Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Monarch Butterflies roosting in the west grove here just before sunset
I haven't meant to be delinquent with the blog! I've actually been snowed under in related endeavors here at Prairie Hill Farm. But sometimes things come up that require you to "sneak in" some time regardless.
It's the fall migration...or roosting that happens each year here at this time...not necessarily birds in this instance...although we've had many warblers passing through as well as Flycatchers and other songbirds the past 2-3 weeks. It's the Monarchs!
Monarchs settle in for the night here after sunset
Each year we've been here we've had some roosting in the fall. A couple years back was our largest roosting of upwards of a thousand butterflies...possibly slightly less, they're hard to count when they fill branches from 15-25 feet up! This year we're seeing around 300-400 "countable" butterflies. One thing I've found is when you go out in the morning to investigate - you often find more because they flutter their wings exposing the bright upper side when the sun begins to warm them. This morning was no exception, I found many more roost covered branches than the evening before!
I send reports of sightings and roosts each year to the Journey North site; they have a Monarch migration tracking project that is followed by school children all over the country. It may sound small or unimportant but I feel kids are no longer in touch with their "natural" world like they were decades back. Our natural heritage is more important than we can understand and to expose our kids of all ages to facets of this is extremely important!
The sun stirs the Monarchs to flutter as the sun warms them,
then they'll leave for the neighboring prairie pasture here to nectar through the day.
It was a bad winter for Monarchs this past year. Their mountain winter roosts have significantly decreased and what roosting areas they still cling to are in bad shape. This past winter in Mexico there were heavy rains which turned to freezing rain, causing high mortalities for the North American Monarch population.
The Monarchs we have here now are that one unique part of the puzzle - they will be the ones to make the journey back to Mexico, winter over, and start the journey back next March! Amazing! They are the last generation for this year!
Get out and watch this amazing event if you can!