Friday, October 05, 2012
Flights of Fancy
What is that brilliant fiery orb gracing the eastern sky this October morning?
Look quickly. It will be gone by tomorrow. Enjoy its glory for the moment that is today. Revel in its brightness and heat. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
Tomorrow the rains will return and autumn will take off its lightweight jacket and settle in with some real fall weather, the kind that means a fire needs lit, the hot chocolate needs brewed and that old, comfortable sweater needs dusted off for another year’s duty.
This morning migrating birds are on the move, small finches move in small flocks, trying to get further south before the coming storm. Birds that aren’t migrating are busy foraging with the first real urgency of the season. The short break in the weather has all the forest in action again, after days of inactivity.
Even the monarch butterfly migration is picking up again this morning, the frail, little bits of orange somehow managing to withstand the dangers of travel to migrate long distances. Their trip to Mexico takes about two months. The ones that survive will winter there and head back in the spring, but those oldsters will only make it back about halfway before the next generation completes the spring journey.
On their travels monarchs like to roost overnight in the same spot, replicating in temporary miniature the swarms of them that winter at the same few trees in Mexico. This year, reports are that in the East large numbers of monarchs are migrating, but not many have been seen in the drought-plagued Midwest. That’s already prompted some researchers to wonder just how many will make it to Mexico, as the eastern butterflies have a longer trip, and it’s thought fewer of them survive the hazards of migration. Last week monarchs arrived at the first three overnight roosts in Texas, where numbers were reported to be fewer than 50 at each roost.
This link takes you to a great website where monarch migration is tracked week by week so you can see where they are on maps and learn how many are showing up in the southern roost sites. The weekly news is updated every Thursday until the monarchs arrive in Mexico.