Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The text message was sort and to the point: Monarchs are roosting in Cape May.

It was migration season and we had been debating a trip to the Cape. The weather wan't great and it's a two hour trip.

But the text changed things.

And off we went.

After a brief stop at a magic tree full of warblers we found the roost.

There were thousands of butterflies.

Curious orange leaves on the pine trees.

All on their way to a place they've never been. A mountain top in Mexico. To spend the winter. And then start this incredible journey all over again.

The monarchs mate in spring and the first generation heads north to the US and Canada. But that first generation makes it just to the US border, where they mate and lay their eggs. The caterpillars, which feed exclusively on milkweed, eat and eat and eat, and then form a chrysalis. Out of which comes generation two which continues the journey north. Six generations later it is time to go back. These great great great great grand children return to that mountain in Mexico.

Absolutely incredible.

The journey is not without its dangers, which is why they are here. The butterflies need to cross the Delaware Bay, but the winds are against them. So they land. And wait. And more land. And more. And more. Until there is a quarter mile of monarchs.

Imagine what it must be like in Mexico with monarch from all across the US and Canada coming to roost.

Other dangers include severe weather, habit loss, and predators.

And tragically the roosting sites in Mexico are under increasing pressure from an growing yet very poor population, who see the trees as a resource to cut down. And not a home to a wondrous insect.

But it was easy to forget all that immersed in the spectacle around us.

I'm quite pleased we got that text.

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