yard so this was a thrill I wanted the good camera to document. And, I actually did run inside. Chris was just coming outside and looked at my oddly as I bolted up the drive way but all I had to do was mutter “butterfly!” and he understood.
The Chickasaw blooms are already starting to fade and I can only hope we finally get a crop of plums this year. But only time will tell on that. And soon other trees will begin blooming and new nectar sources will abound.
Finally we are entering into front porch moth season once again, that time of year when I leave the house in the morning there may be a couple of moths to be found resting on the side of the house. We’ve had a few friends visit over the last week and so I thought I would start a new series here on the blog, Front Porch Moths!
The first and more unique looking species is the Hubner’s Pero, which is relatively uncommon in this part of the US and is much more widespread in the mid-Atlantic region. Host plants include Alnus sp., Shepherdia canadensis, Prunus serotina and Salix species.
This tiny moth is relatively widespread throughout the eastern US but still, there’s not a ton of sightings on iNaturalist but enough to get a good idea on its range. I was having trouble figuring out its host plant and was going to say “Go with oaks!” because that’s the most common option and sure enough, I finally found a citation stating various oak species!
This particular species is fairly common here in Texas with occurrences wide spread throughout the greater south. Larval hosts seem to range from apples to oaks and Bug Guide even suggests various woody plants may be hosts. That is generally the theme with some of these moths because they are so under studied and many have multiple host plants.
Celery Leaftier Moth, Udea rubigalis
This snouty moth, as the name suggest, has larval host plants in your edible garden. They like your celery and brassicas and other similar plants. This particular species is very widespread and there’s a good chance you’ve seen this one before and not known what it was.
Stay tuned for more moths this spring and summer!
These days I almost always just keep the 75-300mm lens on my camera when out for a hike. Any time I use a normal lens I’m always sad because I can’t get a good photo of a butterfly or an insect and I would prefer the ability to get a good wildlife shot than a landscape shot for now. So, of course, that was the lens I had on me during our hike two weekends at the Sandyland Sanctuary. While it wasn’t quite a lepidopteran extravaganza it was fairly eventful and exciting outing!
The first find was this moth which I believe to be a Ruined Chocolate, Argyrostrotis deleta. My field guide has its range from Florida and along the coast into eastern Louisiana which mostly matches up with sightings in iNaturalist. However, there are a tiny handful of other east Texas sightings so I feel a bit more confident saying this is what it is, but I’m not for certain. I loved the rusty chocolate colorings on it and wish I’d taken a better photo.
I’m slowly getting better at telling the duskywings apart in the field but it always takes some verification when I get back home to make sure I’m right. Not long after this, I tried chasing another butterfly off into the brush but had no luck getting a photo. I finally realized what it was, a goatweed leafwing, after I emerged from the brush.
Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor, nectaring on the bulbous cardamine in the bottomlands. The cardamine was by far the most common plant providing nectar out there that weekend though a few more plants have surely started blooming since then.
Of course the highlight was the zebra swallowtails, of which this was the only one I managed to get a photo off. I also had to stalk this one off into the brush while it nectared for me to get a photo. The others we saw were too busy flying in search of nectar for me to even contemplate getting a photo.
I’d like to thank this black swallowtail for throwing me off. I really thought it was a different species of swallowtail but nope, “just” a black swallowtail. And I don’t say “just” pejoratively, I do like these butterflies, too, but they have a habit of tricking me into thinking they are something else! Or maybe I just need to be better about differentiating some of the similar species in the field!
All in all, it was a good beginning of the butterfly season hike for me and I’m just itching to see more of my lepidopteran friends in the coming months!