Monarch Butterfly Roost at Flying Hat Ranch

Monarch Butterflies, Mingus, Texas (Photo by J. Matthews)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

There are only nine Monarch butterflies in this roost, but it is a grouping that I photographed as the sun set this evening.

Five years ago, Brenda was walking Yeller, our Aussie-Lab mix, and as she came back to the house, Yeller kept looking up in the sky.  Brenda, puzzled, looked up and hundreds of Monarch butterflies filled the space above our house.  They probably roosted in the grove, but I was unaware of their habit patterns.  We have not seen such a sight again.

Over the past two weeks, I have noticed Monarchs floating lazily across the interstate between Mingus and Abilene.  Not many.  I’ve counted only, at the most, four monarchs on the way back to my home, a trip of 87.2 miles.

This evening I took these photographs of the Monarchs that are roosting in our live-oak trees in front of the house.  There are nine Monarchs.  (One Monarch is nearby, but out of the photo frame.)  They have settled in for the night.  October is for turning leaves and the Monarch.  It is a small grouping, but a grouping nonetheless.

They seem so fragile, but I have read they migrate for hundreds of miles without injury.  Above our ranch, there also soars Sandhills Crane when the frigid temperatures force them southward.  I shall photograph the Sandhills when they pass this season.  I first hear them, then I see them.  With the Monarch, first I see them and then I gaze on them intently, sensing a unity they have as a cluster, roosting together like birds, like birds.

A Small Roost of Monarch Butterflies



Our house is on a knoll, called Poprock Hill, and in chasing the Monarchs before I saw them roosting, I took several pictures of Monarchs that were out of focus and sailing southward.  Then, Brenda, said, “Look in the front yard!”  I was so anxious to get pictures I couldn’t focus the camera.  But, the Monarchs were patient with me and opened their wings for some reason.  I got the pictures without falling off the terraces.  Other Monarchs are floating above our tree line and probably will roost close by, but these guys are in the big live oak tree in front of our porch.

Update, October 14, 2010.  As I left this morning to go down to the barn to feed and then commute to Abilene, I went back out to the Monarch roost.  I shined a flashlight on the roost and the Monarchs were still resting.  The temperature was between 38 deg. F. and 45 deg. F. about the area — from here to the interstate, about four miles north.  I’ve spotted no Monarchs this afternoon.  I watched closely until dark.


Filed under Life in Balance, Monarch Butterfly

28 responses to “Monarch Butterfly Roost at Flying Hat Ranch

  1. You are very lucky indeed. The silence and beauty of the Monarchs perching just within view and the joyous sound of the Sandhills filling the sky as they make their way south. Now that’s a beautiful picture. The one you took ain’t bad either. Thanks for the post.

    • It was an uncommon event. I’ve never looked for a roost before this year. I regret what I have been missing. Better now than never. I’ll try and get some good photos for you of the Sandhills.

  2. Caralee

    One of my favorite memories of living in Ft. Worth–especially near Eagle Mt. Lake–is the Monarch butterfly migration. Remember the walled-in side yard at that house? Every year about this time it would be filled with Monarchs, literally hundreds would be in that space. It was magical! I’m glad to know they are still out there, making their trek to Mexico.

    • Yes, I remember that beautiful walled-in side yard. That was a great feature of your home — a different ecology in that side yard. I wished I seen the Monarchs there. I’m glad they are still here, too. Good to hear from you, Caralee.

  3. Hey Jack! LOL ! I know how you felt when you almost fell down from the terrace. When I see something rare and simply want to get it in my camera, I turn sometimes so keen that I don’t know where I place my feet.

    I wish those beautiful monarchs would take a trip around here, but maybe one day if the climate keeps changing!

    They are the most amazing butterflies, and I’m so impressed by their migrating on those long distances. It must really be such an exciting experience for you to have them close to your house. Butterflies usually do not get up in the morning before the dew has gone and the sun is warming. But you live in Texas and it is probably hot from the early morning hours. Do they get up early those lovely creatures? Earlier than you? ´ )

    Good luck!

    • I have to leave for work at 7:15 a.m. and will not be able to know when they depart. We are down to about 43 deg. F. this morning. By 10:00 a.m., they should be gone? I can imagine you taking pictures and being oblivious to your steps! Be careful! I love the photography on your blog.

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  5. I enjoyed a Monarch migration when living at my farm house in Ansel many years ago. What a magical event. It left me feeling all is right with the world. Monarchs on a live oak tree. What a wonderful sight. Lovely photos.

  6. Those photographs are really awesome! I can just imagine how nervous you were trying to capture them and in the end you couldn’t have taken a better photo. Even the acorns are lovely. Weren’t you lucky that your wife directed you to that oak tree!

  7. Koda'sTotems

    Just beautiful Jack! I think they’re migrating through here right now too, but I haven’t been so lucky to find a little roost. Your photos are gorgeous.

  8. Ruth Karbach

    Monarch butterflies are always an inspiration and lesson in perserverance for me. City girl that I am, I spotted my first monarch of this season flitting up 3rd street in front of the Fort Worth Public Library downtown.

  9. Semira Mancill

    Good for you Mr. Matthews for getting your wish to see them yet another season! Thanks for sharing the photos with those of us who also wish to experience their beauty and tranquility. I’ll be on the lookout though now!

  10. Erin R.

    Beautiful butterfly pictures Dr. Matthews. I love the monarchs. Do you have any Maximillian sunflowers on your ranch? Monarchs love them. My neighbor has some in his field next to our house and they attract the monarchs every year.

    • Erin, I have sunflowers, but I don’t know the variety, yet. I’ll look it up. I didn’t know that about Monarchs and sunflowers. Stands to reason, though, doesn’t it? Thank you. I knew if you saw the post with pictures, you would like it.

  11. Kaja Bearmom

    I saw a such a butterflies in my summer cottage in Saaremaa (Estonia). Newer saw them before in this area… But I could not fix them with camera unfortunately…

    • I understand about cannot fix the image you want. I’ve a photo of two Monarchs flying off in the distance that look like mosquitoes in the picture. Not good. But it was all I had before I took the best pics outside. Love your blog.

  12. Kittie Howard

    Wow, a cluster of Monarch butterflies. This is a treasure, a real treasure. First, the deer began to return, now the Monarchs. Jack, your restoration efforts are paying off. Mother Nature is truly pleased.

    And your photos are beautiful, especially the one in the Live Oak. You and Brenda are going to have some fine evenings sittin’ on the porch.

    Thank you for your comment. I left a reply that included what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…and I did have a loving foundation. It wasn’t until high school that my father’s mid life crisis brought the house down. When that happened I knew I couldn’t carry their baggage and moved on, not always with a light heart for it pained to see my parents go at it, but move on I did, more and more with the realization there was nothing I could do and, so, returned to my sense of self and, well, here we are.

  13. My partners and I “raised” and released five monarchs this fall–four females and a male. We marveled at the amazing journey they were about to undertake, flying all the way to Mexico, and wished them well. It’s a nice fantasy to imagine that one day they may end up in your backyard.

  14. Hi Jack
    What a wonderful sight that must have been to see so many monarchs flying by and even have them roost close by. My daughter would love to see this. We go to the Toronto Zoo at times to see them. For some reason they love landing on her head, shoulders etc. Its quiet an interesting thing that the butterflies land on her. Even the staff is wondering why… She is always so happy to be so special

    • Hi Jacqueline: I would love your daughter to see our roost someday. There were not many monarchs this year, but next year I will look farther into the grove for more. That butterflies land on her — she must be a sweet, sweet girl. Special girl.

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