Sunday, August 10, 2014

Butterflies of Quintana Roo, Mexico


Mariposas de México, Quintana Roo, Cozumel


Split-banded Owlets, Jardin Botanico


So far I have pictures of about 150 species and welcome your contribution of others.

NEW TOPIC-  Monarch migration through Florida to Mexico?
Do Monarchs occur in Quintana Roo Mexico?  How do they get there?  Look at the map below. A few Monarchs are reported in Quintana Roo every fall.  Where do they come from?  How do they get there?   Where are they going?  I have never been in Quintana Roo in October when they are reported.  However, I've talked to others who have seen them.   I am asking those on the Carolina coast and Georgia Atlantic coast to keep me informed of the Monarch migration there.  Hundreds of thousands migrate south from Cape May, NJ, but most probably veer southwest before they get to the Carolinas.

I am requesting the U.S. and Cuban governments for permission to visit western Cuba next autumn (2015) to investigate any resident and migrating populations of Monarchs.  I have asked contacts in Quintana Roo to keep records of migating Monarchs there this autumn.

Earlier Trips

My almost annual trips to Mexico began in the 1990s when I lived in Colorado, about 600 miles from the border.  I drove to the Mexican west coast Matzalan/San Blas area for birding most winters or I flew and met birding friends there. We also flew to Cancun three times and birded the Yucatan Peninsula and as far south as the Guatemalan border. Starting around 2000,  I drove the 2600 miles to the Yucatan Peninsula and some times to Belize. 

My wife and I retired to South Carolina in 2007 where I began noticing butterflies.  By 2009, I was mostly butterflying and photographing butterflies.  My increasing hearing loss made birding difficult. Butterfly identification was also difficult when you start at age 68!   No longer a day's drive from Mexico, I began flying to Cancun, starting around 2010. I have now studied and photographed butterflies in the Cancun/Tulum corridor of Quintana Roo e each year since 2010 during winter week long trips. 

In 2013, I began wondering about butterflies on Cozumel where 4 species of endemic birds (one probably extinct) occur. I had seen them years earlier with my birding friends. Cozumel is a Caribbean island, but only 12 miles from the coast of the mainland. Several Caribbean bird species, like Bannaquit, Caribbean Dove, and White-crowned Pigeon  occur.  I wondered- had anyone done an extensive search for Cozumel butterfly endemics or Caribbean species?   Searching on the WWW produced no answers.  Neither did writing to lepidopterists at the University of Florida.  I contacted Sherri Davis, a butterfly enthusiast on the island.  She has been helpful and recorded about 70 species of butterflies there. 

In July of 2014, as part of a week in Quintana Roo,  I spent 3 days on the island, a reconnaissance visit to learn the roads and location of better butterflying areas.  I photographed 45 species of butterflies which  can be found here-  sorry, still under construction!  I will be returning in October and again late winter.  My October visit will be interesting because there may be evidence of Monarch and other butterfly migration.  

 We also This blog will offer background material on my adventures photographing butterflies in Quintana Roo with some pictures of some birds and other critters.  

Quintana Roo is a Mexican state on the Yucatan peninsula bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on the north, the Caribbean Sea on the east, the country of Belize to the south, and states of Yucatan and Campeche to the west. Quintana Roo is Mexico's most visited state by tourists. It is home to Mexico's largest island, Cozumel, known as a tourist destination for its reefs and snorkeling.

According to the Swift Guide to Mexican Butterflies by Jeffrey Glassberg, the first field guide to document with pictures and range maps all known butterflies of Mexico, there are about 1750 Mexican species of butterflies to be found, about 10% of the world's butterflies.  About 436 species appear, from the range maps, to occur in the state of Quintana Roo.  My butterfly field work has taken place in only a small part of the state, the Cancun-Tulum corridor and the island of Cozumel although I have previously visited all parts of the state (and many states in Mexico) looking for birds. This ongoing field guide and study will concentrate on areas of Quintana Roo as described below.

Jardin Botanico, Puerto Morales, Quintana Roo  Mexico

I first visited Jardin Botanico decades ago as a birder. It was described in the Steve Howell 1998  A Bird-Finding Guide to Mexico.   Puerto Morales was a tiny fishing village then.  Even Playa del Carmin was small.  Now, 16 years later,  Jardin Botanico remains as an oasis of natural flora and fauna preserved by the state and federal government, in what has become a coastal tourist megalopolis.  It remains an excellent spot for birding and butterflying and deserves your support.  I have adopted it as my number one area for butterfly study. 

Starting in 2014,  I hope to continue my butterfly and moth studies at Jardin Botanico and ramp up my butterfly studies on Cozumel

Below- the most common species I saw on Cozumel, July 2014, most of them at San Gervasio Ruinas.

Erato Heliconian, San Gervasio, Cozumel

Neotropical Butterflies

I invite anyone with knowledge of or interest in these studies to contribute.  I want to provide photographs that not only inform, but delight!    I am familiar with many of the neotropical butterflies of Florida and the Rio Grande valley of Texas, and have examined many of the photographs and descriptions of Quintana Roo butterflies found on the web. Neotropical butterfly taxonomy is an area where new discoveries and understandings will undoubtedly occur in the coming years.  Some families, such as the Metalmark scintillants are, as described by Glassberg,  in "a very confused state."

Of the some 400 plus butterfly species that occur in Quintana Roo, I have seen and photographed over 100 in the Jardin Botanico and Cozumel regions and probably an addition 100 Quintana Roo species in other sub-tropical areas.  Please contact me if you would be willing to share additional or better photographs.    I also encourage you to support Jardin Botanico in Puerto Morelos (between Cancun and Playa del Carmen) with a visit when you are in the area. With such keen interest in both birding and butterflying by so many tourists, I am hoping that Jardin Botanico will make itself even more hospitable to butterfly species by planting native nectaring and host plants in one or more of their several native Mexican gardens.  I think Jardin Botanico might draw hundreds, probably thousands more visitors each year by emphasizing the birding and butterflying opportunities there.  This, of course, would contribute to its principle research and educational activities.

The newly constructed beginnings of a field guide to the butterflies of Quintana Roo, using mostly my own photography and identifications is here-


 I appreciate corrections or help with IDs.  My photographs, when possible, are from Quintana Roo, but I've included the neo-tropical species I've photographed in Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley especially when forms are different.  I will also experiment with using additional pictures from the extensive internet "commons" to show additional photographs of Quintana Roo butterflies, giving credit to those photographers.

A word about species.  I prefer a dynamic, snapshot in time, view of species.  Following Ernst Mayr (1942) and others- species are populations of organisms that can reproduce with one another and that are reproductively isolated from other such similar populations."  Determining if and when similar populations are isolated from one another is very difficult!

You might want to look at Jardin Botanico and other photography here and here-

Recent photography which  includes butterflies and birds can be found here

I am in the early statges of showing  Quintana Roo, and especially, Cozumel forms which, in some cases, differ from the Swift field guide pictures and from my photographs in Florida and Texas.  All my photographs are from Quintana Roo and taken by me unless stated otherwise.  All photos are of wild, free flying butterflies. 

If you go to the QUINTANA ROO LIST 

you'll find the following organizational information-

Page numbers refer to Swift Guide to Mexican Butterflies by Jeffrey Glassberg.
Abreviations are QR= Quintana Roo;  JB= Jardin Botanico; COZ=Cozumel;  LRGV= Lower Rio Grande Valley;  SF = south Florida

I am tentatively using 3 excellent  photographs from Jim Hoover's fine Smug Mug pages of butterflies of Riviera Maya which you will find by clicking  Jim Hoover.  BTW, I tried contacting Jim Hoover for permission 2 weeks ago including posting comments on his Smug Mug web pages, but have not herd back from him.