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Part two of our butterfly safari near San Marcos

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 | 1 comment

Read the previous part in Butterfly safari near San Marcos.

We kept following the dirt road. Suddenly I saw a large dragonfly flying in front of me, and shortly after it landed on a wooden stick. I got my Sony camera out of its protective bag and got as close as possible without disturbing the resting insect and took several photos.

A green dragonfly, resting.
A green dragonfly, resting.

One photo turned out very good as you can see. One of the disadvantages of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S600 is that it has no manual focus. It often gets it right automatically, but the camera has a hard problem with shiny objects, and with small objects it often focuses on the background

Thoas swallowtail, Papilio (Heraclides) thoas autocles, ventral.
Thoas swallowtail, Papilio (Heraclides) thoas autocles, ventral.
Some other pictures I made of this Thoas swallowtail. Click a thumbnail for a larger version.

We continued our walk, and ahead I saw that another part of the road had some puddles that had attracted many butterflies, probably also because there was a large patch of grass and the area was more open. We saw many species, with Chlosyne janais (Crimson patch) outnumbering all others. I saw one Thoas swallowtail and it took me quite some time, sitting perfectly still, before I could make some photos of this beautiful butterfly.

Damselfly resting on a stone.
Damselfly resting on a stone.

We continued our walk, leaving the open area and following the dirt road with coffee plants and trees to the left, and trees to the right. After a few minutes we saw some large boulders to the left and the right of the path and we decided to have a short break so Esme could breastfed Alice.

I looked around a bit, and spotted a lizard, but couldn't get a good photo of it. When I returned to Esme and Alice, I rested a bit more because Alice was still drinking. When she was finished I helped Esme to get Alice back into the Infantino baby carrier. We continued our walk, and after some time we came upon another, larger open area, with a house on a hill. We kept following the road, but after some time it ended at the river, so we decided to walk back.

Caterpillar on a tree.
Caterpillar on a tree.

On the way back we noticed a well paved but narrow side road going uphill. We decided to follow the road which led us between coffee and banana plants. After quite a climb up we decided to go back the way we had come. On the way back I managed to take a photo of a damselfly resting on a stone.

Caterpillar on a tree.
Caterpillar on a tree.

After some time we came back upon the road parallel to the river, and we started to follow it back to the main road. Suddenly I saw some movement in a tree. It turned out to be a large caterpillar. When I got closer I noticed that the tree had many caterpillars resting in groups of about 20 or more on branches. I couldn't resist to touch one caterpillar, and it had a very smooth soft skin.

Alice gets her nappy changed.
Alice gets her nappy changed.

Nearby was a large flat stone, so Esme decided to use it as natural changing table and changed Alice's nappy. Our baby daughter had no problem at all with being changed outdoors with the sound of cicadas as background music.

Alice after her nappy change.
Alice after her nappy change.

Again I helped Esme with getting Alice back in the Infantino baby carrier. I put the dirty nappy in a plastic bag, and the plastic bag, after closing it, inside my backpack. We're always very careful to leave no traces behind, especially not something like dirty nappies. Sadly not everybody cleans up behind himself or herself, and often I have to be careful when I take nature photos to not include empty bottles or other garbage.

Esme carrying baby Alice.
Esme carrying baby Alice.

After some walking we came upon a ditch and I saw several damselflies hovering above the water. One rested on a leaf, but when I got closer I scared it away. So I just waited a bit more, and after a minute or two a damselfly was resting on a leaf and I was close enough for a nice photo. However, the automatic focus of the Sony Cyber-shot didn't do its job right. So I let the camera focus on a nearby leaf, held the button halfway, and moved the camera towards the damselfly until I the LCD gave me the impression that the distance was right, and pressed the button down all the way. One of the results is shown below:

Damselfly resting on a leaf.
Damselfly resting on a leaf.

We continued or walk back to the main road, and shortly after we arrived at the open area. On a sandy and wet part to the right there were several groups of Crimson patch butterflies resting. When I got closer I scared most of the butterflies away, but when I sat still for some time some came back and I could make a photo of a small group of butterflies.

A small group of Crimson patch (Chlosyne janais) butterflies.
A small group of Crimson patch (Chlosyne janais) butterflies.

After I had made some photos of the Crimson patch butterflies, I walked back to the dirt road. This part of the road had several small puddles, providing moisture to many butterflies.

Male Blue-frosted Banner (Catonephele numilia esite), dorsal.
Male Blue-frosted Banner (Catonephele numilia esite), dorsal.

I managed to get a photo of a dark butterfly with large orange spots on its wings, a Male Blue-frosted Banner. As far as I could tell there was only one specimen of this species and it was quite hard to get close, the slightest movement I made resulted in the butterfly flying up and moving to a different spot.

Male Blue-frosted Banner (Catonephele numilia esite), ventral.
Male Blue-frosted Banner (Catonephele numilia esite), ventral.

After I had made a few more photos we continued our walk back to the main road. The sky had gotten a bit dark and now and then we could feel a drop of rain. On the main road we encountered a man selling ice pops and snow cones. Esme and I both bought a snow cone with lemon taste, which was a great refreshment after our walk.

We walked back to the town and asked directions to a bus stop to take a bus to Coatepec. We had decided to have dinner in Coatepec before returning back to our apartment in Xalapa.

Read the third part in Dinner in Coatepec.

Mexican butterfly related

While writing this blog entry I used the following resources in order to help me identify the butterfly species we saw. I am solely to blame for any misidentification and corrections are very welcome.

Special thanks to Dr. Andrew D. Warren, one of the authors of the Interactive Listing of Mexican Butterflies, for identifying the male Blue-frosted Banner (Catonephele numili, see this page) and the Longwing Crescent (Eresia p. phillyra, see Butterfly safari near San Marcos).

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