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Visiting the Monarch Sanctuary
with Dr. Lincoln Brower

January 13, 2006
My research team and I arrived on the Llanos de los Tres Gobernores at noon.
This is a very large open field located at about 10,100 feet elevation at the upper base of an extremely beautiful mountain known as Cerro Pelon. Cerro Pelon is in the core zone of Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, and has been used by monarch butterflies as prime overwintering habitat nearly every year since the late 1970's.

On this lovely sunny day, our first sight was of thousands of monarchs drinking water from a muddy area on the east side of the Llanos. Looking up, we saw a multitude of butterflies flying eastwards about 15 feet over the ground across the Llanos in search of places to drink. Westwards, the swarming monarchs were so thick that they formed a golden veil in front of the forest in the background from which they were emerging.

Photos Copyright Dr. Lincoln Brower and Dr. Link Fink, Sweet Briar College

We soon realized that were two rivers of monarchs, one flying out of the colony towards a distant water source, and a second flying higher up and back into the colony. As we walked through the veil into the forest, we encountered the top of the colony at the head of the valley where water breaks out as a spring, known locally as the “Ojo de Agua." The boughs and trunks of hundreds of Oyamel firs and cedars were draped with curtains of monarchs resting quietly in the shade. The colony was moderately sized; it contained perhaps as many as 25 million monarchs and occupied about an acre of the trees.


Try This!
Print a copy of Dr. Brower's description. (Use this printer-friendly version.) Have students:
  • Underline examples of monarch behavior.
  • Circle examples of monarch habitat.
  • In your own words, describe what you know about the monarch's winter habitat.
  • What new information did you learn? What new questions do you have? If you were with Dr. Brower, what would you ask him?

Reading/Writing Connection
Print another set of copies of Dr. Brower's description. Have students underline examples of metaphors (e.g., two rivers of monarchs). Have them circle other examples of descriptive language. Have a student read the passage aloud, without the descriptive language, and discuss how the writing changes.

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