I have located three milkweed clusters since 2003 on my place–central Texas, Erath County. Today I sought the three clusters again, one directly in front of the house, one alongside the road to the barn, and the cluster in the far field, one-quarter of a mile away. I found only the cluster photographed above–the cluster beside the road to the barn. I found no milkweed in the far field nor in the front yard. I believe that this spring has been mild so far and some heat is needed to bring out other patches of milkweed. Today, as I walked the fields, I discovered a large Monarch in the grove that soared out of the grass and into the sky above the trees. A huge Monarch, one the largest I have ever seen. Then as I finished my field trip, in the front yard, a Monarch flitted above the cut-leaf daisy and lawn grass. Two Monarchs, one patch of milkweed that has ten clusters of blossoms (you can only see seven in the above photograph)–definitely an event to be recorded for 2015. I will continue to monitor the milkweed and Monarchs, posting the field trips I take to far and near fields on my place.
Tag Archives: Monarch (butterfly)
But an equally alarming source of the decline, both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Vidal said, is the explosive increase in American farmland planted in soybean and corn genetically modified to tolerate herbicides.
The American Midwest’s corn belt is a critical feeding ground for monarchs, which once found a ready source of milkweed growing between the rows of millions of acres of soybean and corn. But the ubiquitous use of herbicide-tolerant crops has enabled farmers to wipe out the milkweed, and with it much of the butterflies’ food supply.
“That habitat is virtually gone. We’ve lost well over 120 million acres, and probably closer to 150 million acres,” Mr. Taylor said.
A rapid expansion of farmland — more than 25 million new acres in the United States since 2007 — has eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the monarchs with milkweed, he said.
The monarchs’ migration is seen as a natural marvel and, for Mexico, a huge tourist attraction. But naturalists regard the butterflies as a forward indicator of the health of the food chain. Fewer butterflies probably means there are fewer other insects that are food for birds, and fewer birds for larger predators.
Here on my ranchito I have seen no monarchs this year. It is a little early for their migration through central Texas (at least here in north Erath County, Texas), and I will hold off making any conclusive statements about their pattern for several more weeks.
I have only a few sprouts of milkweed on my 53 acres. I know precisely where the milkweed is and seek to keep it flourishing for the butterflies.
This late summer, thundershowers fall infrequently around Abilene, Texas. Yet, some showers do fall about this west Texas city that lies close to the Brazos River and Buffalo Gap, a niche in the hills that allowed buffalo to migrate from north to central Texas in the nineteenth century, following the shortgrass and bluestem in their casual browsing.
Two days ago as I worked late at my office at Cisco College, I walked by three large sagebrush by the back entry door. A monarch butterfly floated by, floating and fluttering as if they are playing, and landed on one of the blossoms. But before I could draw my iPhone from my coat pocket, it flew away and out of my range to snap a picture. Alas, I was too slow on the draw. I followed it to a green clump of slender grasses and lost it, despite my intent search. The monarch had buried itself from my eyes, thinking me a raptor?
Yesterday, following the blooming sagebrush and my failure to photograph the butterfly, it rained about the city, to the north and west particularly. A rainbow emerged with the sun setting to the east. And, this morning, the temperatures were the coolest since May, a 61 degrees before sunup.
I think, if sagebrush blooms, can rain be far behind? And playing monarchs about the purple sage? Not far behind either.
- Buffalo Gap Cemetery (fridaycemeterysociety.wordpress.com)
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.