30 August 2010

The Monarch migration has begun

Most people understand that Monarch butterflies in North America migrate south for the winter.  That process has now begun, and those interested can track the process at the Journey North website.

During the migratory process, Monarchs often gather in tree "roosts" for overnight stays.  Along the migratory route these are not nearly as spectacular as the enormous ones in Southern California or the ultimate ones at the Mexican terminus, but they are awesome spectacles nonetheless.  I've had the good fortune to see one once while hiking.  The map embedded above, from the Journey North website, shows the location of roosts reported so far.

Here is a brief amateur video of a tree roost.  The video is low resolution, but it gives a flavor of the event, and the videographer has had the good taste not to spoil the images with some irrelevant music or commentary.


  1. I was just up in Escanaba Michigan for our annual summer vacation at the cabin and drove over to garden peninsula which appears to be one of your red dots on your Monarch map. We didn't see as monarchs as last year but we saw many smaller yellow butterflies that I will eventually past pictures of and ask for an ID.

    Over the years we have had interesting conversations which people on the Upper Peninula that track the Monarchs using tiny circular badges attached to the wings. It is fascinating that these presumably delicate butterflies migrate such distances, and that get to vacation near one of their gathering spots.

  2. Richard, your smaller yellow butterflies are probably Clouded Sulphurs. Click on the upper left photo here for more descriptions -


    It could be something else up there in the UP, but the answer is probably in one of the photos at that link.

    The clouded sulphurs have been emerging here in southern Wisconsin by the tens of millions for the past several weeks because their food plants are quite common (clover, legumes - especially alfalfa fields). We have dozens of them at a time in our garden, and over at the nearby schoolyard next to the alfalfa field when I walk I stir up clouds of them. A cheerful sight.

  3. While the quiet of the video was a wise choice, I happened to have the Copland film playing at the same time...quite an excellent accompaniment as well.


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