Come catch me!

26 Jan

After a five-mile and five-hour trek in the Hill Country of Texas, I netted a dozen and a half butterflies and two diurnal moths. Caught two butterflies in the net with one swipe. Watched two metalmarks twirl and then couple together, the male struggling while flying away and the female hanging underneath.

I missed several  butterflies, caught some replicates, and three escaped my fingers. The most abundant species were gulf fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) and common buckeyes (Junonia coenia). Interstingly, the size of the gulf fritillaries varied more than I expected, and they were all males.

The best prize was a male goatweed leafwing (Anaea andria); a beauty. It escaped my fingers as I reached for my phone from my pocket to photograph it. A four letter word echoed through the junipers. 

This species favors muddy areas in and alongside forest roads. They are different than many other butterflies because their preferred food sources are tree resin and decaying fruit, although they may also visit flowers for nectar.

On my return hike, a common buckeye taunted me by landing on the dirt in front of me and then flying up to land another meter ahead. It did this several times, while I told it outloud that I was not interested in playing its game. It continued this ‘game’, and I then said, “Okay. I’ll play once.” The little bugger would wait till I was close, facing me on the ground, then disappear before my net covered it. 

This continued again half a meter in front of me, facing me and waiting. So I tried to net it again; it would disappear and I had an empty net. “Okay, you little bugger. Game’s on!”

I finally caught it on the sixth try. I pulled it out of the bottom of the net, wings folded, and asked it why the hell it wanted to play, then put it on my arm where it sat for 30 seconds opening and closing its wings, then flew away.

A beautiful day in the low 70’s, sunny, and almost no wind. It was a wonderful day on the trails. All the volunteers (five of us) back at ‘camp’ had happy hour when I returned, with margaritas, peanuts, and popcorn. 

That night I dreamt that I was using two nets at a time and catching 4-6 butterflies in each net, had an assistant to remove and ID them while I picked up two more nets and caught more butterflies. Meanwhile, around us were people mingling at a party drinking margaritas, laughing and wearing party hats. 

All in a good day’s work.

 

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