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Beautiful Beamer (Phocides belus) 

First U.S. Record, by David J Hanson

On April 13, 2003, my best friend David Bratley, a lifelong birder and biologist living in northern Wisconsin was visiting the Rio Grande Valley for two weeks. That afternoon he accompanied me to Bentsen-RGV State Park to find the Northern Beardless Tyrannulets nesting near the abandoned trailer loop and also to have a look in the Butterfly Garden. We found the nesting birds and then went to the garden. There we saw a Nysa Roadside Skipper, a species that Dave had not seen before. 

Upon leaving the garden we decided to stop at the headquarters building to check for any activity on the Wild Olive trees at the entrance. I approached directly down the sidewalk and was almost struck square in the face by a weakly flying black and blue butterfly. It turned away from me and flew down into the vegetation beneath the Wild Olive trees. I shouted to Dave who was to my right and a bit behind to go to the car and get my camera.

Combing through the vegetation in the direction the bug went, I located what appeared to be a Rainbow Skipper (Phocides urania) perched under a leaf. As I approached, it flew weakly but with rapid wing beats to another leaf about 4 feet from the first. This time it stayed long enough for David to hand me the camera so I could get a quick photo of it peering out from beneath the leaf. 

Again it flew, this time to within a few feet of the sidewalk directly in front of the door of the headquarters and disappeared beneath another leaf. I laid flat on my back on the sidewalk and took two shots straight up without flash. Realizing this was not producing anything but silhouettes I activated the flash on low power and took several shots. The butterfly flew away on the last shot and disappeared. 

We were unable to locate it again that day. The photos turned out remarkably well and revealed to sharper eyes than mine not a Rainbow Skipper but a Beautiful Beamer (Phocides belus)

The following day the Beamer made appearances at 1:30 pm, 2:35pm and 3:50pm. All three times it flew in the same odd manner from blossom to blossom on the Olive trees and then departed toward the woods just across the road to the South. Many people were able to see, photograph and even video it that day. 

I was not able to be in the field after that but the Beamer is probably still present (if it has not died or been eaten by a bird) . I am unaware of anyone having reported sighting it in the last two days. The park office may have further information. 

Dave Hanson
Mission, TX
April 17, 2003

02 May 2003 / Main South Texas Page