BOS Field Trip – Yielding Monarchs

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Like I mentioned in the last post on the Locust Borer, I recently went on a bird watching field trip with members from the Buffalo Ornithological Society.  On our previous outing, we were looking for shorebirds. It was a very successful trip.

TifftWoods

Sunday, we went to Tifft Nature Preserve a place I have taken you to often looking for more migrating birds.

I will post some far away shots of birds coming up along with what it is like going birding with a group of seasoned birdwatchers. It probably is not what you might think.

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We did see many varieties of birds, some familiar to me, and others not. There are so many varieties of Warblers and I only knew the ones I learned from the trip to the Audubon Bird Banding Seminar. I saw the “new” Warblers, but for such a short moment that it yielded no photos.

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Like I said in the post, Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, “You set out with a subject in mind and of course that is not what you find.”

But they found what they were looking for – lots and lots of birds – it just took knowing where to look. From my perspective, we also were fortunate to see dozens of migrating Monarchs. Seeing them in numbers is refreshing at this time of year. You can tell by the images, Joe Pye Weed was popular.

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But oddly, I visited three more nature preserves after Tifft on Sunday, fields where butterflies and Joe Pye Weed are most common, and no Monarchs. The fields below are filled with milkweed pods just starting to burst and no caterpillar damage was seen on all the plants I inspected. This was a surprise.

Milkweed

Seeing Monarchs at Tifft was very promising, but not seeing them elsewhere might be telling us more.

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I remember last year when traveling to Pennsylvania in October, I was seeing scores of Monarchs flying towards me on the highway, mile after mile. They were barely above the vehicles and following the highway in their migratory route. It was quite a sight and a treacherous route. Quite a few did not clear cars.

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Seeing so few this year, the BOS members were all discussing the likelihood of not seeing Monarchs again next year. Each with a camera was photographing them, mentioning the possibility of not seeing them in the future. A few were quite knowledgeable on the plight of the Monarch.

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Like other butterfly species I pictured in Breakfast, Bedtime and Losing Butterflies, I saw a number of Monarchs with damaged wings. To get some information on the butterfly decline, see Breakfast, Bedtime and Losing Butterflies.

This is GWGT’s 600th post, and it seems fitting to be one to feature the Monarchs.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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38 Responses to BOS Field Trip – Yielding Monarchs

  1. I saw only two or three monarchs on Cliff before I left. The wings of butterflies always get tattered as they reach the end of their lives.

    • Thank you for noting that. Butterfly wings also get damaged by bird “near misses”, avoiding predators, accidental collisions, and harsh weather to name a few more reasons. In the linked post I did generalize and mention old age or a hard life. Older butterflies may loose some of their color too.

  2. acuriousgal says:

    Lovely and informative post, Donna! Beautiful pics!

  3. alesiablogs says:

    Butterflies remind me of new life. I love the way you were able to capture their beauty. Thank you as always Donna for wonderful photos. Alesia

  4. connie661 says:

    I’m planting some milkweed in my garden. I hope that helps to attract butterflies.

  5. Pat says:

    Lovely shots of the Monarch. I saw one passing through just the other day, making a total of two for the summer.

  6. barbie says:

    What fabulous photos! I am always happy to see butterflies! See so few lately!

    • That really is sad too for where you live. I would think you have less of the environmental problems that we do. It does sound like you are getting abnormal weather though. Butterflies wait out the rain.

  7. As I think I’ve mentioned, I saw only a few monarchs all summer in the garden. Also no caterpillars, despite loads of milkweed of several species. We have lots of asters blooming now, but I haven’t had time since returning to see if migrating monarchs are stopping by.

    • The same is in our area with milkweed. I did not spot one caterpillar this year on any plants in my garden. Parsley, Fennel, Oregano, Thyme, Basil and Dill that I even let go to flower. I grow carrots too. You would think the herbs would attract some. But what was most shocking was there was no caterpillar damage on the hundreds of milkweed in this one field planted as a butterfly habitat. I walked all through and saw no chewed leaves.

  8. Denise says:

    600th post! Wow! And still beautiful and interesting.

  9. Yes sadly monarchs crashed and other counts of butterflies were down by 50% due to weather, habitat loss, pesticides and GMO crops. I didn’t have one egg in any of my 50 milkweed plants. None.. it is very sad and something we need to pay attention to as we are harming the environment greatly and therefore ourselves..Michelle

  10. Brian Comeau says:

    Terrific post and fabulous photos. Curious if there is any evidence that some of the decline is cyclical in some way? Just wondering if there are other factors besides the environment and man’s impact?

    • I have not read anything on it being cyclical yet. The weather portion is a possibility I would think, yet the destruction from logging in Mexico wintering areas for the Monarchs would take much time to repair as their numbers have plummeted. The grassland butterflies that I have read about there is less study on as to how much habitat loss or pesticide use plays in their decline. I think since bees have had such a prominent place in the headlines for a number of years, science is taking a stronger look at insects in general. I think they are taking a wider view into these declines as they have done with bees, realizing that many factors play a part. Also that these maladies are cumulative to an insects heath and well being. I did enjoy that bee video and left the link in a comment here in this post. Thank you.

  11. A.M.B. says:

    Oh wow, what beautiful photographs! It’s sad to think we might not see monarch butterflies next year.

  12. stone says:

    I can’t make out what the white patch of flwrs on tifftwoods.jpg is… a eupatorium?

    Great monarch pics… the eutrochiums are pretty well gone to seed here… although… I did see a nice patch of Sweetscented Joe Pye Weeds in bloom in a horse pasture last week.

    Seems like everyone was expecting to see fewer monarchs after the drought last year… appears like we all got what we were expecting…

    • I believe it is white Snakeroot, Ageratina altissima. I know that flowers at the preserve at this time of year. Sorry, I thought I had a clear image of the forest floor, but I was focusing mainly on the forest and Bat Cloud. Sad on the Monarchs. The studies on them don’t sound too encouraging.

      • stone says:

        That is an amazing patch of ageratina. I have individual plants speckled about…
        After reading Amy Stewart’s wicked plants… I had an idea that yall had declared war on ageratina up in dairy country…
        I answered your question about my corn snake… and provided a link to additional pictures…

  13. Phil Lanoue says:

    A truly stunning series!

  14. Congratulations on 600 posts! Interesting that you saw so many monarchs in one spot and not many in others. That seems to be the story here, too. Some locations report droves of them, and I’ve seen pockets of them myself. But most summers in the past, they’ve been all over the place. It feels weird that seeing a monarch in the garden is such a rare and exciting event these days. Very sad.

  15. Wonderful walk with lovely photos!

  16. Butterflies are the flowers of the insect world, although someone just sent me a photo of an “Orchid Mantis.” If you haven’t seen one, Google the term.

  17. Les says:

    The garden where I work always has a summer theme, one designed to pull the public through the gate. Just this week we scrapped the theme for next summer of Storybook Forest, in favor of celebrating all things monarch. We will do what we can to raise awareness of this creatures plight, and by extension other creatures as well. It will be a small, very local effort to affect change and raise awareness. However, when I look at the big picture it seems completely ineffectual.

  18. Happy 600th Donna. We had our second sightings this week in the garden. Dry and warm so many are migrating down and through the garden. Almost a dozen which is so few and no caterpillars…I am happy to feed them on their way. Mine loved asters, helianthus and phlox.

  19. Denise’s comment reminded me that I forgot to congratulate you on your 600th post, Donna. I find hitting such blog milestones FAR more exciting than having another birthday!

  20. As we speak I am listening to a National Public Radio program about the diminishing Monarch Butterfly: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2013-10-01/environmental-outlook-shrinking-monarch-butterfly-population

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