Letter From Estela Romero: Highlight of the Season
There are two highlights from this past week now that we are at the end of the overwintering season: a massive departure occurring on one side and the formation of a dense, concentrated colony on the other side.
SIERRA CHINCUA: A couple of weeks ago, the behavior of monarchs in Sierra Chincua clearly pointed toward the end of the overwintering season. The colony has continued to decline. Last week, guides waited to see if the remaining monarchs had relocated. No new locations of the monarch colony was found. The colony has left Sierra Chincua.
Dead monarchs, many worn out or torn apart, looked like a light carpet across the forest floor. Some showed signs of bird predation, and the remaining carcasses are quickly being cleaned up by forest mice.
Guides noted that mating in the colony was rather scarce and rarely seen.
Two-three weeks ago, at Peña Blanca, monarchs were still roosting. This week, the Oyamel trees are all green again. A feeling of nostalgia fills the air and the guides are rather silent, already regretting the end of the season. At Las Palmitas viewpoint — the very last stopping point for butterflies high up at the top of these Sierra Chincua mountains facing north — there is a warm, rather soft blowing air. This air, together with the silence and the majestic view of the valley and the mountains, tells us that the monarch overwintering season in Sierra Chincua has come to a close. .
EL ROSARIO: The mystery and mysticism of monarch butterflies is indescribable. The situation of the monarch colony at the other extreme end of the mountain range toward El Rosario Sanctuary is completely different. The El Rosario colony relocated, but did not leave. The colony moved from El Rosario to Angangueo’s Ejido and finally settled just at the other side of the La Salud community’s beautiful Oyamel and pine forests.
There remains a small colony at El Rosario but it is less intense than the new colony at La Salud. La Salud is much further downhill and north from El Rosario. The colony is also a couple kilometers north of Río Grande creek, an area within La Salud where monarchs had settled after leaving El Rosario — a pattern seen over the past few years. According to local community members, this year’s location is a different spot than had previously been occupied by monarchs coming down from El Rosario.
The colony was full of synchronized butterfly explosions. Mating behavior is evident every 40 centimeters on the ground. What a unique atmosphere.
Monarch Watch conservationist, Diane Pruden, our guide, Christian, and I approached the colony silently and became overwhelmed by sight the miracle in front of our eyes. We tried to savor every second and seal the moment in our heart and souls forever.
The second and last massive departure of the season, the legendary journey north, could occur any time now.
Angangueo, Michoacán, México.
Note to our readers: This article has been edited from the original English version for clarity and readability.