The sound of butterfly wings flapping

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North America » Mexico
January 23rd 2015
Published: June 21st 2017
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Geo: 19.312, -100.143

The Eastern Monarch butterfly sets off from north-eastern USA and south eastern Canada beginning in September or October to make a journey of up to 4300 miles (given they don't fly in straight lines) to overwinter in one tiny, mountainous part of Mexico west of Mexico City. Two or three will start from a bush near Boston (where we got to tag them a few years ago as they started the journey) , a few from a place near Chicago...they make their way South, resting and feeding at layovers in the Appalachians and other places, merging with other streams from other directions until millions of them gather in a few small locations where the altitude, the foliage, the climate are right for them to pass the winter. They cluster together in great fronds that hang from the trees only breaking into flight when the sun warms them and they need to regulate their temperature at which time the air is full of fluttering butterflies and the sound of their wings flapping is like the pitter-patter of raindrops. They stay until March then have to fly north again as far as Texas to find the milkweed, the only plant on which their eggs and caterpillars can survive. If by luck they make it to this point, they then die. Soon after the next generation emerges and continues the journey north, and so on until 4 generations later they get back to the point from where their grest-great-great etc forebears departed. The process is stll full of mysteries, but the sight of so many butterflies is magical.

From our rather basic B&B in the village which supplies the men who become forest rangers we set off at about 10am on our wiry horses for the 2,500 foot climb to the reserve. The sun was out but it was cool under the trees and colder near the top. The track was steep and stony, ti he horses were panting. The climb took about 90 minutes - not one I would have considered on foot.

It is difficult for either words or photos to do justice to the magic we found, but photos do it better than words. After a few hours of awe-inspired butterfly gazing we remounted the horses for the scramble back down. Truly a day to remember.

WiFi bad hefe so not sure videos work, will post separately on Facebook

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