The weather was cool (for Texas) yesterday, so Stephanie and I walked about six miles of the Trinity Forest Trail at the Joppa Preserve in southeastern Dallas. Out of all of Dallas’ pockets of natural space, we visit this one the most.
The 710-mile Trinity River begins high up in Northern Texas before flowing down through Dallas and eventually to Galveston Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s prime time for the Monarch Butterfly migrations. This phenomenon continues to stun me every year. Back in New Jersey, we would watch Monarchs grow from caterpillars on milkweed plants, cluster in the hundreds as they funneled through Cape May, and then dispatch on this journey to Mexico, where they’ll spend the winter. Here in Dallas, we see a southern leg of their journey; I wonder how many of these insects come from the far northern states?
But it wasn’t until examining our walk’s photos at home that I noticed the black horizontal streak on the hind wings of this individual butterfly, making it a Viceroy rather than a Monarch! The edible Viceroys escape predation by looking like their bitter-tasting cousins, the Monarchs.
Of course, what nature walk is complete without a spider encounter? This beautiful Carolina wolf spider was very cooperative for photos. They grow ’em big around here. This is also the time of year that Wolf Spiders begin to crawl into warm homes to avoid winter temperatures, so check your covers before you fall asleep tonight. Sweet dreams! 🙂
Another cool find was this Snowberry Clearwing (hummingbird moth!) caterpillar. This was a first for us. I’m used to hornworms being green, so this purple-y critter was an interesting find.
And the highlight of the walk….
Since we’ve been in Texas, we’ve seen Scorpionflies only in the fall. I documented one specimen last October 18th (almost exactly a year apart). These intriguing creatures feed on decaying matter, and are used by forensic entomologists to ascertain time of death. (Scorpionflies are the first insects to arrive at a corpse and don’t stick around for very long). Along the trail, we encountered them feeding on dead grasshoppers, spiders, and other dead scorpionflies.
Look at that proboscis! They remind me of those masks that plague doctors sometimes wore during the seventeenth-nineteenth centuries. Creepy.
Oh, and they’re called scorpionflies because the male’s abdomen curls around its body like a scorpion tail. They don’t sting or bite though, so you’re safe… just so long as you’re alive! 😉