|Estela was surprised by this week's dramatic changes.
"We rode horses into the Sierra Chincua sanctuary on Tuesday (March 8). Once at the colony, we could see that it has totally dispersed in only 10 days since the last time I was there. Remaining clusters go from rather small to tiny.
"At El Rosario the colony has now significantly dispersed too. On Monday (March 7), monarchs were all hanging from the branches of oyamels in many, many small clusters very close from each other. Most clusters, if not all, were at middle to low height of the trees; no clusters at all were on the top of the trees. Many were so low they were almost reachable from the walking lane for visitors."
As they typically do at this time of March, the colonies are breaking up. The butterflies fly out in search of water and don't return to their colonies. Some may begin migration, but most move down the mountains into lower portions of the watershed before departure.
The butterflies put on a sterling performance last week for Brenda Dziedzic and Debbie Jackson, who were in Mexico to collect tags for Monarch Watch. The women witnessed a massive flow of thousands of butterflies flying down the road outside of the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary. In the sanctuary, there were no clusters to be seen but lots of bursts of thousands of monarchs into the air.
Waiting for Departure
There's no news of a mass exodus flight yet, according to Estela. Full departure occurs sometime during the last half of March. It can be sudden and dramatic or almost imperceptible. In fact, by now some early monarchs should have already departed.
Waiting for First Arrivals
By next week we expect the first migration reports from northern Mexico and Texas. Native milkweeds are now emerging, ready for first arrivals.
"The leading edge of the migration typically crosses the Rio Grande around March 15th," says Texas monarch expert, Mike Quinn.