Friday, October 4, 2013

One magic day

A week ago, while in New York, I was caught by surprise to see Monarch Butterflies flying over Fire Island, a barrier island of Long Island, on the long journey south to their wintering grounds in Mexico. It is one of the great migrations and I was delighted to witness it.

I had not seen a one in my area this past spring on their journey north, despite planting Milkweed, their host plant. So it was extra-special for me as I know their numbers are in serious decline due to pesticides, habitat loss and the loss of Milkweed. I'd been hoping and wishing they would visit my gardens as I put care into making sure it's a welcoming environment for them.

This afternoon, I spotted a butterfly in my garden, which I thought was a Monarch, gathering nectar from the Cosmos flowers I had planted in spring. I was thrilled to think that the Monarchs, after seeing them in New York a week ago, had finally made it south to North Carolina on their continuing journey. Nearly tripping over myself to get my camera and then running down the stairs of the deck into my yard, I snapped the above image.

After studying it, I determined it was a Viceroy Butterfly who are often mistaken for Monarchs. Although similar, Viceroys are smaller and can be distinguished by the black line on the lower portion of their wings. Though not a Monarch, I was happy nevertheless to see this butterfly enjoying the gardens.

But, nature is magic as are butterflies.

About three hours later, I spotted another butterfly flying around the same flowers while stopping here and there to partake of nectar. After about nine minutes, the butterfly flew off in a determined southward direction. I felt certain this time.

The visitor was indeed a Monarch. It had stopped to refuel itself on its long journey to Mexico. I was delighted to the core and glad I had planted flower seeds during the chill of early spring if only to help this one Monarch make it home.

Throughout the season, I've seen other species of butterflies but never a Viceroy, a look-alike of the Monarch, nor a true Monarch. Yet, in one magic day, both appeared. One to fool and the other to affirm.

Journey North is a Citizen Science project where you can report Monarch Butterfly sightings and other species to help scientist track migrations.

An excellent guide for help in identifying Monarch Butterflies.

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