Tag Archives: Monarch (butterfly)

Milkweed for Monarchs at My Place

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Milkweed Clusters

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.

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Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades – NYTimes.com

Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades – NYTimes.com.

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.

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Filed under Life Out of Balance, Monarch Butterfly

Olivetti and Flowers of Flying Hat (20-24)

Keyboard

When possible, I use a large keyboard, not the small letter touchpad of iPhone. Who can possibly compose substantially on an iPhone?  My hands are large, like a teamster’s.  Here is my keyboard (QWERTY) I have pressed and pressed posts since 2005. I ratchet out fifty-words a minute when inspired or copying.  Nonetheless, I still have a typewriter although it is in the barn.  It is an Olivetti portable I purchased in Amarillo, Texas, back in the 1970s.  I look at Office Depot and Staples most times I shop and I still see typewriter ribbons stocked. How long will Office Depot stock typewriter ribbons? Probably not much longer.  I like the clack, clack of the keys hitting paper, although it has been twelve years since I used the Olivetti.  Although I eschew Wikipedia, the typewriter ribbons link above is quite informative.

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20. Yucca blossoms

Here I have more photographs of flowers that blossom on Flying Hat Ranchito, an ongoing project of mine for 2012-2013.  The yucca stalks that blossom flowers have been erect for two weeks, but only today have I seen blossoms.  Although we have had rains that nourished the first eruptions of grasses and plants, for almost three weeks now we have been bereft of moisture.  The pastures are already browning and it isn’t even May.  Most likely, the failure of the yucca stalks to bear flowers emanates from our dry spell — we shan’t call it a drought, just yet.

21. Horse mint

Horse mint is neither as prolific nor robust as it was two years ago.  Again, we lack additional rains to bring the horse mint to full fruition.  But some hearty plants, nonetheless, have sprouted.

22. Texas pricklypoppy, Papaveraceae (Poppy Family)

To my west, on the Dooley place, a whole field of Texas pricklypoppy has erupted.  I have a few poppies on Flying Hat Ranchito, and No. 22 is an example.

23. Unidentified

Yellow flowers predominate this time of year on my ranchito, especially the Cut-Leaf Daisy.  But No. 23, a yellow flower, I have not identified.  I first had it down as a Black-Eyed Susan, but now I am not so sure.

24. Indian Blanket

Indian Blankets are rather sparse this Spring, not fully developed as two years ago.  Nonetheless, here is No. 24, a photograph I took this morning over in the far field.  I have brilliant photos of the Indian Blanket from year’s past, but this No. 24 is from my project of photographing wild flowers for 2012-2013.

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This morning as I drove along the southern boundary of the far field where the large pecan tree lives, I came across a roost of Monarch butterflies among the Mustang grapevines and mesquite.  I estimate twenty to thirty Monarchs abounded, played and flew about the fence line, large butterflies they were.  ‘Tis not a promise, but I may go over in the morning and photograph the area.  And, I shall come back to the house and type out my spiel on a QWERTY keyboard, not an iPhone.  Furthermore, my Olivetti portable needs to be resettled in my office and not remain in the barn, do you not agree?

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Filed under Flowers of Flying Hat, Wild Flowers of Texas

Sage blooms in Abilene

Sage blooming in Abilene, Texas, September 20, 2011.

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.

Three sagebrush with blossoms at the back door of Cisco College, September 22, 2011. The monarch flew and hid in the bushes to the upper right of the photograph.

 

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Filed under Monarch Butterfly, Plants and Shrubs, Sagebrush

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

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Notes:

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.

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Filed under Life in Balance, Monarch Butterfly