Trip Leaders


Chris Balboni

Chris was born and raised in Western Massachusetts, and served on active duty in the U. S. Coast Guard at various locations for over 30 years, until her retirement in 2011.  While still on active duty, Chris was assigned to Miami, Florida, where she she joined the Miami Blue Chapter of NABA. Here, members took her 'under their wing' and opened her heart to butterflies. Club field trips and NABA butterfly counts, as well as participating in Florida Natural Area Inventories (FNAI), only deepened her interest in butterflies. When she retired to Galveston, she became a member of the Houston Chapter of NABA, served on the Board of Directors of the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council (GINTC), and volunteered for GINTC's annual "FeatherFest" spring bird migration and nature photography festival.  A self-proclaimed  "late bloomer" to the wonderful world of Lepidoptera, Chris now describes herself as a "lep-tourist", because she is on the move searching for, and learning more about butterflies and moths. Chris and her husband Jake are Winter Texans, moving just last year to Retama Village in Mission. They migrate north each summer to Buffalo, NY, where Chris is active with the Rochester Butterfly Club. While on the road in their RV,  she and Jake plan trips to find and photograph local butterflies wherever they travel; but in Mission, Chris may be found "skulking" the grounds at the National Butterfly Center, or tending to her own growing butterfly gardens!

Sue Sill

Cat Traylor

I live in the south tip of Texas and became curious about butterflies some 15 years ago when I met Sue Sill, then director of what was called the NABA  International Butterfly Park in Mission, Texas.  Back then I worked as a U.S. Customs Officer processing vehicles coming from Mexico. I encountered Sue and her passenger at the bridge, where they told me about a trip to Mexico to photograph butterflies.  Mimmediate thought was, “Well, that’s a unique story.”  Sure enough, they had cameras and butterfly books in the vehicle trunk.  That day, Sue invited me to visit the NABA Park to learn about butterflies and plants.  
It took me several years to make my way over there, but once I started learning about butterflies and their larval host plants I fell into raising them.  I’d never much paid attention to butterflies, then  I found some really strange looking caterpillars on a backyard plant.  They turned out to be the then-rare Marius Hairstreak (Rekoamarius) and I became hooked.  After that I started seriously researching butterflies and the plants they use as larval hosts and got my feet wet raising and releasing any eggs or caterpillars I could find.  You don't need to know how many bug eggs I raised, mistaking them for butterfly or moth eggs!
Funny thing: the U.S. Port of Entry where I was stationed has huge metal butterflies decorating the bridge entrance and I never gave them a second thought. That bridge turned out to be my gateway to the wonderful world of butterflies.


John Rosford

John Rosford lives in Retama Village, near the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. He and his wife have returned to the Rio Grande Valley every year, since 1999, to enjoy this wonderful habitat and to photograph the butterflies, dragonflies, and birds that are found here. In 2010, they made the Valley their permanent home.

Linda Cooper GuideLinda Cooper

Although Linda Cooper is a Florida native, part of the year she is a Texan and proud of it! An intense, active birder since 1982, Linda participates in bird surveys through Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology migration counts and backyard bird counts, and was the resident naturalist at Audubon/Street Nature Center in Winter Haven for 13 years, living on the grounds and running the Nature Center for Lake Region Audubon Society. She is a charter member of the North American Butterfly Association, frequent contributor of articles and photographs to American Butterflies magazine, and recipient of numerous conservation awards.

image7Javier Gonzalez

Javier is originally from Tampico, Tamaulipas, although he grew up in McAllen, Texas. One magical walk through Santa Ana NWR, where he found himself walking through clouds of colorful butterflies, hooked him and he's been thrilled by the chase ever since. Today, he works as a Naturalist Educator at Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, where he teaches others about the ecological relationship between butterflies and plants. He is still amazed by the incredible diversity and variety of butterflies in south Texas, and enjoys the camaraderie and excitement of searching for them with fellow enthusiasts during the Texas Butterfly Festival.

image6Dan Jones

Dan Jones, raised in rural southwestern Missouri, has been a nature nut since birth. He has lived on the southwestern border of the US for the past 32 years, with the last 18 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. A retired high school math teacher, Dan now spends his time prowling the South Texas brush country looking for unusual birds and bugs. He is highly regarded, locally, for his ability to find rare and elusive butterflies, birds, and dragonflies. He holds the North American and American Birding Association record for finding the White-crested Elaenia, and routinely finds over 300 bird species in just Hidalgo County, Texas, each year. Dan has been a leader for the RGV Birding Festival for many years.

image9John Yochum

John Yochum is a Park Ranger at Estero Llano Grande State Park. He says he is owned by 3 dogs, 1 African Gray and a spouse of 25 years. He is obsessed with birds, butterflies and his ancestors. John is very knowledgeable about birds, butterflies, and dragonflies, and has led field trips for both the birding and butterfly festivals. He also does educational programs for school groups.

image8Mike Rickard

Mike A Rickard is a native Texan who began collecting butterflies as a child while working on a scouting merit badge.  He has spent the rest of his life conducting field studies on Texas butterflies.  While he is credited with over 20 US records, his primary emphasis has been on butterfly ecology - habitat and host plants.  Among his caterpillar host plant discoveries is Adelia vaseyi, utilized by the Mexican Bluewing.  Since retiring and relocating from Houston to Mission in 2008, Mike has photographed nearly 250 of the LRGV's butterfly species, and more recently has begun photographing moths at blacklight.  He is frequently joined in the field by his wife, Ginny Musgrave, herself a fine photographer, who has spotted some of their rarest finds and has been credited with several county records.  Mike is a member of the North American Butterfly Association, The Lepidopterists' Society, and The Southern Lepidopterists' Society, and is a Research Associate of the Texas Lepidoptera Survey.

image2Luciano Guerra

Luciano Guerra is an esteemed nature photographer, whose awards include Best of Contest and the People's Choice award in the Small Tract Competition of the venerable Valley Land Fund Wildlife Photography Contest.  His photographs have been published widely, and many may be viewed on his website:  An avid photographer since he received his first 35mm camera as a teenager, Luciano loves sharing the incredible diversity of the Rio Grande Valley in images captured through his lens. He is currently employed as the staff photographer and sports writer for the Progress Times family of publications, and he is also the photographer for the S.T.A.R. Livestock Show in Edinburg, where he has helped raise over $4 million in scholarships for Hidalgo County youth in 4-H and FFA programs.

image1Martin Reid

Martin was born and raised near London, England, where he worked for 23 years in the computing sector, mostly as a contract consultant in the corporate mainframe market.  In 1986 he had an epiphany with birds and birding that changed his life, causing him to travel widely in search of birds, and move to Texas in 1991, which has been his home ever since.  From 1993 he has worked in a variety of jobs more-or-less associated with birds and birding, including birding travel and tour guiding, retail backyard bird products, retail binocular and camera equipment, and bird/wildlife surveying. He is a past Report Secretary for Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Society, a past President of Fort Worth Audubon Society, and a past and current Member of the Texas Bird Records Commitee (and its Webmaster).  Since 1999 he has taken an increasing interest in butterflies and dragonflies, and has made a number of important discoveries, including two new butterflies and three new dragonflies for the U.S.  Most of his discoveries have taken place in south Texas, since moving from Fort Worth to San Antonio in 2004.  Martin's outgoing nature and British sense of humor lead to a fun experience regardless of what is flying!

image4Barbara Volkle

In 1996, Barbara, a computer programmer and systems analyst, started MASSBIRD, the Massachusetts birding email list which has grown to over 1,400 subscribers. She still serves as the list moderator, today; in addition to having served on multiple conservation organizations, including Friends of the Assabet River NWR, which she helped form in 2000. Since 2012 she has served as secretary of the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp. This national nonprofit is dedicated to the promotion, preservation, sales and better understanding of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, sales of which have generated more than $850 million, since 1934, to purchase or lease over 5.3 million acres of waterfowl/wetland habitat in the National Wildlife Refuse System.  Barbara is passionate about birds and butterflies, volunteerism and advocacy for environmental conservation.  She is currently Secretary of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club.

image3Stephen Moore

Steve escapes to the outdoors, when not practicing law or serving as a trustee or board member of various conservation and charitable organizations.  Outside of the office he enjoys leading bird and butterfly trips for the Brookline Bird Club and the Massachusetts Butterfly Club. A NABA member, since 2004, Steve has published articles in the Massachusetts Butterflies biannual journal, as well as Butterfly Gardener, concerning club activities and certain species of butterflies. He and Barbara spend significant time each Fall in the Rio Grande Valley, where they connect with "butterfly friends" from across the country.

Sam Jaffe GuideSamuel Jaffe

Naturalist photographer Samuel Jaffe grew up in Eastern Massachusetts chasing birds, mucking through ponds, and turning over leaves.  He is the founder of The Caterpillar Lab, which has blossomed and expanded into caterpillar exhibits, shows, walks and talks, as well as a formal partnership with Antioch University New England, where Jaffe is collaborating on a diverse range of projects.

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Texas Butterfly Festival
3333 Butterfly Park Drive
Mission, TX 78572
GPS Coordinates
26.180243 -98.364973

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Record sightings and "chase butterflies" from recent TBFs:

 trip firsts

What will appear this year?!