Have you seen the Monarchs?
Sept 29th 200 Monarchs had been roosting for nearly a week within Ponderosa pines in Ulysses, KS, north of the OK Panhandle.

Have you seen the Monarchs?

Sept 29th 200 Monarchs had been roosting for nearly a week within Ponderosa pines in Ulysses, KS, north of the OK Panhandle.

Sept 30th Wiley (extreme eastern part of CO) had 30000 Monarchs verified by videos and personal observations. The butterflies roosted for 3 days and left Oct. 2nd.

October 3rd 18 stragglers were seen flying to the south through Hasty, Colorado, quite close to Wiley.

October 4th the cold front passed Bluff City, KS. It was cloudy, temp of 60 degrees and after a brief rain shower about 125 Monarchs flew through, not stopping. Table Rock Lake in Missouri had about 100. In Woodward County the Monarchs were fluttering or resting.

October 5th hundreds were seen in Sedan, New Mexico. In Coyle, OK, ahead of the leading edge of the cold front were seen thousands of Monarchs within 30 minutes by an observer northeast of Langston. In Stillwater over 2,000 were counted. In OKC hundreds of Monarchs came through at the same time, some very high and others close to the ground. Numbers of butterflies flew over Tuttle, some stopping to land on pecan trees. In Amber (south of Tuttle) large groups migrated for at least a half an hour. Norman saw over 200 within 10 minutes, some with 4 inch strings flying behind. Remnants of the chrysalis attached to butterfly ends!

October 6th at 9 am about 300 Monarchs were roosting in trees in OKC. Six to 10 clutches of Monarchs in groups of 20 to 50 flew through Norman. About 1000 butterflies were counted in the western TX town of Cisco, but the temp was still 85 degrees and the cold front still on the way. In San Antonio they were out planting milkweed seeds in 97 degree heat when a battered, nearly colorless Monarch flew in and landed on a laurel branch! Hackberry Flat reported only 60 to 100 roosted that night, which meant few were tagged the morning of Oct 7th.

October 7th more than 200 Monarchs migrated through Kansas City, MO. In central TX, Wall reported 50. Miles to the west of Hackberry Flat, one person counted 40-50 Monarchs in her yard at night.

October 8th a steady trickle of Monarchs came through the Shawnee area. I watched one flutter down to rest on a blade of grass in front of a large county mower that surfaced over the hill like a giant transformer. I question the wisdom of why the county chose to mow right now, the week Monarchs were migrating. Many of the plants cut were roadside flowering plants where Monarchs would have stopped to feed or rest. North-south roads are corridors these butterflies tend to follow. The butterflies fight all odds against strong winds, cold fronts, habitat destruction and traffic. I waved the guy down to tell him the Monarchs were flying through even as they fluttered past his machine. I knew he had his orders and off he went, cutting blades whirling and motor roaring. Monarchs need their nourishing flowers and plants not only in spring but also the fall.

Monarchs reached Del Rio, a city on the border between Texas and Mexico. They came through in groups of 10 every 5 minutes. Cold front came through the day before and the Monarchs are moving with it.

It appears most of the migration went to the west this year, covering an area from Colorado and New Mexico to Kansas and Missouri, traveling from northeast to southwest. The latent warm weather didn’t help things.

Sunday, October 6th, was a cloudy, chilly, misty day for the Monarch migration in Tulsa. The plan was to go to the Gathering Place. Along the waterways extensive plantings of milkweeds were blooming last year, so I hoped to see them again this year covered in dozens of Monarchs. No self-respecting Monarch would be caught out a day like this. Instead, I discovered this was the very last day of the Tulsa State Fair. Hey, it was a fair. Off I went. Several of us braved the elements to enjoy the foods, displays, carnival games and rides. We got to experience the fair through the eyes of an eleven-year-old.

First order of business was to find food. Two of our group had gone beyond hungry to hangry. We tackled the QuikTrip Center with the 75 foot tall Golden Driller welcoming us as we entered.

Up and down a few aisles we walked, stopping to look at the telescoping safe room beds that raised up to accommodate people escaping demons or tornadoes. When we saw corn dogs, several were purchased. Nearby wine vendors offered sips and drinks. This year Sarah Kaufman the Cheese Lady spent hours inside a refrigerated glass cube paring an enormous block of cheese. The result was a happy goat head on one side and smiling cow the other with “AWESOME” carved above them, all in yellow cheese.

Outside the mist had become heavier. Look, pizza on a stick. Must have. The diving Penguins jumped into a small deep circular pool from various platforms on the 100-foot-tall ladder. The five Penguins were professional divers put to the test by cold fierce winds.

Games, rides, food trucks and flags stood out stiffly in the gale force winds. Throw three balls, break two bottles and anything hanging from the rafters was yours. Our little lady broke one bottle, but couldn’t do it again, although many more balls were thrown to no avail. As she walked away, the carnie motioned for her to come back and pointed up at the large stuffed animals waving in the breeze. Choose one he said. She gasped, then selected the very plump gray elephant. Beaming, she thanked him and literally floated off the ground as we left.

Feeling confident, she then tried her hand at throwing her fastest baseball at a target. Her fastest was 41 mph which netted her a three-foot-long bat balloon. Back inside the center and time for hot fresh funnel cake pieces coated with powdered sugar and poured into a paper cone. Gone. The Euchee Butterfly tent caught her interest. The large structure housed plants, people and lots of butterflies. The Tulsa butterfly farm provides butterflies to museums, fairs, zoos and flight houses. Next was a box of fudge and peanut covered caramel apple. On the way out we discussed what to have for supper!

The renovated natural gas pipeline to the north is undergoing finishing touches. Workers threw tires across the road as cushions for the heavy machinery as it moved back and forth. In a process called boring, the pipe was pushed through below ground without disturbing the road above. Road looks fine. Large earthmoving equipment are leveling soil as additional topsoil is being distributed over the exposed earth. Soon, things will be quieter. The American Burying Beetle will hopefully come back home.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.