At South Llano River State Park this morning. Monarch's roosted in area surveyed but while I was there they were feeding on Frostweed flowers and milling around (10:30 a.m.)and only a few beginning to move southwesterly, generally flying low as some wind out of south on this clear day. I observed several small clusters of at least 10 each on the tips of pecan tree limbs where they had gathered in a group. I did not have time to survey the largest patch of Frostweed at east end of property along the river. Also observed a few Queens and Pipevine Swallowtails and Skippers. There is lots of Frostweed in the shady areas along the South Llano River near Junction, Texas and the flowers are bold white and mature---lots of food for Monarch's. Estimating #'s is somewhat challenging as butterflies flying around constantly, sitting down feeding, then moving around again or taking off. I was also scanning over the Frostweed with 8X binoculars to get a better estimate.
[Additional information contributed by observer, added by Journey North, 10/08/21]:
I always use binoculars if the butterflies are over a larger area, say 2-3 acres. It's just an estimate as it is almost impossible to actually count them as some are moving around while nectaring. My observation period, yesterday 10/7 (2 different areas at South Llano River SP totally probably 8-10 acres of mostly Frostweed, 1 hour total). Again, scanning the whole area and coming up with estimate. I try to be very conservative in my estimates. If butterflies are moving overhead I can count for 10 minutes and then extrapolate to 1 hour. All of my records of this week were of nectaring or partial roosting. I think the butterflies roosted in the immediate area where I saw them. They are roosting on large (80' tall) native pecan trees (the Texas State Tree) and mostly on lower limbs where a couple of times I observed 15 or so still hanging on the ends of the limbs and all the butterflies would have to do is drop down to the Frostweed directly underneath the tree canopy. It is a perfect place for the Monarch's. . . Kimble County is a major pathway for Monarch's moving toward Mexico.
My observations are in a.m. only but this week because of other responsibilities could not get to the needed area early in morning. When the Monarch's set flight it is always toward Mexico, or to the southwest and the border is only 75 miles or so as the butterfly flies. Main nectaring plant where I have looked is Frostweed and there is a lot of it this year as we had timely rains through the summer and it flowers into Fall. Some of the plants are over 6' tall will copious white flower clusters. I have no details on the roost myself (at Easter Pageant Hill) but when I observed the butterflies (estimated 300) my professional co-worker said there were "ten times as many late in the day on 10/5". So, I think they roosted at this location but had moved on by late morning 10/6 when I first observed them.
The pecan roost at the state park would be shielded from the wind. This is essentially a gallery forest of large pecan trees with very little understory but with lots of shade and Frostweed under much of it. Much of the South Llano River, which runs southwest of Junction, Texas to its headwaters 35 miles to the southwest (the directions the butterflies want to go) would have Frostweed, a common plant of this area in cool, shaded areas.
Weather the past few days has had cool mornings, lows in the mid to upper 50's and highs in upper 80's. Today it was 90 and supposed to be hot next few days. It has not been windy but just mild or no wind but some wind today out of southwest and I noticed Monarch's observed today were flying closer to the ground. We have had lots of dew on the ground every morning and today I know I observed several Monarch's getting water from dew drops on grass.
Latitude: 30.4 Longitude: -99.8
Observed by: Rhandy
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