28 May 2010

Alpine, lepidoptera and Marfa Lights

This post would be "Alpine day 1 part 2" if we went in a linear posting pattern... Instead I went for a more descriptive title.

The above scenery surrounds the edges of Alpine; high, dry, rocky land and very hardy plants dotting the ground.

True to the title, we now present a squashed Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) - Matt's truck was never one for bug catching until the front end was raised a bit to level out both ends. Now it's almost as good as my Jeep!

I kid you not; that one peek shows (from top to bottom) includes a White-lined Sphinx moth (Hyles lineata), an American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis), a Common/White Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus communis/albescen) and some parts of a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). Not pictured is a Little Wood-Satyr (Megisto cymela) that was a bit to the right of that cluster.

After being thoroughly impressed with the bugs "collected" between McLennan and Brewster County (all of whom were eaten overnight, for what it's worth), we drove to Marfa to see their courthouse. It's quite an impressive structure for such a desolate county. Afterward we went to see the absolutely endearing Marfa Lights.

The observation area is a nice little raised deck with a wind break (thank goodness; I was wearing 2 layers of long sleeves, a wind breaker, mittens and the warmest hat I had! We arrived just after sun down, so there was still a nice evening glow... one light was there when we got there. I'd scanned past it, thinking it was a ranch light with an orange glow. Only after noticing that it was slooowly sinking behind a ridge did I realize that it was one of the lights! We saw up to four at once; a small red one that blinked in and out next to an orange one, the semi-stationary orange one, and two white ones that wobbled a bit but stayed mostly on a horizontal path. Very cool! If only the radio tower out there were gone...

Here's the wiki page for the Marfa Lights. Critics apparently claim that the lights are attributable to vehicular traffic; the road was darn busy when we were there and the lights didn't behave as the Anson Lights (you flash a light three times and eventually you see a light - there are a few contradictions about those as well). Disclaimer: I've not seen the Anson lights but have friends who have seen them. The earliest report of the Marfa Lights was apparently in the late 1800s and assumed to be Apache fires (so said the historical marker), but apparently they're also assumed to be the restless spirits of gold seekers. Good thing Disney doesn't have a hand in it, or it'd be a Tinkerbell pilgrimage.

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