Journal archives for November 2014

November 05, 2014

A robberfly in Mexico.

I'd visited Puerto Vallarta with a friend two years ago B.I. ( Before INaturalist ) and was enthralled with the wildlife and the town. We'd hit it during the Day of the Dead festival. So much to look at. Genuine tradition. Slightly touristy with the beaches and shops - really not my thing. My friend really wanted to do stuff like that: drink his brains out and close every bar and lay on the beach the next day. He got frustrated with me as I stopped in every vacant lot and photographed butterflies and insects.
So, I gave into him and got one of the worst sunburns of my life on the tops of my feet. "You do your thing. I'll do mine." I didn't bring him back this time.
The first night I arrived, torrential rain, which was thrilling to watch from below an awning. Out crawled a Black Witch - a moth with the largest wingspan of any insect in North America. I was hoping to see one down here and boom! first night we were both dodging the rain together
This time I returned to meet up with someone I'd met here on iNat - Francisco Farriols Sarabia - a.k.a. "francisco3". He and his beautiful wife Lilianna met me in the lobby of Hotel Posado de Roger and we all three had a great instant connection. Francisco has a ranch in Mazatlan. My Spanish was much poorer than their English, but through laughter and gestures, we met at the language of Nature. Fantastic couple.
The Botanical Gardens south of Puerto Vallarta are stupendous. So many butterflies I didn't know where to point the camera. Shot a great deal of Odonates and Greg Lasley and others helped me key them. Cool to see my first Malachite. Great mud-puddling across the street. Watched hummingbirds from the deck at lunch.
Next day we headed north to the town of Sayulita - a sweet, little beach town thats...gone even more touristy in the two years since I'd been there. Brain-baking heat. Walked to the edge of town for butterflies and I watched a huge bead of sweat go down my finger and into my iPhone. It stopped. Kinda thought "Whatever.." Had oysters on the beach. Lots of beer. Roommate rebooted phone - Oh, that fixed it.
So glad to have returned to a place and made new memories.
iNat is it's own language: meeting others I only know through the website and the passion for what we all look at...does all the awkward pre-meeting stuff. Like a small band of...intimate explorers.

Posted on November 05, 2014 16:14 by robberfly robberfly | 24 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 15, 2014

The Vast State of Texas

I can't remember who said it, but when Greg Lasley and I mentioned to someone that we'd only met through iNaturalist, their response was something like, "That could really have...gone wrong." Strange. I didn't even think of that.
I think it "went right" from the minute he picked me up at the Austin Airport. A retired Lieutenant with the Austin Police Department, Greg is an iNat Superstar with his broad range of birds, butter and dragon fly knowledge. His photographic skills are...sheer art. Our comments and encouragement towards others and each other here over the last year made a trip out there a no-brainer. ( I remember when Scuba diving was the focus of my life and when I'd meet other divers from other parts of the world, there was already an intimacy and language set. Seems to be true of iNaters as well...) He was planning trip with some of his Naturalist friends to the southern tip of the state and a visit to the National Butterfly Garden in Mission, TX. I'd never been there. Came home from Puerto Vallarta one night and flew to Austin next morning.
Cool, overcast weather didn't deter me. I jumped out of the car and immediately became inthralled with the weird lichens on his oak trees in the yard. Greg laughed and said it was a group he hadn't taken on yet. Meet his fantastic, brilliant wife Cheryl ( a Texan judge ) and the other two occupants of the house - Jericho and Joshua, the cats. Jericho followed me around like a dog
I was excited to visit the Hornsby Bend the next day - a place Greg iNats a lot from. We met up with another iNater Eric Isley - another iNater and just walking in the shadow of these two friends and listening to their banter about nature. Makes me smile. Had about 15 lifers that day. Saw my first Texan Crescent butterfly.
The trip south was packed with amazing, new ecosystems for me. Bad, cloudy weather for the beginning but a sunny few days forecasted ahead gave us hope. His friends were encyclopedic in there knowledge: John and Kendra Abbott. John is the author of "Damselflies of Texas" and he and Kendra are photographing insects for the new Petersen's Guide update. ( Excited I found a Unicorn Mantid for them one day), Jim and Lynne Weber - birders-gone-butterfliers and Roland Wauer, who went by Ro, an elderly man and quite the legend in Texas. He'd worked in many National Parks in the US and autographed two of his books for me: "Butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley" and "Finding Butterflies in Texas". The cherry atop this esteemed ensemble: Jim Brock, co-author of "The Kaufman Guide" - the Bible every lepidopterist I know on the West Coast carries - an honor to have him autograph my well-worn copy. Many days of rapier wit, spirited banter and explosive joy when a new thing was observed. With this group most bug and bird taxon was covered. Brock would just call out " Hey Lifer" to call me over. Beer at the end of a day never tasted better.
The pictures that accompany this journal entry say it all. Somewhat overwhelming to process even now. The NABA park was great - a place I never thought I'd want to go to because I swing a net, but my desires have changed towards how I connect to leps. Disagree with collecting-has-no-place-anymore but complied with Glassberg's park rules. Really a cool place he has created there.
It all comes back to Greg. He is at that magnificent place with his relationship to Nature that what he shares with others seems to have superseded what he gets from it. I deeply identified with his wanting to break out of the "Bird Expert" box he is known for and approached about. "I did that already", he'd say. My Odonate skills ratcheted up a few notches after a week with this man. A great teacher. A kind man.
We had a day with iNater gyrfalcon ( Jennifer Rycenga) that I will never forget, driving along the beach at Boca Chica. I think I wandered across the Mexican Border because when I posted a Black Mangrove, I was in the US and a Great Southern White butterfly caught my eye and I walked only a few feet away and the coordinated read Mexico. Whoops. Another favorite memory: Greg really putting up with my "Roadkill Series"- a tongue-and-check homage to the "Poor Little Critters on the Road" ( a cool song by the Knitters) "We gotta find you your first Armadillo. There's a joke in this state that they are born dead along the Highway." 9 species I iNated.
79 new butterflies, 18 new odes, 35 new birds, 7 new mammals, 2 new frogs even!
Ten days. Ten days with a stranger I met on iNat. Can't wait to see him and his state again. And Jericho the cat.

Posted on November 15, 2014 20:39 by robberfly robberfly | 24 observations | 5 comments | Leave a comment