Trip Report for Southern Tamaulipas/NE San Luis Potosi, Mexico, October 05 — October 09, 2007
Participants: Kim Garwood, Jane Kittleman, Richard Lehman, Willie Sekula

Author: Kim Garwood, Mission, Texas

We drove straight through to Gomez Farias, after getting the car papers at the border. It takes about 5.5 - 6 hours once you clear the border. There wasn’t much happening at La Florida, so we went on to Gomez and were able to get rooms at Casa Piedras for 500 pesos/room, which includes breakfast. The new hotel, Cumbres Inn, is now open, and we stayed there Monday night on our way back. I enjoy Casa Piedras for the atmosphere, but it doesn’t have air conditioning, which can make a big difference much of the year. It was warm and sticky Friday night, but the rooms are pleasant and the small gardens can be good for bugs.

Saturday morning we stopped at the bus stop right across the dirt turnoff to Bocotama, which is always worth checking if there’s any moisture. There were some leafwings and sulphurs, but not large numbers, so we headed on south. We took the road to Ocampo, went past Ocampo up to the oaks, then doubled back to take the new paved road down to El Naranjo. This road is west of Ocampo and very productive. A very short distance on our left, less than a mile, is a car track off through the woods which had several species of crackers right at the edge of the trees. This was the only place we saw Red Cracker on the whole trip. Lots of Grays, Glaucous and Guatemalan Crackers at other locations, but this was it for a Red. This track looked like it could be quite productive. We had Pale-billed Woodpecker here on our way back.

This road from Ocampo to Naranjo looks very promising. It repeatedly crosses the old winding road, so there are lots of places to pull off and walk the old road. This is tough to find in many areas of Mexico, as the roads tend to not have any shoulders, so you’re always having to watch for trucks and dive into the bushes to get off the road. Makes for difficult photography. But when you can find old abandoned roads where there’s not any traffic it’s great. We had lots of butterflies working the dirt roads and the trash dumped as well. Probably a couple of zillion Pavon Emperors, they were everywhere. Plus many of both species of Sailors and lots of Starred Skippers, more than I’ve ever seen. The road is great about half way, then you get into sugar cane and it gets very rough and torn up by the cane trucks. It comes in near El Salto, at the Y where you normally go to the left to the falls, to the right is where the Ocampo road comes in when you’re coming out of El Naranjo.

Saturday night we couldn’t get rooms in El Naranjo, so had to drive over to Mante to stay at the Hotel Mante, 580 pesos/room. This is always a nice hotel, just in the middle of town and no good habitat nearby. We checked out the nacimiento right west of town and saw some jicanas, one with 4 babies, but not many butterflies. Then we drove back to Naranjo Sunday morning and went up to the falls, which due to all the rains were booming over the usually diverted falls. Mist was everywhere and it was quite cool, even about 10am. A new house has been built and the left side has all been fenced, which used to be a good spot for clearwings. We saw some bugs but not large numbers. Then we went back to Naranjo and west to the bridge, where sometimes there is a good mudding spot. It was dry, so we went straight on the dirt road out to where the bumblebee metalmarks can often be found late in the day. This is where good habitat comes down to the road from both sides, about 2.7 miles up the dirt road. This is a very slow, bumpy road, takes about 45 minutes, but we spent several hours as there was water running down the right side of the road and many butterflies mud puddling. Many dark spreadwings, lots of sulphurs, and the best bug of the day was a brilliant fresh Widespread Myscelus/Myscelus amystis, life butterfly for all of us. And it was very cooperative, posed for all of us to take a couple of hundred shots.
Late Sunday afternoon we went out to Minas Viejas, east and south of El Naranjo. We found out when we got there the owner has now started charging 10 pesos per person, and it was packed with local families swimming and picnicing, so we went on, found another place to get to the river but not many bugs. On our way back to El Naranjo, in a small plot of tropical milkweed inwith some houses, we spotted a dark swallowtail nectaring. We pulled in, put up our glasses, and found another lifer, Victorinus Swallowtail/Pterourus menatius victorinus. Between Willie, Richard and Kim we got some pretty good shots, even though it never stopped.

Sunday night we stayed at the hotel right next to the bridge in El Naranjo, 350 pesos for large, air conditioned rooms. We ate in town at our favorite fajitas place, El Rancho, a small yellowish round building on the north side of the main road. Excellent carne asada and guacamole and cold drinks, all 4 of us for 220 pesos. Monday morning we ate gorditas at a great little spot next to the tortillaria by the pemex, also good coffee. Then fortified we headed back up to the Ocampo road, this time taking most of the day to explore. It was covered w/butterflies. Black-patched Metalmarks, a variety of skippers, and again tons of Pavon Emperors. I’ve never seen so many on a trip before. One pull off to the east where we walked the old road it was flooded, seemed to be a spring, and probably 40+ Ruby-spotted Swallowtails and Variable Swallowtails mud puddling. I’ve never seen so many in one spot. We also had a very fresh Rayed Sister, the furthest north I’ve seen this species, though Ricardo Jimenez at the Cumbres Inn told us he had seen it for the first time at Gomez Farias just 4 or 5 days earlier.

We spent the last night back in Gomez Farias at the new place, Cumbres Inn, for 631 pesos for a double. Their prices are cheaper Monday to Thursday, as they appear to get a lot of weekend visitors from Monterrey. Our meals at the restaurant were very good. This time we all ordered chicken, I had fajitas de pollo, Willie had a fabulous pollo w/salsa de cognac, and Richard had one of the best milanesas de pollo I’ve ever had.

We spent Monday afternoon working the road from Gomez Farias up to the Y and picked up a number of new species for the trip. Tuesday morning we had to head home, but decided to stop off briefly at the Encino road and go to the river, which proved to be a good decision. The low water crossing was open, and the road had been smoothed considerably since the last time I had been across. Willie and Richard had been there in Sept and couldn’t cross due to the raging waters. This time we found a blooming white vine which was bringing in the bugs, and tenaza (?) trees with white puffballs blooming, also great attractants. These were the best butterfly blooms we saw anywhere on this trip. Lots of new trip species and several we had never seen this far north before. Choricus Skipper, even Godman’s Mapwing, which we had only seen in Xilitla, SLP.