Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Mexico Critters

My Dears, 

Here is a quick photo montage of some of the amazing creepy, crawly, flying things we spotted in Mexico. Many of these photos were taken by my dad (including my favorite photo from the entire trip - a Malachite butterfly, at the end of this post) and I’ll try to give credit as we go along. 

Getting right down to business: Our first scorpion!! As you can see, he’s still a little frosty from his freezer experience. This one was actually quite a bit larger than the second one, the wee critter that met an unfortunate end at the hands of some scorpion spray. That one was small and quick and looked quite likely to make a home in the depths of one’s shoes. I worried about  him and his ilk but fortunately we came to no harm. 

Photo: Tom Dorrance
 My biggest find of the trip: an orb weaver. Yes, yes, thankyouverymuch. This specimen was about 6 inches in length (including legs) and had made a web in the vicinity of the greywater storage system. I was kicking myself for not bringing the macro lens (the dumbest packing decision I’ve ever made) but the longer lens did a semi-decent job of capturing the awesomeness of this spider.
 My lone bird photo: a wilson’s warbler, perhaps? Nope, not a warbler. A pewee of some variety (Mexican, Eastern, or Caribbean). This is dad’s department, I’ll refer to him on this one .
 This guy was crawling up the pillow on the swinging day bed. Praying mantis.
 This dragonfly was about three inches long and had a favorite perch off the end of the porch. He seemed to be rather insulted each time you intruded into his territory, as he was rather fond of zooming furiously by at low altitudes. 
 He sure is pretty, though.
 Ok, this is the last orb picture, I promise.
 My awesome grasshopper that you saw in a previous post.
 The resident iguanas. They’re fond of sitting in the very tops of trees, the best place to get a nice suntan, evidently. 
 This is a blue-tailed-somebody. Too quick to get a better photo.
 I spotted this guy on the back patio…would love to know what kind of flying critter he turns into. He makes a fearsome crawling one, at the very least.

 The puffer fish that took out its anger (at being dead) on my dad’s toe. There were a number of expired puffer fish on the beach which was a shame because, along with box fishes, they’re one of my favorites to see [in the sea]. We theorized that perhaps they were unwanted byproducts from fishing operations in the area and that they floated to shore, thanks to their air-filled [buoyant] condition. Either way, this sucker added a few nasty gashes and spines to dad’s foot. Ouch.
Photo: Tom Dorrance
 At the Science Center we called this butterfly the Queen of Hearts since it sounds so much nicer than its other common name: Pink Spotted Cattleheart (Parides photinues). Cattleheart? Really? What a not-so-pleasant mental image. Queen of Hearts is so much better.

I simply cannot convey how many butterflies there were at our little Mexican casa.  The place was teeming with them.

 And, I’ll admit, for someone that had the pleasure of working with a few of these exotic specimens at the Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House, to see them in the wild (and to take a somewhat knowledgable stab at identifying them) was such a thrill. My old boss was extremely encouraging when it came to identifying species (a miracle of miracles, I can even still remember a few of those scientific names!) and learning about the lifecycles.

So here are a few of the species that we spotted. Identifications are tentative  and I would be delighted if any of you butterfly experts out there were able to correct any mistakes or shed some light on a few of our mystery specimens.

I firmly believe that this was heliconius heaven: The Postman (Heliconius erato) [above]

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius) [above]

Also spotted, but not photographed:
White Morpho
Various sulphur species
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
Julia Butterfly (Dryas julia)
Many other heliconius varieties
And dozens that I didn’t have a prayer of attaching a name to

 And now on to our mystery specimens:
Don’t know what it is, he/she sure is beautiful.

 I feel like I should know this one (below):

 This picture is unique not for the butterfly pictured but for the fact that the large white spider has managed to snag an enormous snack:

Another that I feel like I should know:
Photo: Tom Dorrance
 And now, on to my four favorite photos, all taken by my dad:
 I’m thinking that this is a Colobura dirce but that is a bit more of a guess than a positive identification. Check out its eyes! Lady Gaga would kill for contacts like those.

The most interesting photo of the group: What the heck are these two (sulphur?) butterflies doing with these wasps?!?! Would love to know more about what’s happening here….

Update: My dad reports that the entire tree was covered with insects of various forms and all were apparently feasting off the sap. So it’s likely that the butterflies and wasps are interacting much at all, but rather are communal diners of a sap-heavy supper. 

And last but not least, the ever-stunning Malachite (Siproeta stelenes). What a photo. Excellent job, Papa. 

And that, my dears, is the end of your creepy/crawly/flying tour of Sayulita’s fauna.