Life as I see it: work, play and in-between.

National Butterfly Center on “In Focus” for PBS

Did you know nearly 150 species of North American butterflies can be seen only in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas, or by traveling to Mexico?

In fact, more than 300 species of butterflies may be found in the LRGV, and more than 200 species have been seen at the National Butterfly Center, including a number of rarities and U.S. Records!

Incredibly, almost 40% of the 700+ butterflies that can be found in the United States can be seen in this three-county area at the southernmost tip of Texas, where the subtropical climate makes it possible to enjoy the outdoors year ‘round.

A Blue Morpho … and a Jaguar

I spotted my first Blue Morpho butterfly in La Selva Maya near Chan Chich Jungle Lodge in Belize in 1997. I have been hooked on butterflies ever since seeing this butterfly - the size of my hand - perched on a decaying log with its wings folded up and invisible to the naked eye. Then suddenly, it unfolded its wings to reveal a stunning, iridescent blue (photograph courtesy of National Geographic).

Chan Chich is one of the premier jungle lodges of Belize. I traveled there during the Christmas holiday with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. December is a comfortable time to travel to Belize in terms of temperature and weather. The website is enticing:

"Come and retrace the footsteps of the Maya, wander our extensive trail system and discover the unforgettable flora, fauna and Maya history unique to this tropical paradise. With an unparalleled abundance of wildlife (and the best chance to see the elusive jaguar in its natural habitat) Chan Chich is an extraordinary destination for naturalists, birders and for those seeking an authentic retreat to the jungle."

In addition to the lovely large Blue Morpho, I also spotted a jaguar while roaming the trails near the compound, after a restful afternoon nap in a hammock.

There I was, a novice “birder” with a new set of binoculars in hand staring down a fork-in-the-road, when I noticed a pair of yellow eyes staring intently back at me. I froze. Not believing my eyes, I kept raising and lowering the binoculars to be sure I was seeing accurately. The jaguar was stealthily making its way down a trail in my direction, and it had halted, waiting to see which trail I would take before making its own decision.

Suddenly, it dawned on me I was alone, and this was a forest, not not a zoo. Adrenaline surged and I sprinted uphill on another trail that led me back to the lodge.

Suffice it to say this was a highlight of the trip, and an experience jealously coveted by my vastly more experienced VENT trip colleagues. I received a special certificate to commemorate the experience.

Actually, I did have one additional heart-stopping experience when a fer-de-lance - an extremely venomous snake - leaped toward me from the side of a trail during an evening walk in the nearby woods.

After a delicious but filling supper, a small group of fellow travelers decided a walk would do us good before bedtime. After startling the snake well into our stroll (which then caused us to leap backward a few feet), our native guide told us not to worry, this snake was “not harmful.”

When we returned to the lodge and read our guidebooks, however, we learned otherwise. As one online snake guide reports, "This highly dangerous snake is responsible for a high mortality rate. It has an irritable disposition, ready to strike with little provocation." And yes, some snakes do “leap” when they become startled or angry; I’ll never forget the “thud” when this one landed on the trail after leaping at us.

In the end, this was a somewhat dangerous but delightful trip and I’d do it all over again. See the Chan Chich website for details. I also began supporting the nonprofit organization, the North American Butterfly Association after this trip and I urge everyone to do the same.

For more about this trip see, "Of Birders, and Breaking the Rules."

National Butterfly Center
This photo of a Red-Bordered Pixie resting on Texas Ebony was taken at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, a project of the North American Butterfly Association.  The site ~ and the natural habitat surrounding it ~ are continually expanding along Texas’ shared border with Mexico.  Click on the photograph to reach the project’s website.
From the North American Butterfly Association (www.naba.org):

“The 100 acre National Butterfly Center is the premier location in the United States to experience the beauty, drama and emotion of wild butterflies. You will see incredible numbers of kaleidoscopically-colored wild butterflies. The clouds of butterflies are at the National Butterfly Center because, by planting thousands of plants that the butterflies need for nectar and for caterpillar growth, we have created a butterfly paradise that sustains large populations of hundreds of species of wild butterflies.”

The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas is the very best location in the United States for a butterfly park:
Almost 40% of the 700+ butterflies that occur in the United States can be seen in a three-county area of the Lower Rio Grande Valley;
With over 300 species, this region has nearly as many butterflies as the states of New Mexico and Arizona, and more than the entire eastern United States.
Approximately 150 species of North American butterflies can be seen only in the region, or by traveling to Mexico.  More than 200 have been seen at the National Butterfly Center, including a number of rarities and U.S. records.
A subtropical climate makes butterflying a year-round family activity.
An exciting blend of American and Mexican cultures already draws many tourists to the Texas/Mexican Border, as well as thousands of Winter Texans who spend up to 6 months each year in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Jeff and his wife, Jane Scott, are a dynamic team.  This 2 min. 19 sec. video on YouTube features Jane, and provides a concise overview of what is being accomplished with great care at the Center: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpGjgGBC—0&feature=channel_video_title.

National Butterfly Center

This photo of a Red-Bordered Pixie resting on Texas Ebony was taken at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, a project of the North American Butterfly Association.  The site ~ and the natural habitat surrounding it ~ are continually expanding along Texas’ shared border with Mexico.  Click on the photograph to reach the project’s website.

From the North American Butterfly Association (www.naba.org):

“The 100 acre National Butterfly Center is the premier location in the United States to experience the beauty, drama and emotion of wild butterflies. You will see incredible numbers of kaleidoscopically-colored wild butterflies. The clouds of butterflies are at the National Butterfly Center because, by planting thousands of plants that the butterflies need for nectar and for caterpillar growth, we have created a butterfly paradise that sustains large populations of hundreds of species of wild butterflies.”

The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas is the very best location in the United States for a butterfly park:

  • Almost 40% of the 700+ butterflies that occur in the United States can be seen in a three-county area of the Lower Rio Grande Valley;
  • With over 300 species, this region has nearly as many butterflies as the states of New Mexico and Arizona, and more than the entire eastern United States.
  • Approximately 150 species of North American butterflies can be seen only in the region, or by traveling to Mexico.  More than 200 have been seen at the National Butterfly Center, including a number of rarities and U.S. records.
  • A subtropical climate makes butterflying a year-round family activity.
  • An exciting blend of American and Mexican cultures already draws many tourists to the Texas/Mexican Border, as well as thousands of Winter Texans who spend up to 6 months each year in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Jeff and his wife, Jane Scott, are a dynamic team.  This 2 min. 19 sec. video on YouTube features Jane, and provides a concise overview of what is being accomplished with great care at the Center: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpGjgGBC—0&feature=channel_video_title.