Up, Up, and Away

October 12, 2017 by Elizabeth Howard

Riding the long-awaited north winds, monarchs advanced almost 300 miles across Texas. How high do monarchs fly - and at what distance do they disappear from view?

“My Kindergarten students and I watched for monarchs migrating through Texas,” reported Sharon Colleps from Ferris, Texas on October 6th.

Monarchs Set Sail

At last, the headwinds that have been holding butterflies back gave way. The migration’s leading edge advanced across Texas, and strong migration was reported throughout the Midwest.

Texas: “We live on Lake Travis in Austin, TX. We looked out the window and saw hundreds of butterflies right before sunset. They formed roosts in the trees. This morning we looked again and they were gone. What an amazing sight!” reported Tammy Marshall on October 10th.

Kansas: “Wind finally changed direction ahead of the cold front and pushed the monarchs — and LOTS of migratory birds — SOUTHWARD! I was counting upwards of 20 per minute in a 100 foot wide swath of sky directly overhead,” reported Coleen Flory from Wichita on October 9th.

The Great Lakes butterfly show continued, including a report from Toronto where they were passing at 300 per hour:

Ontario: “Monarchs singly, and in groups of two, were flying southwest for over an hour. They were constant, and pretty much everywhere we looked. We could see 8-10 within sight at one time,” reported Ella Soper on October 8th.

The Atlantic Coast continues to experience peak migration, with one of the biggest reports from the tiniest state:

Rhode Island: “Monarchs on goldenrod everywhere! At least 1000 counting all the fields over the several mile stretch along the cliffs on the east coast of Block Island,” reported Barbara Watts.

More on the Way

Large numbers are still coming down from the north. People even reported from Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, the highest latitudes of the breeding range. These butterflies better skedaddle. It’s already mid-October and they have 2,000+ miles to fly.

Will the first reach the overwintering sites in Mexico by their traditional arrival on the Day of the Dead, November 1st?

Flying High and Low

In New York City this week, an incredible 600 monarchs were sighted in LaGuardia Corner Garden in the heart of Greenwich Village. Others were counted as they traveled by an office window on the 39th floor of a skyscraper. If you assume each story is 10 feet high, how high were they flying?

Questions about the height of flight are important since Journey North tracks migration based on visual observations. Try the experiments in this week’s featured resources.

How high do monarchs fly - and when do they disappear from view?