Friday, November 13, 2009

Migrating Monarchs And Winter Texans

They’re probably all in Mexico by now. I saw my first monarch butterfly of the fall here in the hill country during the first few days in October, and my last about a week ago.

The migration of monarch butterflies begins in the upper regions of North America in early September, as the weather starts to cool. Monarch butterflies can’t live in the cold weather and head south before winter sets in. Like migrating birds, the monarchs come down certain flyways on their long journey. Their primary destination is the mountainous area just west of Mexico City, Mexico, although some monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains do migrate to certain areas of southern California.

It is estimated that nearly 100 million monarchs take part in the fall migration. East of the Rockies, the various flyways eventually converge into a narrower configuration, which funnel into one or two flyways over Texas. The major flyway is over central Texas and the Texas Hill Country. As a result, hill country residents, primarily during the month of October, are blessed with seeing more than their fair share of monarchs.

Once the butterflies reach Mexico, they all head to a relatively small area in the volcanic mountains just west of Mexico’s capital of Mexico City, where at the elevation of 10,000 feet, they spend the winter in oyamel fir trees. They are welcomed every year by local residents, and by tourists, who climb mountain trails to see the millions upon millions of monarchs hanging on the trees.

The monarch migration through the hill country this year, as always, was spectacular. They were everywhere, and the photo opportunities were endless. But now, they’re gone.

Migrating monarch butterflies, are just like the human “snowbirds,” or as we call them in Texas, “Winter Texans,” who come south to escape the cold weather up north every year. But, while the monarch butterflies come into Texas with numbers over 100 million, but then keep passing through, we really don’t want that many human winter visitors to stay down here. It’s not that we don’t appreciate them, because we surely do, but 100 million? That’s just a bit much.

The Texas Hill Country is a wonderful place to stay or visit during the winter, but, you folks from the north, please keep at least a couple thousand people or so back up there. Somebody has to run "your" country up north during the winter months, don't they?

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