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Nancy and the Red-bordered Satyr

What would cause a responsible woman to lie on her stomach on the ground in a parking lot behind a car? A Red-bordered Satyr, that’s what.

Nancy photographs a Red-bordered Satyr at Ramsey Canyon Preserve near Sierra, Vista, AZ

My friend, Nancy, and I travelled over 1,600 miles to Sierra Vista, AZ and this was one of the butterfly species that we most wanted to see. We drove with high hopes to Ramsey Canyon Preserve, a Nature Conservancy property, where the Red-bordered Satyr appeared as we stepped out of the car. It’s always a gamble to get into this belly-to-the-ground position. You ask yourself: How “flitty” is this butterfly? Is there a good chance it will stay? How are my knees working today?

A Red-bordered Satyr is between the size of a quarter and a half dollar

Southeastern Arizona is a both a bird and butterfly “hot spot.” This unique area is called “Sky Islands” because the mountains arise from the desert like islands appear from the sea. The varied habitats of desert grasslands, forests along rivers, and pine-fir forests in the upper elevations invite a diversity of butterfly species. With close to 300 species of butterflies documented for this region of Arizona, it is no wonder that the butterfly people puddle here. [1]

The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) held its biennial meeting in Sierra Vista this year from Sept 6–9. Butterfly folks from all over the country flew in for a few days of field trips, workshops, and presentations about butterflies.

Field trip locations included Patagonia, Garden Canyon, Coronado National Forest, Ramsey Canyon, and other public places. Arizona NABA members explained that the monsoons had been very good this year and that natural areas were greener than normal.

One seep willow might yield a bouquet of Palmer’s Metalmarks and Leda Hairstreaks

When you can see over 45 species in one morning, in my way of thinking, you are in a good place. You could stand near one damp area in a dry riverbed spot for 15 minutes and easily see 6 sulphur species and dozens of Bordered Patches. Walk that same riverbed and see Arizona Sisters, Tropical Buckeyes, Orange Skipperlings, and Mexican Fritillaries.

Tailed Oranges, a Cloudless Sulphur, and Mexican Yellows puddle at Miller Canyon

Bordered Patches were seen by the hundreds at Garden Canyon

So did Nancy get her photo? Yes, but her main thrill was just seeing the Red-bordered Satyr. In her words, “Being that close, on the same level, eye to eye, with such a beautiful butterfly was definitely worth it!”

©Rita Venable 2012

This is an Arizona Sister unless you are in California where it is called a California Sister

[1] A group of butterflies drinking liquids from the same damp spot on the ground

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