Sunday, October 23, 2011

Butterflies Were Free - Mission Butterfly Festival

Disclaimer: My actual outfit for the butterfly walk was shorts + tee

Roger here....  Is this a birder, OR a butterflier?  Note the sensible long pants, the sun-protecting long sleeves, the many pocketed vest, the floppy hat, the sunglasses, the binoculars, and the identification books -- all very practical for both hobbies.  One really can't tell the difference between the two (birder or butterflier) by the wardrobe.  They both look the same.  In order to tell the difference, one must make careful observations of behavior.

You see, birders tend to be a quiet lot.  They move slowly behind bird blinds and seldom speak louder than a whisper.  It is considered bad form to talk loudly, sing, or make sudden jerky movements.  You will scare the birds and they will fly away.  The above person is probably a birder.

Butterfliers, however, are an enthusiastic and rambunctious group.  They tend to yell, flagellate, run, laugh, and occasionally swear when they spot a rare specimen.  Note the rare photograph below.  We were very fortunate to snap this picture at just the right instant before the butterflier made a blurry exit.

Case in point.....   Dianne and I attended the Mission City Butterfly Festival on Saturday.  It was located at the North American Butterfly Association's (NABA) national headquarters about a mile from our motor home.  Normally, there is a ten-dollar-per-person admission charge, but during the festival, admission was free.

It is our understanding that there are fewer butterflies than usual this year due to the drought and a rare early spring freeze.  Nonetheless, there were lots and lots of butterflies.  We had some time to wander through the park just prior to a scheduled guided walk.  It was fun reading the placards and seeing the different butterflies flying around the plants that attract them.  After a careful look, we discovered hundreds of Red-Bordered Pixies on the tree that served as their home.  Cool, huh?

Time for the guided walk and our observations of butterflier behavior.  We met our guide under one of the palapas. A dozen or so other people joined the group.  Our guide was dressed appropriately as a butterflier, and spent a moment pointing out how his garb was appropriate for his hobby.

At that point, our guide behaved much like a birder.  He was calm, knowledgeable, interesting, and non-demonstrative.  He quietly led us through the various planted areas of the park while pointing out a plethora of various butterflies.  Most of them were difficult for novices such as ourselves to photograph, because they were constantly flitting like -- like -- well, like butterflies.  However, we were able to get a couple of pictures:

Guatemalan Cracker
And then it happened!  Our first glimpse of true butterflier behavior.  A somewhat agitated butterflier approached our guide with his camera.  He apologized for interrupting the walk, but explained that he just MUST know the species of butterfly that he just photographed.  Our guide politely offered a couple of possibilities, and the man left.  Not a big deal.

However, within seconds a second butterflier began shouting.  "I KNOW WHAT IT IS!  I KNOW WHAT IT IS!  I KNOW WHAT IT IS!"  Picture a guy hurdling over plants, waving his arms, with binoculars swinging like a pendulum from his neck.  He looked like he was running the 110 low hurdles at a track meet.  He landed in the middle of a planting area insisting that everyone help relocate the butterfly.  At that point, we lost our guide (for a time) as he shuffled through the knee-high plantings --- the telescopic lens of his camera moving from plant to plant, searching for the elusive butterfly.  The frenetic butterflier (the running shouter) apologized for disrupting the walk, but stated that this would be the first sighting of this species of butterfly in the United States, and that it must be found.  At that point a wildly smiling lady, who had evidently photographed the butterfly, lifted her fist in the air and shouted, "Hot damn!"  She then apologized to several small children who were in the area.

Dutifully, we scanned the area for the prized sighting.  There were many questions and comments during the search:

-  "What does it look like?", a lady asked.  No response.  Again, "What does it look like?"  The answer, "Nondescript - dark brown."  "It might have some dots on one of its wings."  (So I am looking for a nondescript butterfly?)

-  "How big is it?"  Answer, "Small."

-  "Is that it?"  "Where, where!?" "Don't lose it!"  "No, thats not it."  

-  "What is its name?"  Answer, "We don't know for sure."  "I know the scientific name, but I don't know for sure."

I thought, all this ruckus and you don't know what it is called?  

Oh well, I have to admit that watching the ecstatic butterfliers as they whooped, hollered, and flitted around (like butterflies) in their butterfly garb was great fun.  What enthusiasm.  These people truly love their hobby.  Good for them.  Selfishly, I am glad I didn't miss it.  I am still smiling.  (Dianne here:  Later during the tour, our guide remembered the name of the butterfly that caused all the excitement, an "Osca Skipper."  It feeds on sugar cane, and since there are large sugar cane fields next to the butterfly park, that is probably what it is.)

The pet picture of the day shows Bandido napping with what remains of the third "indestructible" squeaky duck that was his favorite toy.  He is able to disembowel them in record time now, so no more duckies for Bandido! 


Nancy and Bill said...

Great Post!! You had us smiling and laughing. I would love to get out there with Diane and be a butterflier or a birder or just a happy to be out there nature girl:o))

Keep having fun for us!!

Malone said...

Great birder, butterflier stories! I had to laugh at the last photo of Bandido, however, Abby can ruin any toy made in 2 minutes or less. What IS that all about anyway!!

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

Funny! I always thought both groups were a serious lot, now I know better:)