Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Where Are The Monarchs ?

Our nearby river, the flat muddy Unadilla, is a south flowing stream.  A diminishing finger of bedrock ridge sends the river on a westward loop here.  Migrating flyers ignore this jog in the river and fly directly over us.  Once a National Guard cargo plane on a training flight below the ridge line flew directly over our home at a frighteningly low altitude as it followed the straight line down the valley. Geese and Monarch butterflies provide more pleasant visual experiences as they migrate directly over us.

Our fields of milkweed stand ready for the Monarchs that enjoy summer here.  This year they have been almost completely absent from our place.  An occasional tattered individual has been seen dining on an Echinacea flower.  The milkweed flowers are long past but the Monarch needs only its leaves to receive their eggs.  All is ready but for some reason the butterflies are not here.

This stand of milkweed is growing in an area that I mow.  It was last mowed mid July so that the milkweed would re sprout growing tender young leaves and late flowers.  The young leaves are intended for use by the butterflies, but the second flush of flowers is intended for me.  I find their fragrance deliciously sweet and I have a longstanding personal connection with this plant.  For many years I would enjoy the first week of my summer vacation from school while surrounded by newly opened milkweed flowers.  Now the flowers remind me of wonderful first days of summers spent free of employment.

The many weeks of rainy weather no doubt impacted the northern Monarch migration.  It will soon be time for the summer butterflies to lay the eggs that will develop into the young ones that make the southern migration.  With so few butterflies seen here we will likely not find any caterpillars or cocoons on our milkweed plants.  Our last chance to see Monarchs this year will be during the migration when topography works to funnel the fliers directly over us.

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