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.
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.