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Rex and Birgit Stanford found this bug along Old Port Isabel Road on 5/31 2011. The left photo has been enhanced for clarity, while the right photo is the original. His original post to the Texas butterfly listserv is reproduced below.
As some of the subscribers to this listserv know,
Old Port Isabel Road (OPIR, the segment between Hwy. 511 at Brownville and
Hwy.100 intersecting OPIR west of Port Isabel) is a major birding site in far
southeast Texas. This past Tuesday (05/31/11) while my wife, Birgit, and I
birded that route, she noticed some tiny butterflies around a plant, apparently
a succulent, with lovely bright-pink star-shaped (i.e., 5-pointed) flowers.
After a closer look through binoculars she opined that they might be some
species of pygmy-blue, and I promptly grabbed my camera (with attached zoom
to try to capture photos that might aid in species identification, which we did not attempt to do definitively while on site. Pygmy-Blue species were new to us, and their tiny size and frequent movement made careful attention to detail very difficult. Also, we had failed to take a butterfly field guide with us that day, thinking this trip would be mainly a birding trip,
especially in the present devastating drought.
I succeeded in getting two photos of what turned out to be an Eastern Pygmy-Blue. One, although slightly soft-focused, provided plenty of detail for identification of that individual as Eastern Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium pseudofea), based on depicting the bottom side of the wings, in almost their entirety. It showed requisite features of that species, including an absence of the extensive light gray in the lower portions of the bottom-side wings that give the Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile) a two-toned under-wing. A second photo, far more distant and much less well focused, appeared to
capture the top side of one of the pairs of wings and a slant view of the other pair (top side). It showed a warm brownish color without a hint of bluish color at the base of the top-side wings--quite compatible, in our view, with Eastern Pygmy-Blue. More than one Western Pygmy-Blue also was present on or near the plant where we found the Eastern Pygmy-Blue.
Thus emboldened by what we saw in my photos, my wife and I sought the opinion of a well-informed and knowledgeable student of butterflies who studied the photos and agreed that they showed what would appear to be an Eastern Pygmy-Blue. I wish I had a website where I could put up the photographic evidence for individuals wishing to see it. I have, though, no such website or blog, and probably will not until, some day, I upgrade my computer and my internet connection, which still is dial-up. I am writing this now, though, to alert listserve members that Eastern Pygmy-Blue has
been seen in far southeastern Cameron County on Old Port Isabel Road amidst the aforementioned plants that grow at certain points along the road. This is a very sandy environment, consisting, I would judge, of sand mixed with some clay. There are a variety of succulent plant species present there, at least one of which, on which the Eastern Pygmy-Blue was seen, would appear to be Sea Purslane (Sesuvium sessile). I base this botanical judgment on a photo on p. 59 of A. Richardson's "Wildflowers and Other Plants of Texas Beaches and Islands" (University of Texas Press, Austin, 2002). I am not, though, a botanist, and the plant in question might be another species of Sesuvium, for example, "Sesuvium verrucosum." The plant is certainly of that genus.
Those considering visiting this segment of Old Port Isabel road, whether for butterflying, birding, or any other purpose, should note that much of its roadway can become very treacherous--soft, slick, and sticky--when there has been any substantial amount of rain, and being badly stuck in a remote area would be a real possibility. Also, even in dry weather the road sometimes can be severely rutted and rough, and driving it, even when it is dry, in a low-slung sedan might easily prove very problematic. My wife and I use the road for nature study only when weather has been dry for a while and, even
then, approach it with considerable attention to the sometimes badly rutted surface although we drive a mini-SUV with 4-wheel drive.