Monarch Butterfly Tulips
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Monarch Migration Update: September 22, 1998

Today's Report Includes:

Tattered & torn after the long trip to Texas
Don Perkins
First Monarchs Arriving in Texas

09/20/98 Seabrook, TX (29.58N, -95.03 W)
"I saw my first monarch today, feeding in the Mexican milkweed on a clear cool morning here on the Texas coast. The poor guy was terribly bedraggled--a good part of his left wing had been beaten off in the travels to Texas," reports Don Perkins ( )

Thanks to our Texas observers who've been watching for their first monarch of the fall season. Most people in Texas haven't seen monarchs since May. Why do you think this is true?

Challenge Question #3
"Why aren't monarchs usually found in Texas from June until September?" (To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

09/15/98 Austin, TX (30.23 N, -97.71W)
"I witnessed the first Monarch of many on their migration to Mexico on 9/15/98. This a great event for me, as at times there will be thousands in the air at any given time during the day in the fall." (

09/14/98 Buda, TX ( 30.06 N, -97.89 W)
"A monarch was spotted by Maria Azucena Cabrera, an ESL student at Jack C. Hays High School. The students in these classes are all from Mexico. They are following the progress south of the monarchs with interest because they themselves migrated north." (

09/19/98 New Braunfels, TX (29.69 N, -98.06W)
"A teacher at my school saw monarchs near New Braunfels, Texas, both Sept 19 & 20. She saw 5 or 6 monarchs per 500 square feet! I have not seen them in Houston, yet, but I will keep an eye out for them." Deborah Veselka, Kinkaid School (

09/11/98 Port Lavaca, TX (28.80 N, -96.97 W)
"We saw 2 Monarchs today. There has been a continued light but steady north wind with the tropical weather in the Gulf." Harlen & Altus Aschen (

More Monarchs on the Way
According to observers from Canada and northern U.S. states, monarchs are still pouring down from the north. During the past week, 76 sightings of migrating monarchs were reported.

Here are highlights from places along the trail:

09/20/98 Toronto, ON (44.5 N, -77.84 W)
"This past weekend was an outstanding one for the monarch migration, as monarchs streamed east to west along the north shoreline of Lake Ontario, as well as flowing from north to south - winding themselves through residential areas, over homes and businesses and through the downtown core. On the Leslie Street Spit (Toronto), I tagged over 700 monarchs this weekend. Both days were much warmer than usual for this time of the year. Wind varied from no wind to a mild breeze."
Don Davis ( )

09/20/98 Churdan, IA (42.16 N, -94.51 W)
Mrs. Kurtz's class at Weber Elementary School wrote: "We heard a report on the local news that the town of Churdan, Iowa has had thousands of monarchs in its fields this past weekend."

09/21/98 Ellsworth, WI (44.72 N, -92.48 W)
"Adam at Hillcrest Elementary reports that on Saturday he saw 100-150 monarchs in trees in his backyard. This is the first sighting of fairly large numbers of monarchs by class members. Several students have reported seeing monarchs but in all cases the numbers have been small." (

09/19/98 Lehigh, IA (42.34 N, 522 -93.99 W)
"Over 300 monarchs at Brushy Creek Recreation Area--probably closer to thousands--around fields of dead clover and grasses and open fields and streams. They were everywhere!! This is the first decent sighting for our area." Ellen Moberly (

09/19/98 Fort Calhoun, NE (41.43 N, -96.02W)
"The temperature has finally dropped and today, September 20 we saw the most Monarchs we've seen. Many of them that we saw were along the roads and highways. They seemed to be in groups of 3-6 in certain areas." (

09/21/98 Woodbridge, NJ (40.55 N, -74.28 W)
"Over the weekend averaged about 5 per half-hour. Averaging about 3 per half-hour on my jobsite in Lebanon, N.J. One of my workmates estimated observing at least 100 on the goldenrod in the field behind the job. Another member of our group has been seeing 25-30 daily over the last week in Sewaren, N.J." (

09/18/98 Washingtonville, NY (41.41 N, -74.16W)
"At about 10 am on a breezy, sunny, dry morning, a Monarch flew overhead in a southerly direction. It was moving fast, but many of the children caught a glimpse. It was a very exciting moment!" (

09/15/98 Pueblo, CO (38.29 N, -104.53 W)
"About a block from school we saw 40 or 50 Monarchs. They were all over some pink flowers. During the rest of the week we saw at least some Monarchs in the same place but never as many as the first day." (

09/15/98 Belmont, WV (39.35 N, -81.29 W)
"The fifth grade students in Mrs. Parlett's 2nd period class saw 3 monarchs flying south between 9:45 and 10:00. They were too quick for our nets!" (

09/15/98 Greenville, MS (33.28 N, -91.01 W)
"So far we have seen monarchs from Greenville to Jackson, MS. Most of the butterflies are being seen around flowers or in fields in the afternoons."

09/15/98 Mystic, CT (41.36 N, -71.97 W)
"Mystic is fluttering with Monarchs!! I have spoken to many parents and they all have told me the same thing. This past week has been incredible for numbers of monarchs sighted. I am wondering if the Monarchs are taking a shore route in their migration, because other parts of the state don't seem to have the huge numbers that we have here." (

Do Monarchs Rest at the Same Roost Sites Every Fall?
Mrs. Kurtz's class in Iowa City has been watching the number of monarchs visiting Weber Elementary School's prairie. They are surprised they've seen so few monarchs when others in Iowa have seen so many. We asked monarch biologist Dr. Bill Calvert why monarchs are seen at some places and not others--and why some people see them year after year resting in EXACTLY the same location:

"Do monarchs rest at the same roost sites every fall? The answer is clearly no, but many people swear that they do. Monarchs' use of a particular roost site depends on several factors. The list below may not be complete. And even the 'perfect' roost site--with all or many of these characteristics--will not always have monarchs roosting during the migration.

1) Where Were the Monarchs Before They Reached You?
This factor is the most important. Monarchs travel each day with the winds. The migration is often synchronized in the form of waves of butterflies that pass over a particular point. If their starting point is a distance upwind from your position, such that the wind has an appropriate velocity and duration to carry them to you, butterflies will "fall out" (to borrow a birding term) and you will be graced, and perhaps dazzled, by their presence.

2) Are You on a Principal Flyway?

If so, your chances of seeing roost trees are much improved. A principal flyway is very likely defined by its geographic location along a path from a principal breeding area to the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains of Mexico. (This latter mountain range seems to focus the migration in Mexico, and direct it towards the overwintering sites located in the Transvolcanic Belt of central Mexico.)

3) Are Nectar Sources Close By?
Nearby flower fields definitely improve your chances of seeing roosts. Often monarchs will come down in the afternoons to feed. As the sun sets, they stop feeding and fly to nearby trees where they commence a search for eachother to form "transient nighttime roosts".

4) Does the Site Provide Protection from the Wind?
Monarchs will roost downwind of the wind direction when they form their roost. Sometime the wind reverses at night and they are caught in positions exposed to the wind.

5) Are You in a Stream Valley or Depression?
Especially in dry climates, monarchs seem to be attracted to cool, moist areas. When winds are coming from the south, they seek out these "riparian" areas to relax and hang out until the winds turn around. Once they do turn around, the monarchs are gone in a flash. Also in dry climates they prefer protected shelters afforded by overhanging trees. In the main flyway, an arc of oak or pecan trees over a stream channel will almost always yield a roost of migrants.

6) Do You Have an Oasis of Trees?
In an area otherwise clear of trees, monarchs are often attracted to oases of isolated trees

In the eighties some research was done to identify a marking chemical that attracted butterflies to the Mexican overwintering roosts. It was reasoned that if each monarch left a trace of marking chemical, the more monarchs there were, the easier it would be to detect the marking chemical--and find the overwintering sites. The results were negative. By default, it appears that monarchs find their transient roosts visually. They look for silhouettes of trees from a feeding position, or perhaps, they can spot a riparian valley from the air. Butterflies observed descending into a wooded valley in central Texas suggest that they can do this. Once they have descended, they begin their search for each other.

Monarchs that have already settled apparently signal other potential roost-mates by "flashing". They open and close their wings several times when they sense another butterfly approaching. (There may be other reasons for the flashing in addition to the signal).
Photos by Patricia Rose

Contributed by Dr. Bill Calvert
Texas Monarch Watch
Austin, TX

Special Butterflies Heading for Mexico
Monarchs have recently joined the migration, after being raised and released by:

Highland Elementary, Ephrata, PA
Miami Elementary, Clinton Twp, MI
St. Peter's School, Trenton, ON
George Ross MacKenzie Elementary, Glen Spey, NY

Let us know when your monarchs are on their way!

Coming Next Week: Migration Update From Cape May, NJ
Due to this week's long report, watch for news next week from New Jersey and the discussion of Challenge Question #2, "Why do you think Cape May, New Jersey (38.94 N, -74.96 W) is such a good place to watch migrating monarchs?"

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
  1. Address an e-mail message to:
  2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 3
  3. In the body of the message, answer the question above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will be Posted on September 29, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.

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