Texas Monarch Migration 2015
Migrating monarchs pass thru Texas in early spring. The Texas milkweed is super important and provides a habitat that allows the monarch to reproduce. If you would like to help this podcast then you can start by planting and growing a milkweed plant. More information is available at my website www.GrowMilkweedPlants.com a link will be available in the show notes. I was tipped off about the swamp milkweed plant by an acquaintance on twitter who goes by @spiderwort52 spelled - s p i d e r w o r t 5 2 Needless to say it was nice to see the additional plant. Low and behold I saw a monarch butterfly scouting out the flowers. A few days later in San Antonio the reverse was true. It was pretty nice to see that the San Antonio River Authority milkweed garden was maintained and even more exciting to see the monarch caterpillar and eggs in a city park environment. I have found pretty good success with following milkweed observations using iNaturalist.org and PlantsMap.com do you grow and sell milkweed in a nursery business? Visit www.GrowMilkweedPlants.com/grower
Episode 005 show notes: Title March Monarch Madness
Links mentioned in this episode: Find Milkweed for monarchs at:
Monarch Migration data:
The company jet:
On this podcast I will be talking about three main topics. Weather, Marine Monarchs and my upcoming trip to Austin.
Welcome to Grow Milkweed Plants podcast episode five. Today is March 26th 2015 and I am the host Brad Grimm. Thank you for joining me on todays wonderful podcast.
Spring is here, at least thats what our calendar are indicating. Based on a quick look at the 10-day forecast between the monarch biosphere preserve and the U.S. Border weather seems to be favorable for the 2015 spring migration. Winds are north at approximately 8 miles per hour in Mexico and north-northwest at 16 miles per hours in Austin. Longer range forecasted winds are light and variable with predominately north-west to easterly breezes. The temperatures between Rosario and the Monterrey range from 41º to 85º. Its very nice to see that a freeze is not in the forecast. Central to south Texas is slightly cooler but is trending toward warmer weather. Texas has had a bout of storms recently that yielded precipitation. The precipitation seems to be followed by warm weather and that is typical for spring. It should be very good for the milkweed plants that the monarchs will be searching for.
The specific path along the Migration route is not clearly understood but funding is underway for monarch monitoring on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Monarchs may or may not intend on crossing the gulf and monarchs over the gulf could certainly become fatigued on that long flight. Monarchs can be blown into the gulf and monarchs have been seen resting on the oil rigs. Oil rigs may be an oasis for them to rest upon should the wind push them out over the water. One question that this study is looking to answer is at what frequency do the oil rigs host these overseas monarchs. There is a facebook group for the project that is called Marine Monarchs. Updates about funding and their progress will be available on their facebook page. I have no affiliation with the Marine Monarchs project but there is a good chance that I will make a small donation to the program. If you make a donation then Dr. Chip Taylor is matching your donation until half of the $8000 project goal is reach. Chip Taylor is matching up to $4000. But it's not really about the money. The project focuses on providing real time data about the monarchs migration pattern which can be compared to winds and weather to help everyone understand more about the amazing monarch migration.
With Monarch Madness in full swing I am going "all in" with a trip to the great state of Texas! My wife and I are taking the company jet to Austin for the first week of April. Our hope is that the migrating monarchs will be traveling thru Austin at the same time that we are traveling to Austin. Despite the fact that I am setting my expectations very high I have some concern that they may not be there in the numbers that I am expecting. The odds of being there when the peak number of monarchs are traveling thru is about as likely as docking my model Estes rocket with the space station based on a gut feeling about where to point the rocket and when to initiate launch. I hope I scheduled the right launch time and trajectory for the trip when I booked everything back in November of last year.
Connect with me at Grow Milkweed Plants
1. First growth on milkweed. Transplanting showy milkweed to the ground.
2. Breakup of monarchs In overwintering sites and start of migration
3. Plans to monitor and report in travel podcasts on the migration thru Austin in Spring and Summertime milkweed in Yosemite.
4. Milkweed restoration projects and late season mowing.
5. The ebb and flow of milkweed and monarchs. Walking the Truckee River looking for milkweed and finding it all dormant 3/11/15
Yosemite video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3jpu2th34o
Monarch population is nearly flat but greatly reduced from previous decades. Pestacides in your garden could be lethal to monarch caterpillars nearby. Interstate 35 is becoming the Monarch highway. Milkweed in my backyard. Where are the monarchs vacationing in Mexico?
Western population numbers - http://monarchjointventure.org/news-events/news/western-overwintering-population-2014-15
Monarch Watch Population Status - http://monarchwatch.org/blog/2015/01/27/monarch-population-status-22/
Winter roosting sites in Mexico - http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/PopulationMexicoSites.html
Visit www.growmilkweedplants.com for more information
On todays episode I am going to share a few of the expeditions that I took this winter. I said expeditions but what I am talking about is visits that I made to monarch overwintering sites in California. I did not visit all of the more than 100 locations. I visited six locations. The first two were great because of their location in San Diego but didn’t have many monarchs. The last four locations were amazing because they were monarch butterfly honey holes. I’ll try to give you a few tips about the overwintering locations that I visited so that if you retrace my steps you get the most from your visit.
Welcome to Grow Milkweed Plants podcast episode two. I am the host Brad Grimm and thank you for joining me today. At the time of recording this episode it is January 30th 2015 and it very near the end of the overwintering season in both Mexico and California. But more importantly, in my opinion, it is nearly the beginning of the Spring migration. The Spring migration is massive. So if you are in southern Texas or Sacramento the migration will be sooner than if you are in Winnipeg or Spokane. If you are patient and you are growing milkweed then I wish you luck is seeing monarchs in your own backyard.
Very early in the monarch migration season, on November 13th 2014, I flew down to San Diego. I had collected some data that was published in 2009 by UCSD that there are three overwintering sites in San Diego. The first location is called Grape Street the second location is at the Presidio and the third location is on the UCSD campus. The first location, Grape Street, is at the edge of Balboa park where grape street terminates into a parking lot for a dog park. The second San Diego location is in old town San Diego at the Presidio.
The Presidio is a beautiful location. I was not able to make it out to the third location which is on the campus of UCSD so I won’t be able to comment on that location today. There are two reasons I was only able to visit two of the three locations in San Diego. The smell of tacos at The Alamo restaurant in old town was amazing and overpowered my desire to search for monarchs and because I was limited on time because and needed to catch my return flight.
As I arrived via bus, the Weather in San Diego was fast approaching the hot 70º high temperature. I walked a few blocks to the Grape Street dog park. There are no signs pointing toward the eucalyptus trees for monarchs. I did a lot of wandering around and besides seeing about five monarchs I came to the conclusion that there was not going to be any clusters on this warm November morning. The visit did have some highlights which includes seeing a great horned owl resting high in the trees. It was also good exercise. The official monarch count at Grape Street is 15. I think I may have seen them all this winter.
Back on the bus I made a transfer in downtown san diego and headed to the Presidio that is on a hill above old town. I walked a path straight up the side of the hill and arrived at one of the most beautiful areas for a picnic. Ocean views and shaded lawns made me think that if I were a monarch that that is where I would stay for the winter. Despite the beautiful location and ideal weather conditions there were no monarchs in San Diego besides the few that I saw flying about in gardens. I retreated toward the airport but not before having a couple delicious carne aside tacos and a local brewed beverage at the restaurant I mentioned earlier. The official monarch count at the Presidio Park, Old Town is 30
Turning the dial forward to November 21st. It is only 8 days later and my wife, Ashley, and I go to Santa Cruz California. It is still considered early in the overwintering season but I had heard that there were pretty good monarch counts. I should say that the premise of the trip was to visit the Monterrey Bay Aquarium to view sea life in their world class facility. It is only due to the extreme patience and understanding of my wife that I was fortunate enough to parade her thru the monarch groves on this visit.
First stop. Natural Bridges on the north side of Santa Cruz. The state beach and monarch butterfly trail are delightful during any time of year. Although there is a quiet buzz in the air today. We paid the state park vehicle fee and parked in the main lot near the visitor center. I could see there were others visiting the monarchs. I felt a little under prepared because my camera was about one tenth the size of what others were carrying. But it’s not about the photos you leave with. In fact, it’s not about gaining anything from the experience. For me, what I try to do while under neath the thousands of butterflies, is learn from them. I’m not talking about getting lecture notes from a butterfly. What I am trying to convey is the idea of being more butterfly like myself. Some may say zen or meditation and that is pretty close to what I mean. The monarch butterfly gives us so much by doing so very little. The monarch is able to do what it does best which is be simply amazing and live among us without being destructive or a nuisance. People like me on the other hand do destructive things and call it progress. Lets take farming for example. Some farmers plow under all the native milkweed and grow corn or soy beans. Is that progress? I’m not a farmer and if you are then I am not saying to stop farming. It is a systematic process of changing the natural course of the land. Monarch butterflies on the other hand fly over the field and see that there is no milkweed and simply die off as a result. Wow. that sounded kinda dark. I wonder if that’s a factual representation found in the real world. I’ll let you decide.
Back to the experience at natural bridges. It is a facility that is easily accessible for everyone. I would recommend you visit in December or January. The season may be longer in some years but your prime time for monarchs will be those two months. Either bring a big camera and a tripod or bring no camera at all. but your iPhone is only going to get good photos in the milkweed garden because monarchs are in trees high above you. The official monarch count at natural bridges is 3,400
The following day on November 22nd 2015 Ashley and I parked at Pacific Grove monarch butterfly sanctuary. The site is basically like a wild backyard with tall trees and shady trails. It was raining and despite having an umbrella everything was pretty wet except my tiny camera. We got there early because the main stop is the Aquarium. After homing in on the entrance to the monarch sanctuary we walked a very short distance to the trees where thousands of monarchs were clustering in the cool moist air. At first we walked right by most of the clusters. It wasn’t till we looked where others were looking that we saw them. The pine needles were thickly covered. I wanted to cheer for them like it was a sporting event. Having driven hundreds of miles to see them I felt like I had just won the game or hit the jackpot. I refrained and I kept my voice to a whisper like everyone else. The pamphlet says that loud voices disturbs the environment for the monarchs. So after our necks were throughly tired from gazing up at the tree limbs we departed for a wonderful day indoors at the Monterrey bay aquarium. The official count at pacific grove is 24,122
Turning the dial forward again to January 17th. Ashley and I headed back to the coast but this trip was to go whale watching near Half Moon Bay California. On our route I had cleverly routed us past Ardenwood Historic Farm. Ardenwood is a working farm and part of the East Bay park system. Entry is $3 per person. We visited on a Saturday and after walking the paths for a while we met at the milkweed garden and greenhouse where two employees greeted everyone and talked about monarchs and milkweed. I love hearing other people talk about my favorite subject. Time stands still when I am learning about milkweed. It seemed like the talk lasted only seconds. On the milkweed there was a few caterpillars. I saw a small one and a big one. There was also a monarch laying eggs on the tropical milkweed. I am going to save my opinions about the choice of milkweed that was growing at Ardenwood for a future episode. It was not native milkweed and that is all I will say right now. We headed down well traveled dirt path toward some of the tallest eucalyptus i have ever seen. It was another warm day, maybe 67º and the monarchs were very active. I wouldn't say we saw thousands but there were more than one hundred that were on the move. The location combined with the butterflies makes this mu second favorite place to see monarchs only after Pacific Grove. The official count at Ardenwood Historic Farm is 2,061 monarchs
Whale watching was a bust, no whales, but we did have a nice boat ride and a great experience overall. Once on land my wife and I went to Yurba Buena Native plant nursery where I got three new milkweed plants. Two of them are showy milkweed and the third is mexican whorled milkweed. They are still doing well and I will have them in the ground in the next month or two. As we headed away from the coastside we stopped at the golf course in san leandro. We weren’t there to hit balls. I brought my wife to yet another overwintering site for monarchs. Did I mention how patient she is? Very patient.
It is super important to know that this site is on private property. The only days that you may visit to see the monarchs is on Saturdays and there is a process to participate. Ashley and I arrived on a Sunday. With my tiny camera I approached the entrance seeking permission. We were directed to the clubhouse to see the general manager. I pleaded with the GM for access and he must have taken pity on me because he was kind enough to present two waivers that we signed before entering the course. We safely dodged all the golf ball while we took the path to the back of the property. Flying around in the trees was a few hundred monarchs. I felt like it was my lucky day because I was surrounded by monarchs. I just wish I could see that many monarchs every summer; everywhere.
When an acorn falling 70’ from above hit me in the forehead I decided it was time to go. This concludes my season visiting overwintering sites in California. The official count at the golf course is 7,750 monarchs I think there was a larger population being the driving range but given my experience with the acorn I wasn’t going to risk going there without a tour guide.
Thank you for listening to the second episode of Grow Milkweed Plants. Visit www.growmilkweedplants.com for more information and photos of the places I talked about in this podcast. If you are signed into itunes and enjoyed the show then please take a moment to subscribe, rate & review this podcast. On the next episode I will tell you what the total monarch population is in both the Western and the Eastern population and much more.
Milkweed is the host plant for monarch butterflies. I discovered that the monarch population dropped to historic lows between my visit to over-wintering sites between 1996-97 and 2014-15.
Visit www.growmilkweedplants.com for more information.
The decline in milkweed plants as a habitat may be the most important factor in population. I have taken action to grow milkweed plants. I share a few ways you can find milkweed and why it's important.
As a California boy raised on the central coastside I loved the ocean and the forest. One place that was a special treat for me in the winter was the State Beach named Natural Bridges. Natural Bridges State Beach is located in California on the North side of Santa Cruz. There is a butterfly sanctuary for Monarch Butterflies that is open to the public.The Monarch Trail is a place you must go.
At Natural Bridges they have a small demonstration garden with Milkweed Plants. Most of the year it is not much to look at but it is educational. On my last visit there were thirteen caterpillars and one monarch chrysalis in the milkweed demonstration garden.
Visit http://www.growmilkweedplants.com/about.html to learn more about me; Brad Grimm
Now days, I am involving myself in growing milkweed plants and sharing information about milkweed with everyone. By sharing information about milkweed in a clear and detailed way I look forward to the day that Monarch Butterflies return in abundance. So that they may once again dominate their massive migration route between Canada and Mexico.