RoadTrip America

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Butterflies Of The Lower Rio Grande, by Roland H. Wauer

Butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande

Have you ever picked up a field guide or road trip book and felt an immediate need to go and jump in the car and head for the area being described? If so, you are going to love this new book by Roland Wauer. Butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley is a full-color guide to the hundreds of varieties of butterflies that can be found in the southern Texas counties of Starr, Hidalgo, and Cameron near the Gulf of Mexico. According to the author, this region is only one of two semitropical regions of the continental United States and is host to thousands of varieties of butterflies, birds and animals. In my road trips, I have always been intrigued whenever I saw migrating butterflies but I had no idea there were so many and that the identification of them was as complex as it is. So far, nearly three hundred species have been found and identified in the lower Rio Grande Valley.

The author provides some tips for understanding how the four features of butterfly identification (size, shape, color and pattern) should be done. I found it interesting that in many cases the only way to positively identify a particular species is a careful and close-up examination of the butterfly genitalia -- a process Wauer suggests should be reserved for a professional lepidopterist. He also explained the benefits of using close-focusing binoculars, which enables one to view specimens at distances less than six feet. What I found to be particularly useful is that the author provides detailed suggestions for finding specific species and a section on "similar species" that provides key features for differentiating between one or more similar species. I also really liked the checklist in the back of the book that readers can use for keeping track of their own butterfly field trips.

One of the places I learned about in this book is the NABA International Butterfly Park located near the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. This 83-acre park, the first facility of its kind in the world, was designed to attract a huge variety of butterflies. It's one place I hope to visit someday soon. The full-color photographs of the hundreds of butterflies profiled in this book are excellent. Some of my favorites include the Great Purple Hairstreak, the amazingly colored the Guatemalan Cracker, and the large assortment of Swallowtails. This very cool book is a great resource for identifying butterflies on your next road trip to southern Texas.

Mark Sedenquist

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