I was worried that the only Monarchs that I’ll be tagging this year will be ones I raise myself. Until this guy showed up:
First of season wild Monarch tagged on the Llano River. October 2013. Photo by Monika Maeckle
What a beauty.
The perfect male, SLM027, appeared to be recently hatched. That wouldn’t surprise me since the Llano River this weekend was ripe with Monarch caterpillars, while flying Monarchs were almost completely absent.
Caterpillar – palooza on the Llano River. Plenty of caterpillars, but few Monarch butterflies this weekend. Photo by Monika Maeckle
The freshly minted specimen above was one of only two Monarchs seen all weekend, and is only the third Monarch butterfly I’ve tagged this year. That puts me way behind my usual activity, which by now should number in the dozens. The other two were reared at home. You’ve all heard how this is likely to be the worst year in history for Monarchs. So I won’t belabor it again.
My friend and fellow butterfly fan Jenny Singleton, who first introduced me to butterflies, shared the hope that a cold front hitting the Llano River this weekend would push down some major pulses from up North and we’d have the usual clusters roosting in our pecan trees. But as is often the case, Jenny and I were ahead of our time. Migrating Monarchs had not quite arrived.
Jenny was at her place in Hext, about 40 miles from me and said she didn’t see any, either. We’re both betting on next weekend. Monarch Watch predicts the peak migration for our latitude to hit between October 10 and the 22nd. And judging from reports we’re getting early this week, Monarchs are on the move.
Spangled Fritillary nectaring on Frostweed. Llano River, Texas Hill Country
Plenty of other butterflies were flying whenever the North wind gales paused to catch their breath. The dramatic temperature drop and wind gusts appeared to make many insects seek the comfort of the opposite sex, as these pictures of mating Queens and grasshoppers (we call them Jumbos) attest.
Queen butterflies snuggle up as a cold front hits the Llano River this weekend. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Get a room! Grasshoppers find companionship on the Llano River, Texas Hill Country. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Eastern Swallowtail, recently hatched, resting in the grass. Llano River, Texas Hill Country. Photo by Monika Maeckle
The good news is that the Llano River is up substantially from a dreary low flow. A two-and-a-half inch rain about two weeks ago lifted the waters four feet and scrubbed much of the muck and dredge from its karst bottom. Plenty of Swamp milkweed, Frostweed, Cowpen daisy, Goldenrod and Purple mistflower await hungry travelers when they finally arrive. A fresh hatch of Gulf Fritillaries, Eastern Swallowtails and Queens lighted on the nectar feast Saturday afternoon.
Llano River recovered nicely from a long, hot summer. Three inches of rain raised the river at least a foot. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Interestingly, I found more than 20 Monarch caterpillars in various stages on the milkweed this weekend. I have never retrieved so many caterpillars at once, so late in the season. Not sure what that is about, except that perhaps the migration will be a bit late this year. Upon returning home, my Tropical milkweed was filled with Monarch butterfly eggs.
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