Friday, August 31, 2007

Monarchs On the Move

Sometimes in the evenings, Romie and I will take a walk down to Blue Creek Cemetery, which is just a short distance from our house, and Simba, our dog, accompanies us. She's 13 years old, which is 68 in human years, and we like to exercise her like this every day while she is still able to do it. We decided to walk this evening because the weather today was just about perfect and I could take this all the way till Christmas. If only.

I meant to take my camera with me for our walk tonight, but as usual, I got distracted and I forgot it. And don't you know, I needed it when I was half a mile from home.
We walked into the cemetery to look at some of the old headstones and found one belonging to a man who was born in 1798 and passed away in 1850-something. Most of the older stones are time- and weather-worn and really hard to read, but this one has to be one of the oldest in there.

We'd noticed as we approached the cemetery that there were several Monarch butterflies darting here and there and the closer we got, the more there were. We craned our necks to watch them and realized they were congregating in a single tree. That could mean only one thing...

Migration has begun.

We are in one of the major corridors for the migration of Monarchs east of the Rockies to Mexico and while we've only played host to a migrating group once several years ago, I've spoken with many others who have had the privilege at one time or another. At approximately 41° latitude, the peak migration period for us is expected to be September 8-20.

Romie remained in the cemetery, watching the fluttering of the many Monarchs, while I ran back home for the camera. I drove the Beetle back, hoping they'd still be there, and of course they were, resting for the next leg of their trip south, and I started snapping photos.
The sun had just set, so the natural light was waning and I tried different things - flash/no flash, optical zoom/digital zoom. I managed to get a couple of acceptable images.

They'll rest overnight, then be on their way. I wonder where they were born and how far they've come already. Maybe they started out in Jodi's garden in Nova Scotia. Regardless of where they began their journey, they've still got approximately 1700 miles to go.

Meanwhile, I'm watching the growth of the Monarch caterpillar in our own garden, and it's growing very quickly. I actually saw a second small one on the milkweed plant we'd transplanted a couple of weeks ago (shown in photo at right), but sadly, when I checked on it a couple of days ago, it had died and was being consumed by other insects.

The big fat swallowtail cats have disappeared from the parsley and rue, and I just know they're hanging out somewhere in the garden. I will keep my eyes open for them and hopefully will get a chance to watch the pupating process of those or our little Monarch cat soon.


Cindy Garber Iverson said...

That is just the coolest thing I can imagine! Seeing migrating monarchs in the fall... WOW! I've only had the privilege once of seeing a spring migration. You are sooooo lucky! Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

P.S. So glad you went back for the camera. ;)

Jean said...

I'm glad you went back for your camera! That is amazing and your photos are great. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

That is awesome. I have never seen this but will keep my eyes open. Great pictures!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Kylee, what a special treat to witness something like this. I'm so glad you were able to get pictures and share this event with us.

kate smudges said...

Wow - that is an amazing display of monarchs. I'm glad you went back to get your camera. It must have been incredible to see them in person.

How cool to think that they may have started their journey at Jodi's place!

Unknown said...

Actually...most of my monarchs are still in chrysalis form, although a couple have changed colour. I consulted a local biologist/naturalist about this and he said not to worry--the cooler weather here on the hill sometimes slows pupation. Whew. I was getting worried. And we have new caterpillars too, so some have obviously turned to adults without telling me!
This is really cook photography, though, Kylee, and I hope I'll see something similar--at least a bit.

Unknown said...

What great pics and info on the monarch migration, Kylee. I have to say, though, that the pretties thing on this post is Simba... what a sweet-looking pooch! :) (I am totally a sucker for older dogs when their faces turn that lovely grey.)

Ki said...

One year while I was waiting for the shop to put on new tire on the car, I sat outside and saw Monarch after Monarch flying by the shopping mall. I counted over 60 the time I was there which was about 1 per minute - almost like clockwork. It was sort of weird as one would appear after the other would disappear from sight.

Haven't seen another migration but I haven't been to the tire store in years.

Dirty Fingernails said...

They are so Regal aren't they.. I have never seen a migration up close and personal. Thanks for sharing..

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