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Streaming Butterflies!
by Gail and Bob Morris, Southwest Monarch Study

Can you imagine so many monarchs flying together that it looks like a river? That is just what we found as we approached the monarch colony called Piedra Herrada on February 26, 2013. The river of monarchs was so long we couldn't see either end. There were thousands of butterflies—far too many to count!

The police made the cars drive slowly so no butterflies would get hurt. Even big trucks had to crawl through the cloud of monarchs.

We pulled over and spent several hours enjoying the streaming monarchs and watched it get larger and stronger as the day warmed. Some of the butterflies broke away for a drink. We followed the road until we could see where they were pouring from the hillside unto the road along a narrow canyon. As we followed the path the monarchs were coming up from a steep path where we could hear the trickle of water in the distance above the roar of flapping wings. For me this was a real treat – I'm hearing impaired and longed to hear this vibrant sound of the migration. We noticed some of the monarchs stopped on the sandy path searching for moisture. Others nectared on nearby flowers. Most continued streaming toward the road.

We crossed the road and followed another path where some monarchs stopped to nectar. We were surprised how fresh and new many of the monarchs looked. Less than 20% looked faded or worn. We didn't see any mating anywhere.

The area near Piedra Herrada is very dry this year so the monarchs landed on sandy soil to search for any drop of water they could find. Other monarchs stopped to find nectar on nearby flowers. We were surprised how fresh and new many of the monarchs still looked after their long winter hanging in clusters in the oyamel forest.

Scientists say that when the monarchs begin to stream across the road it means they will soon start their long journey back to the United States and Canada. The people of nearby Macheros will be watching for the monarchs to begin leaving soon and monarch watchers in Texas and the southern states will be watching their milkweed closely for the first monarchs to appear!

Remember last week when Estele reported that we found two blue tags from Arizona at El Rosario? Well, Bob and I were delighted to meet Mr. Melquiades Moreno in Macheros who found more tags from Arizona! I hope everyone can see how we in Arizona (and likely other Western states) also have a vested interest in understanding and protecting habitat in Mexico as well.

Gail & Bob Morris
Southwest Monarch Study

Map of Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries in Mexico
Monarch Sanctuaries
Streaming Monarchs at Overwintering Region in Mexico

Streaming Monarchs at Overwintering Region in MexicoStreaming monarchs

"We could hear the trickle of water in the distance above the roar of flapping wings."

Streaming Monarchs at Overwintering Region in Mexico
Dry conditions

Streaming Monarchs at Overwintering Region in MexicoFresh-looking wings

Streaming Monarchs at Overwintering Region in Mexico
The Moreno family

Streaming Monarchs at Overwintering Region in MexicoFour tags found
Blue-colored tags mean the monarchs came from the southwestern United States.

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