Ticket to Write: Preserve draws vast variety of butterflies
Birds aren’t the only beautiful flying creatures winging above southern Texas.
Visitors to the Rio Grande Valley can see more than 150 species of butterflies that appear nowhere else in the United States. And many of those species, plus other, more-common butterflies, can be seen at the National Butterfly Center near Mission, Texas.
The center, just a mile from the World Birding Center site at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, has recorded more than 200 species of butterflies — plus 239 species of birds.
The center is a project of the nonprofit North American Butterfly Association.
Visitors will find a large welcome center designed by prominent architect Wendy Evans Joseph, who helped in the design of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
The fluttering by, however, takes place in the many cultivated and wild gardens and along the nature trails of the 100-acre preserve.
The Texas Butterfly Gardens area was teeming with butterflies during my late-winter visit to the center. The sunken gardens offer protection from strong winds and encourage the flying visitors to dawdle at the wide variety of flowers planted there.
I was quite content just to watch the beautiful bustle of silent activity as the various butterflies flitted from flower to flower in the midday sun, gathering nectar, resting briefly and no doubt engaging in a bit of whatever passes for gossip in the insect world. I didn’t even attempt to identify the masses of delicate, brightly colored creatures other than, “Hey, a blue one! Hey, an orange one!”
Those who care more about naming names, though, should know that the National Butterfly Center has recorded the first-ever U.S. sightings of many species, including the delightfully named four-spotted sailor as well as the turquoise longtail, broad-tipped clearwing and cross-barred white.
Furious flitting was happening along the center’s nature trails, too, where I also met a few chachalacas — bird friends which, by this point of my trip, I was able to greet by name.
For more information about the National Butterfly Center, call (956) 583-5400 or visit nationalbutterflycenter.org.
— Steve Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveStephens.