Monday, October 29, 2007

Majestic Monarchs

My mother's words still haunt me. "Why would you do that to those poor butterflies?" Back then, like today, I sat out old fruit to attract them to the yard. Back then the outcome was much worse since I fed them to my Jackson's chameleons. I was remembering that exact conversation (or should I call it scolding) while traveling west to Roma and San Ygnacio this past Friday. Countless butterflies, many of them monarchs, were trying to navigate over Highway 83 on their way south into Mexico. I found myself routing for them, thinking if they could only make it past this last obstacle, they would surely make it to their overwintering sites.

The fall migration of the monarch butterfly begins in the northernmost parts of the United States and even Canada in late August. Monarchs east of the Rockies fly south and those that reach the Gulf of Mexico follow the Coastal Flyway along and just inland from the coast. Their eventual destination is the Oyamel Forest in the Transvolcanic Plateau in Central Mexico. So when Scarlet e-mailed me Sunday morning about their mass arrival on South Padre Island, we made our plans for the day.

Countless monarchs cluster on the outermost leaves of the Tepeguaje trees at the Nature Center. Many are battered, nearly all exhausted, after traveling up to 50 miles a day during the fall migration.

As I approach for a closer shot, orange clouds take flight only to land in the exact spot seconds later.

The majority of monarchs that make the fall migration are in reproductive dormancy. Here, an unusual mating takes place during the migration.

Just before sunset, a small cluster prepares to roost for the night.

The last rays of the evening light up the wings of already sleeping, weary travelers.

"No other animal is more typical of a healthy environment, nor more susceptible to change, than a butterfly" (John Feltwell - The Encyclopedia of Butterflies). As I think about the past, I realize my attitude towards butterflies has changed as I've learned more about them. Living in deep south Texas and watching the array of colors during migration each year has only heightened my awareness. Butterflies have no control over their environment. They can only respond to changes that we humans bestow on them. That usually means surviving or dying. My fruit offerings are no longer meant to bring instant death. I can only hope my mom is watching!

15 comments:

darlene said...

Awesome post and photographs! Both keep getting better and better! You are a great inspiration, baby!

-darlene-

LaVibora - Jim Campbell said...

Thanks Dear and, as always, thanks for the wonderful support.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. The photos are really sharp. You two are setting the bar pretty high these days. Will you guys be able to continue to provide entries of this quality now that your readers have been exposed to the really good stuff? :)

James

LaVibora - Jim Campbell said...

Thanks Jamez (James)...
Supply and demand BABY. If you want it, we will continue to Blog about our adventures. I only wish you were staying here to share them with us.

Anonymous said...

You continue to peak my interest in the Valley with your view point and local insight. All I need is to convince my family there is more than just the Island.

Geoff

Beth&Leo said...

Nice pictures Jim and as always a nice article.

Leo and are in "the frozen north", but the bumble bees are still around and active in my sis's garden.

Keep taking those pics

darlene said...

Perhaps Jamez will start a blog of his own when he leaves the RGV and will share his post RGV adventures with all of us! :hinting:

-darlene-

LaVibora - Jim Campbell said...

Geoff...
We would be happy to lead you on a nature safari anytime you or your family are up to it. Thanks for the comments!

Beth and Leo...
Thanks for taking time to read the story and thanks for the kind comments. Stay warm up there and we look forward to seeing you when you get back to the Valley.

steve's girl said...

Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing them. I am glad to hear you had a change of heart about butterflies...your mom must be so proud now!

LaVibora - Jim Campbell said...

Steve's girl...
Thanks for reading and the compliments on the photos. The wind was brutal that evening (20+ mph) and it was difficult, at best, to get a decent shot. It's hard not to have a change of heart about butterflies when you live among so many different species!
Say hi to Steve, Young Kyle and Leon. Young Kyle never calls, he never writes...

York said...

Jim,
I only thought your photos from the butterfly garden were good. These monarch photos kick ass! It's hard to imagine seeing that many of them all in one spot. Awesome!

Have I mentioned lately how bad I hate you guys for living down there with so many good things to do in the fall and winter?

York

LaVibora - Jim Campbell said...

York...
Thanks but the true beauty was lost in the wind and bright sunshine. You just need to start making plans now to join us for the migration next year!

Derek said...

Nice pics! You have a great mix of wildlife photos and information on here now. That is amazing that they travel so far!

LaVibora - Jim Campbell said...

Thanks Derek! Instead of going off fishing for days on end or running off to concerts (yeah, right!) with David, you need to bring Lisa and the boys down to enjoy all the wildlife with us!

dawn_oestreich said...

Which nature center was it where you shot that Monarch pic? The one in Weslaco is walking distance from our house. Very impressive photos, beautiful!