Monarch Migration Update: September 29, 1999
Today's Report Includes:
This Week's Migration Map and Data
Monarchs Blown to England by Hurricane Floyd?
Over 2000 miles of open ocean lie between England and the North American continent. Yet every autumn during migration, North American birds appear in the British Isles, apparently blown off course by strong & rapidly moving fronts. Find Land's End, England on a map, then consider this question:
Migration Peaks Along East Coast
All last week following Hurricane Floyd, the strong migration continued. Here are highlights reported from the migration trail:
New York: September 23
Connecticut: September 23
"We saw many, many beautiful Monarch's on our playground. There were too any for us to accurately count, but our estimation was approximately 100. My kindergarten students were so excited to see so many at once." East Haddam Elementary School in Moodus, CT (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rhode Island: September 25
"Monarchs as far as the eye can see, approximately 200 yards from ocean. Fields with wildflowers (esp. goldenrod). Clear, sunny day, at about 10:00 AM." Pennfield School in Portsmouth, RI (email@example.com)
New Jersey: September 25
"Hundreds of monarchs migrating, seen constantly all day. Butterflies moving steadily south close to the ground. southerly breeze 10-15 mph, sunny, and upper 70's. . They have been moving through both the mainland and barrier island for several days with no difference in density noted since Hurricane Floyd." Rockford,IL and the NJ coast (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Connecticut: September 25
"I saw over 100 monarch butterflies flying quite high, and in a southwesterly direction, between 12:00 and 12:30 P.M EST. It was "a perfect early autumn day" in New England. Many monarch were seen nectaring on my butterfly bush and "resting" on pine trees." Dag Hammarskjold Middle School in Wallingford, CT (email@example.com)
New Jersey: September 27
"WOW! Monarch butterflies at the Newark Airport flying with the big guys and girls!!!! Spotted two of them around 5:30 pm on Sunday." Kris from Harding Twp Middle School, New Vernon, NJ (firstname.lastname@example.org)
New York: September 24
"On Saturday morning for about an hour, the butterflies formed a fluttering stream (probably 20-50 per minute). We were delighted to find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a Monarch migration path! Our back deck was the preferred route. By Sunday, we sighted perhaps 20 every 2 hours - when we were watching." Melissa Feldmann, Amagansett, Long Island, NY (email@example.com)
Maryland: September 23
"My fourth grade class was excited to see monarchs flying into a southerly breeze on their way south. We only saw a total of 16 flying over the school parking lot, averaging about one every twenty minutes." Westside Intermediate School in Hebron, MD (firstname.lastname@example.org)
South Carolina: September 24
"Students have been reporting sightings of Monarchs all week. Several dozen butterflies were seen today headed in a southerly direction. We're all very excited to see them on their way." Woodmont Middle School in Piedmont, SC (email@example.com)
Georgia: September 25
"We sighted about 10 monarchs in a 15 minute period. We were cutting silage corn in Mountain City and there were areas of goldenrod and other flowering plants that the monarchs were stopping and feeding on." North Habersham Middle School in Clarkesville, GA (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Monarchs and Malathion: Debating Values and Viewpoints
Joan Berger of Roslyn, NY (email@example.com)
"My class is very upset and worried about the spraying going on due to the encephalitis outbreak in New York City. How awful it would be to destroy our innocent Monarchs! We are writing to our Senators to see if they can stop the spraying."
Lee Ann Olsen of Mystic, CT (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What do students in your class think about this issue? First learn more about the issue. Then hold a discussion or debate in your class. (See Lesson: "Cycling Through Controversy: Debating Values and Viewpoints")
Here are some guiding questions:
Monarchs Funnel Toward Texas Through Central & Southern U.S. States
Missouri: September 23
"Today we saw about 30 monarchs in a 15 minute time period on our school playground. One boy said he saw some yesterday at outside his family sawmill." Raymondville School in Raymondville, MO (email@example.com )
Mississippi: September 25
"The monarch migration is well underway in northeast MS. I counted 63 monarchs between 9:30am and 11:15am today with E-SE winds near 10 mph. Their bright orange wings backlit by the sun against the blue autumn sky was a wonderful sight. Monarchs were moving W-SW at heights form 5 to 40 feet up." Jeffery Wilson in Tupelo, MS (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Arkansas: September 22
" Students at Charleston Elementary counted monarchs migrating over the Charleston High School today. The look on their faces as they counted was priceless. Monarchs counted:
Monarchs were flying west seeming along Highway 22 towards Ft. Smith, AR. The
wind was calm, the sky was clear and temperatures in low 80's." Charleston Elementary
Earlier Cold Fronts Bring Monarchs Earlier to Texas
"In contrast with last year, monarchs apparently in migration have been reported from many parts of Texas for the last two weeks. Last year the monarchs arrived in Texas around October 5th - over a week later than the usually reported arrival. As always they came in association with a cold front. Prior to that date there had been no cold fronts that had reached as far south as Texas.
"This year has been different. There have been at least two well-defined cold fronts, the last of which occurred on Monday, September 20th and took temperatures into the 40s at some central Texas locations. (Normal lows for this time of the year are in the 60s).
"It's easy to see why monarchs come in on cold fronts (or 'northers' they are called in Texas and probably other southern states). It's like catching a bus going your way - in this case the ride is even free! Monarchs probably ride the layer of uplifted air associated with the advancing edge of these cold fronts. But that is not all they ride. They generally move with any wind that has a northerly component and may still be seen traveling days after the front has past. They may also migrate in not-so-strong southerly winds! In these cases, they are often found flying low to the ground and are very noticeable.
Migration Paradox: Fewer Monarchs Seen on Better Migration Days?
"The curious thing is that times with strong north winds are not the times that monarchs are most noticeable. In many cases they fly high above everyone and may even be beyond the vision of the naked eye. People used to the appearance of monarchs during a certain season often complain that the monarch population is way down during a particular year when what has really happened is that the monarchs have over-flown them on favorable winds and have landed somewhere to the south.
"It is counter-intuitive, but the times when we get the most spectacular reports to the Texas Monarch Watch Hotline is when the winds are blowing fairly strong from the south. Winds with a strong southerly component cause the monarchs to behave differently. They spend this time looking for nectar to refuel. This means that they are searching and accumulating in low (riparian) areas near rivers and streams where most nectar is found in Texas during the fall. In these low areas they are out of the wind which might damage their wings and in the flowers where they can feed. Sometime they accumulated by the tens of thousands and dazzle those who are lucky enough to stumble across them. Not all of them are so lucky as to be near sources of nectar. These tend to accumulate on the leeward side of groups of trees. Pecan orchards are especially popular. The honeydew deposited by aphids on pecan leaves may be a nectar source for them. This possibility needs to be further investigated."
Texas Teacher Wonders: Where Did Monarch Larva Come From?!
Jim Isleib reporting from Broaddas, TX (email@example.com)
Dr. Calvert replies: "An early population of monarchs appears in Texas in August and September. These early monarchs appear to be different from the later mass migrant population. They are generally in worse condition and they are actively breeding. We do not know how important this late summer breeding population is in the life history scheme of the monarch butterfly. You can help us to find out by observing and reporting the conditions and breeding status of early populations."
How to Respond to Today's Monarch Challenge Question
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #8
3. In the body of your message, answer the question above.
The Next Monarch Migration Update Will be Posted on October 6, 1999
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