Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: October 3, 2003
Today’s Update Includes:
Highlights Along the Migration Trail
Here are some of this week's observations:
First Clear Wave Moves Down the mid-Atlantic Coast
At last! After monitoring monarchs 3 times a day for the past 4 weeks, a strong migration was finally observed on Cape May, NJ. Dick Walton reported, "A cold front went through on Sunday and we had our first large push of monarchs into Cape May that afternoon and Monday." This year’s migration has been especially slow noted Walton, "the lowest numbers of monarch observed since beginning the census in 1991."
When Denise Gibbs, who's monitoring the migration about 150 miles down the coast on Assateague Island in Virginia, heard the news she said, "They’ll be here within 24 hours."
How can she predict with such precision? There are 3 long-term monarch migration monitoring sites on the Atlantic coast: Cape May, NJ, Assateague Island, VA, and Fisherman’s Island, VA. Monarchs don’t want to fly over the ocean, so the geography of the coastline funnels them through these places, making them great spots to monitor the migration. Based on past observations and tagging records there, monarchs have traveled from the Cape May monitoring site to Fisherman’s Island in just over 24 hours with good winds.
How Fast Do Monarchs Migrate?
As monarchs pass over your head on their way to Mexico you probably wonder--where will those butterflies be in a few hours, days, or weeks? How fast do monarchs migrate? Nobody knows for sure, but these monarchs that were tagged and recaptured on the Atlantic Coast tell some tales:
Hurricanes and Flowers: Did You Predict the Connection?
By Elizabeth Howard
When considering how Hurricane Isabel might affect monarch migration, did you think about salt damage? I didn't, and so I was amazed to see what had happened to the flowers and other vegetation when I visited Denise Gibbs on the Virginia Coast over the weekend.
When the hurricane came ashore the winds were loaded with salt from the ocean. Salt spray coated the plants so heavily that flowers and leaves died back within 24 hours. The effect won't be permanent, but monarchs migrating down the coast won't find the nectar sources that typically await them. The landscape looked as it would after a heavy frost. The hurricane arrived from the east, so plants exposed on the east were burned by the salt. Miles and miles of coastline were thus affected. The leaves and flowers of seaside goldenrod, a favored plant during migration, were completely brown.
"When the monarchs get to Assateague Island they're here to fuel up. I’ve tagged them and watched them stay on the same plants for 5 days, just nectaring. This year there are still some flowers in scattered places that were protected from the hurricane. But on the most part, this is what it looks like," said Denise pointing at the dead vegetation up the shoreline. "This is all the nectar they're going to have."
Noticias del avance de la migración en México
From south of the border, monarchs were reported in the Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo León and also the state of Sonora. Rocío Treviño, whose education program tracks the migration there, said the Sonora sightings raised some interesting questions for her:
Speak Spanish? Discussion of Challenge Question #7
Last week we asked, "Can you translate the message from the Mexican state of Coahuila? How many monarchs per hour did the observer count?"
Thanks to the 8th grade Spanish 2 class at Anchorage School, in Louisville, Kentucky for coming forward with:
Watching and Waiting at the Mexican Sanctuaries
October Conservation Perspectives: A View from Mexico
Ecotourism: The Monarch Expo, an educational exhibit and fair planned for November. The Expo includes a clever plan to encourage ecotourism a bike ride through a rarely visited sanctuary region where communities, while part of the Protected Area since 1986, have never benefited from tourism.
Sanctuary Management: Fire-prevention training takes place this week at the monarch reserve.
Political Changes: President Fox abruptly fired Environmental Ministers in September, and Jordi speculates why.
Symbolic Migration Deadline Oct 14: Please Support Monarch Conservation
Only 11 more butterfly-making days before the Symbolic Migration deadline. Don't be late! Butterflies received after the postmarked deadline cannot migrate.
The forest sanctuaries in Mexico are not adequately protected. Logging and other development threaten the habitat monarchs need to survive the winter. Please send support for the real butterflies with your symbolic monarchs:
Discussion of CQ #8: Energy Costs of Flapping Flight
Last week we took a closer look at flapping flight to see why it burns so much energy. We asked, "If a monarch flaps its wings 5 to 12 times per second, how many times per minute does it flap? How many times can you flap your arms in a minute?"
Mrs. Swentzel’s third grade class in Stanhope, NJ, figured a monarch would flap from 300 to 720 times a minute.
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of the message write: Challenge Question #9
3. In the body of the message, answer the question above.
The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on October 10, 2003.
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