Fluttering and Fissioning

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

 

Cerro Pelon’s Monarch Colony on the Move: December 11–18, 2018

Temperatures warmed up again on Cerro Pelon and the Butterflies & Their People arborists brought back so many images of incredible beauty that it was hard to decide which ones to include in this week’s report. The forest workers were pretty much up there by themselves last week. Visitors have slowed to a trickle. Most people who want to come want to come in February. But how could February be any more beautiful than December is right now?

While there may not be many tourists, the arborists have the butterflies to keep them company. Lots and lots of butterflies. There was so much flight activity this past week that we suspect that the monarchs are still, here in the third week of December, in the process of arriving.

They are also in the process of shifting locations. There are now two nearly distinct colonies in Carditos; the large agglomeration in Paraje Beteta and the the satellite just below in La Oyamel. This second grouping was originally just on the State of Mexico side of the border. But then the monarchs started spreading out to colonize younger trees on the Michoacan side of the sanctuary as well.

Notice the orange area in the lower center of this Cerro Pelon landscape: those are butterflies.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

 

Cerro Pelon’s Monarch Colony on the Move: December 11–18, 2018

Temperatures warmed up again on Cerro Pelon and the Butterflies & Their People arborists brought back so many images of incredible beauty that it was hard to decide which ones to include in this week’s report. The forest workers were pretty much up there by themselves last week. Visitors have slowed to a trickle. Most people who want to come want to come in February. But how could February be any more beautiful than December is right now?

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

While there may not be many tourists, the arborists have the butterflies to keep them company. Lots and lots of butterflies. There was so much flight activity this past week that we suspect that the monarchs are still, here in the third week of December, in the process of arriving.

They are also in the process of shifting locations. There are now two nearly distinct colonies in Carditos; the large agglomeration in Paraje Beteta and the the satellite just below in La Oyamel. This second grouping was originally just on the State of Mexico side of the border. But then the monarchs started spreading out to colonize younger trees on the Michoacan side of the sanctuary as well.

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

On Saturday we learned of a new colony location. Guides coming up the trail from El Capulin (Cerro Pelon has two official entries, one in the village of El Capulin and another in the village of Macheros) noticed that there were also butterfly-covered trees in an area along the side of a ravine called La Costera. If you came to see the monarchs last season, this is where they clustered in late February when they moved down from El Llano de Tres Gobernadores (before they moved back up the the entry of El Llano at the beginning of March). It’s a surprisingly low spot to find them this early in the season. But from the images we’re seeing from other sanctuaries, like El Rosario where the monarchs are visible near its entry, it seems like coming in low in December might be a more general trend in this season’s butterfly behavior.

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

And then there are the hummingbirds. So many hummingbirds! We’ve heard that hummingbirds eat monarchs, piercing their bellies and sucking out their lipids. But the arborists have witnessed no such predatory behavior this week. Instead the hummers seem just as taken by the purple salvia Mexicana in bloom on the mountain top as the monarchs are. There were white eared hummingbirds, Rivoli’s hummingbirds and Bumblebee hummingbirds to be seen. But here are some pictures of some whose identity we’re not entirely clear on:

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

The arborists also managed to spot several Monarch Watch tags still attached to living butterflies and take pictures of them. So let us know if one of these is yours:

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

In sum, this week in Mid-December was spectacularly beautiful. And the forest workers had all this heartrending beauty pretty much all to themselves. I know that people have lots of reasons for wanting to come see the monarchs in February. That’s when you most need to escape winter or that’s when you have vacation time.

But can we please lay to rest the idea that “the monarchs are more active in February” or “February is peak for butterfly viewing ” as the reason for thinking only one month a year is the “best” time to visit?

It’s hard enough to create sustainable tourism with a 4–5 month-long season. We try — by creating more reasons for people to stay longer, like our Macheros cottage industry tours or cooking classes. We also try by fundraising among people who care about the monarch migration so that we can continue to employ the arborists to take care of the butterfly forest year-round. But the fact that in practice the butterfly tourism season is about a month long makes convincing our neighbors that the forest is worth more standing than felled for timber all the more of an uphill battle.

Saludos desde Macheros,

Ellen

P.S. Enjoying regular reports on the monarchs in Mexico? Consider contributing to the Cerro Pelon Arborist Project so we can continue employing the workers responsible for taking these images, making these observations and protecting the butterfly forest with their regular presence.

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

See also Week 5, Week 4, Week 3, Week 2, Week 1, and Taking Care of the Forest in the Off Season.

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

 

Cerro Pelon’s Monarch Colony on the Move: December 11–18, 2018

Temperatures warmed up again on Cerro Pelon and the Butterflies & Their People arborists brought back so many images of incredible beauty that it was hard to decide which ones to include in this week’s report. The forest workers were pretty much up there by themselves last week. Visitors have slowed to a trickle. Most people who want to come want to come in February. But how could February be any more beautiful than December is right now?

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

While there may not be many tourists, the arborists have the butterflies to keep them company. Lots and lots of butterflies. There was so much flight activity this past week that we suspect that the monarchs are still, here in the third week of December, in the process of arriving.

They are also in the process of shifting locations. There are now two nearly distinct colonies in Carditos; the large agglomeration in Paraje Beteta and the the satellite just below in La Oyamel. This second grouping was originally just on the State of Mexico side of the border. But then the monarchs started spreading out to colonize younger trees on the Michoacan side of the sanctuary as well.

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

On Saturday we learned of a new colony location. Guides coming up the trail from El Capulin (Cerro Pelon has two official entries, one in the village of El Capulin and another in the village of Macheros) noticed that there were also butterfly-covered trees in an area along the side of a ravine called La Costera. If you came to see the monarchs last season, this is where they clustered in late February when they moved down from El Llano de Tres Gobernadores (before they moved back up the the entry of El Llano at the beginning of March). It’s a surprisingly low spot to find them this early in the season. But from the images we’re seeing from other sanctuaries, like El Rosario where the monarchs are visible near its entry, it seems like coming in low in December might be a more general trend in this season’s butterfly behavior.

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

And then there are the hummingbirds. So many hummingbirds! We’ve heard that hummingbirds eat monarchs, piercing their bellies and sucking out their lipids. But the arborists have witnessed no such predatory behavior this week. Instead the hummers seem just as taken by the purple salvia Mexicana in bloom on the mountain top as the monarchs are. There were white eared hummingbirds, Rivoli’s hummingbirds and Bumblebee hummingbirds to be seen. But here are some pictures of some whose identity we’re not entirely clear on:

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

The arborists also managed to spot several Monarch Watch tags still attached to living butterflies and take pictures of them. So let us know if one of these is yours:

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.
Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

In sum, this week in Mid-December was spectacularly beautiful. And the forest workers had all this heartrending beauty pretty much all to themselves. I know that people have lots of reasons for wanting to come see the monarchs in February. That’s when you most need to escape winter or that’s when you have vacation time.

But can we please lay to rest the idea that “the monarchs are more active in February” or “February is peak for butterfly viewing ” as the reason for thinking only one month a year is the “best” time to visit?

It’s hard enough to create sustainable tourism with a 4–5 month-long season. We try — by creating more reasons for people to stay longer, like our Macheros cottage industry tours or cooking classes. We also try by fundraising among people who care about the monarch migration so that we can continue to employ the arborists to take care of the butterfly forest year-round. But the fact that in practice the butterfly tourism season is about a month long makes convincing our neighbors that the forest is worth more standing than felled for timber all the more of an uphill battle.

Saludos desde Macheros,

Ellen

P.S. Enjoying regular reports on the monarchs in Mexico? Consider contributing to the Cerro Pelon Arborist Project so we can continue employing the workers responsible for taking these images, making these observations and protecting the butterfly forest with their regular presence.

Monarch nectaring on salvia mexicana on Cerro Pelon.

See also Week 5, Week 4, Week 3, Week 2, Week 1, and Taking Care of the Forest in the Off Season.

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