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Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: March 19, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

Field Notes from Mexico by Dr. Bill Calvert
Here come the monarchs! On yesterdays’ visit to Pelon, Dr. Calvert saw the colony in the process of breakup.

"The butterfly colonies are definitely vacating, that's clear," said Calvert. Monarchs were pouring out of the arroyos at the base of the mountains. Where there were tens of millions of butterflies only last week, dense clusters were scarce this week. "It's very puzzling, though, because we haven't seen the flood of butterflies that typically fill the skies in Angangueo. Perhaps because it was unseasonably cold this past week--the coldest of the 5 weeks I've been here. But the colonies are definitely breaking up, and the butterflies have to be going somewhere!"

Dr. Calvert himself will be flying north this week too, back to his home in Texas. Many thanks for providing these weekly updates from your phone booth in the field, Bill!

It's Springtime in Mexico!
We thank Dr. Lincoln Brower, Sweet Briar College, who has studied the monarchs in Mexico over his lifetime, for sharing these beautiful images. Enjoy the view!
More images >>>
Copyright Dr. Lincoln Brower Sweet Briar College  

When Will the Migration Reach Texas?
During the past week, the butterflies have clearly begun to move. When do you think the first big wave will appear in Texas? Are they early, late or right on time? Take a look at these migration maps from past years and see what you think:

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Why Stay Off of the Ground? Discussion of CQ #9
Last week, monarchs were shivering on the forest floor of the sanctuary in the video clip. Their goal was to warm their muscles so they's be able to crawl or fly off the ground. Challenge Question #9 asked, “Why do you think butterflies shiver so hard--and spend so much energy--trying to get off of the ground?"

"Because predators will get them if they stay on the ground, tourists and other people might step on them and butterflies want to fly!," responded Mrs. Nunnally's students in Bedford, NH.

Did You Know? Millions of Monarchs Eaten by Predators
In a typical year, upwards of 15% of the entire over-wintering population dies due to predatory activities. Close inspection of a dead butterfly gives a clue as to its predator. Who ate these butterflies? Try your skill on this predator identification quiz!

Black-eared mouse
(Peromyscus melanotis)
Monarch Enemies at the Over-wintering Sites

Black-backed Oriole

Black-headed Grosbeak
Photos Copyright Dr. Lincoln P. Brower, Sweet Briar College

Mexican Monarch Conservationists: Unknown and Unsung
Eduardo Rendón Salinas

"Language remains the primary communications barrier in Monarch Butterfly conservation," says Jordi Honey-Roses in his monthly update. "Despite their work, Mexican efforts to protect the Monarch's overwintering sites are overlooked, not well communicated, or not fully understood by the larger North American Monarch Butterfly community," he says.

Meet Eduardo Rendón Salinas, for example. He works on the staff of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. People all over the world depend on Eduardo and the Reserve staff to protect the monarch’s winter habitat. But like many of his Mexican counterparts, says Honey-Roses, Rendón’s hard work and commitment goes largely unrecognized.

Try This! Read Then Write
Read: Jordi Honey-Roses update about the language barrier between our countries. Why does he say the barrier is greater for Mexicans? Read about the many ways Eduardo and the Reserve staff take care of the monarch over-wintering region. It’s a year-round job, even though the monarchs visit for only five months of the year.

Then Write: Surprise Eduardo with a letter of thanks! He and the Reserve staff would enjoy knowing that you appreciate their hard work. Also, tell what you're doing to protect monarch habitat on the monarch’s breeding grounds in the north.

Eduardo Rendón Salinas
Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca (RBMM)
Primera Cerrada de Santos Degallado
Col. Heroes Ferrocarilleros
Zitacuaro, Michoacan 61500

Nombres y apellidos: What's in a Family Name?
Most Mexicans have 3 names, just like Eduardo’s. “In Mexico we have sort of a collection of names that tells our family history,” begins Karina Romero de Avila. She shares the history in her own name. What would your name be in Mexico, using the Spanish custom?
My Monarch Habitat in...Challenge Question #11
We thank the Journey North readers hiding in the following place for this year's first Monarch Habitat Challenge. Can you guess where they are?

"We are 1,592 miles from the sanctuaries in Mexico. Although our ground is pretty much thawed, a late winter snow storm recently dumped about 4 inches of snow on our emerging grass, tulips, and plants in the butterfly garden at our school. The robins are already here and the trees are budded out, ready to bloom. We are on the Mississippi River. Our Monarchs usually arrive at the end of May and we hope to have a water feature added to our garden by that time to provide a complete habitat for our 'flying flowers.'"

Challenge Question #11
"In what state or province do you think this monarch habitat is located? Send us your guess! (And, send a photo of your local monarch habitat, plus geographical clues, for a future Challenge Question.)"

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question:

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #10 (or #11)
3. In the body of your message, answer the question above.

The Next Monarch Butterfly Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 26, 2004

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