February 23, 2013
I had an adventure on Saturday helping to collect butterfly tags at El Rosario Sanctuary. I accompanied Diane Pruden of Monarch Watch and Gail and Bob Morris of the Southwest Monarch Study.
Last week I had alerted several Sanctuary guides that the tag collectors would be coming. When we reached El Rosario people had already arrived with their tags, knowing they would receive a 50-peso reward per tag.
One after another, people appeared with tags as we waited in the cafeteria. Most brought 2-4 tags but some had dozens, collected by various guides who were busy leading tours because it's peak tourist season now. All were men; not a single child seems to have caught a tagged monarch this season!
As people arrived, Diane counted the tags, recorded each person's full name, paid the total, and sealed the tags from each person in a separate envelope. Monarch Watch keeps this information for all of the Sanctuaries in our region in an historical database.
Diane collected well over 200 tags at El Rosario. Almost all were white Monarch Watch tags, meaning the butterflies had been tagged in the eastern U.S. and Canada.
Gail and Bob Morris were waiting anxiously. They hoped someone would bring in one of their blue tags from the southwestern United States.
Finally they jumped with joy at seeing two blue tags delivered to their hands!!! Both butterflies had been tagged in Arizona; one in October of 2009 on the Mexico/Arizona border. Compared to the eastern region, far less is known about migration from the southwest so everybody was thrilled by Bob and Gail's discovery.
When we walked to the core site of the Sanctuary we experienced a wonderful, massive concentration of monarchs. They were crowded in a small area of trees in the core area for tourists and we were able to come within 50 meters.
I was surprised not to see Monarchs mating yet. However, when I asked one of the guides if they had see any mating, he said that from last Monday, February 18 to Saturday, February 23 they had seen about 5 pairings.
The drought in the region is alarming right now. Puddles where monarchs drink water at the Sanctuary are a "thin thread" of running water, compared to former years. I saw monarchs nectaring at the various flowering plants as my pictures show.
In response to the warm weather we're having, Monarchs might have already started their streaming downhill, a signal to an eventual, perhaps very close leaving-time.
Enjoy the photos I made for you! No more words are needed!
Your local reporter,