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Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Migration Update: September 23, 1997

"The butterflies have been thick here over the weekend of September 20 & 21. At times it was as if it were raining butterflies. Many of us counted 20-25 in a 5 minute period! We had a huge change in weather...a cool front and a north breeze came through. We were able to observe many more than we could count."
Wendy Moore, Broken Arrow Elementary testing
Shawnee, Kansas

This week's report includes highlights from observers in northern regions, where monarchs are still being seen, although in smaller numbers; from the midsection of the U.S., where the migration is now at its peak, and from the southern U.S. States where people are eagerly awaiting what promises to be a spectacular migration.

Thanks to the many people who have reported migrating monarchs recently. We wish we had space to include them all here. Be sure to visit the WWW where you can read their full comments. All sightings are stored permanently in our database.

Visit the Journey North Monarch Migration Database

Why So Many Monarchs This Year?
Monarch biologist Dr. Lincoln Brower suspects monarchs may have produced one or two extra broods this year, due to the combination of an early spring arrival from Mexico and good weather conditions during the spring and summer. While a large population is good news, Brower cautions that there are risks associated with an early arrival. He is concerned that monarchs may be leaving Mexico early due to the thinning of the forest in their winter sanctuaries. If this is a trend, he is concerned about the implicatons.

Read Dr. Brower's Comments

Don't Be Late! Symbolic Migration Deadline
All paper monarchs heading for Mexico must be postmarked no later than October 10. Please hurry so you can be part of this year's celebration.

Weather and Migration

September 19

September 20

September 21

These maps track a weather system over 3 days as it moves from west to east. (Click on face of map to enlarge.) The yellow symbols indicate cloud cover and the arrows show wind direction. Notice the northerly winds in front of the high pressure cell, from the Plains States all the way to the East Coast. As you read the monarch migration notes
below, refer back to these maps. How do the sightings correspond with weather?

September 19 Iowa
"This Friday was a superb day for observing monarchs on the move. They were everywhere across central Iowa. The weather to the north was cooling down, and the monarchs clearly were picking up the pace of their migration. During a count of two hours at Chichaqua wildlife area in Polk County northeast of Des Moines, 840 monarchs were observed--passing by the site overhead at the rate of 420 an hour."
Robert Woodward, Drake University
Des Moines, IA
(41.60 N, -93.63 W)

September 19 Minnesota
"Though late in the year, we observed monarchs migrating south along the north shore of Lake Superior. This was the same day Duluth's Hawk Ridge, one of North America's major fall hawk migration flyways, reported almost 20,000 Broad-winged Hawks migrating through. The previous night a cold front had come through, touching off thunderstorms, but by morning the winds were coming from the north with clear skies."
Julie Brophy, Journey North
Reporting from Duluth, MN

September 19 Michigan
"I stopped to watch a hunting red-tailed hawk at 8:30 am today. I noticed the orange vines along the fence it was sitting on. As I watched, the "leaves" of this vine started to fly by the hawk's head. It was a roosting flock of Monarchs taking off as the morning sun reached their roosting area. There were hundreds."
Jody Pagel, Science Resources Center
Midland, MI

September 19 Missouri
"Hello from St. Charles, Missouri. We are located about 45 miles north and west of St. Louis. I have noted about 3 to 5 Monarch butterflies in my yard the last few
days. (September 19-22). Though the numbers are small there beauty is great."
Nancy Borders-Wing
St. Charles, MO

September 19 Alabama
"On September 19, a friend saw 75-100 monarch butterflies at a location approximately 23 miles east of Auburn, Alabama. They were nectaring and flying away immediately on their journey south."
Carol Rogow
Auburn, Alabama

September 21 New Jersey
The weather system shown on the maps above reached Cape May, New Jersey on Saturday night the 20. The next day, Dick Walton of the MMP observed, "Strong northerly winds brought an influx of monarchs throughout the day on Sunday, 21, with 249/hour sighted." Walton expects another great day the 24th, in the wake of another cold front. Keep an eye on the Monarch Migration Project WWW site.

September 22 Virginia
Migration through the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has been strong this year, and 278 monarchs were counted in a two hour time period between 1:00-3:00 on Sept. 22. Chincoteague, VA is on the Atlantic Coast and just east of the Cheasapeake Bay.

From Points Further South...
Meanwhile, anticipation is building in Oklahoma and Texas for what promises to be an exciting year. Rather than wait patiently in Ardmore, Oklahoma, teacher Diane McGowen of Plainview Elementary is building a community-wide team of observers. Ardmore is 40 miles north of the Texas border and on a major "flyway" for the monarchs. With cold fronts poised to arrive last weekend, conditions seemed ideal. What did she find?

September 22 Oklahoma
"No Monarchs! We have seen 2 monarchs this week. Not two per hour, or two per day, two for the week in the entire area. None flying at all. We went to the pass in the Arbuckle Mountains where they are easier to count...Nothing... The fronts that were supposed to happen didn't."
Diane McGowen
Plainview Elementary

Diane has promised to check back when the first big wave arrives. So keep your eye on the weather in Ardmore, OK. OK?

Link to Live Weather Map

Further south, the Texas Monarch Watch Hotline reports several cool fronts carrying early monarchs into the state, but no masses of migrants have been reported yet. Imagine the sight as monarchs from across the U.S. and Canada funnel through Texas on their way to Mexico. Here are reports from two Texas schools who are waiting for their big arrival.

September 22 Texas
"In a survey of my 63 science students, they reported seeing approximately 30 monarchs during the day. We are not seeing more than 1-5 at any single sighting."
Sandra Hines
Richland Elementary
Ft. Worth, TX (32.79 N, -97.19 W)

September 20 Texas
"In my Fifth Grade Class at Brenham Middle School, Shara saw 11 at her house, Jennifer saw 4 in her garden, and Summer saw 13."
Susie Machemehl
Brenham Middle School
Brenham, TX (30.23 N, -96.40 W)

As waves of monarchs flood out of the north, a lone report from Maine turns our attention to the marathon migrants coming from their state:

September 21 Maine
"Hello, We don't have the dramatic sightings that others along the migratory path have. We see single butterflies, or at the most 2 or 3, leaving at once. We have tagged 12 butterflies for Monarch Watch. We have seen more caterpillars that any other year. Usually we stop seeing caterpillars or see only very big ones after the first week of September. This year I had to tell kids to stop bringing them in! Our community has really learned to value and respect the monarch. Many are in reverent awe at the life cycle and the beauty of the adult. Chrysalis has become a 'household' word. It's wonderful."
Gaye Gallant, Memorial SAD#15
New Gloucester, ME
43.96 N, -70.29 W

Finally, a report from Kansas students at Corinth Elementary School reminded us that it's a long journey to Mexico, with many obstacles along the way. These students discovered one monarch who unfortunately won't make it further across the Great Plains.

"Zach in Mrs. DiPierro's room found a Monarch caught in a spider web at a gas station on 9-21. It can't fly, so we're keeping it. (If it could fly we'd let it go.)"
Corinth Elementary School
Shawnee Mission , KS
38.95 N, -94.61 W

Unpave the Way for Monarchs
Calling all butterfly gardeners: If you have created habitat for monarchs, be sure to report your site. In our October 7 update we'll publish the first map showing places people are unpaving the way for wildlife. (If you don't have a garden yet, you'll be able to contact these people for help.) By creating your own small refuge--on the breeding grounds, wintering grounds, or anywhere along the migratory path--you can help ensure that the annual migrations to and through your region continue!

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will be Posted on October 7, 1997.