ASCM Monarch Tagging Nature Walks

Thanks to our Nature Walk Leaders for these reports on our Monarch Tagging Nature Walks!

A Picture-Perfect Saturday in September, 2010!

Nearly forty people - from toddlers to retirees - gathered at the Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary in Mount Airy on September 18th to see Monarch butterflies begin their epic 2,000-mile journey to the oyamel fir forests in a small area of mountaintops in central Mexico, where they overwinter.

Naturalist Cheryl Farfaras, who led September's ASCM sanctuary event, brought along numerous captive-reared Monarch caterpillars in various stages of development for people to see, as well, and several of them magically emerged from their chrysalises just as we arrived at the
Monarch Watch tagging station!

As the morning sun warmed the meadow grasses, the Monarchs took to the dazzling blue skies. The ones stopping to sip nectar from wildflowers along the way - 55 in the course of the morning - enabled participants to gently capture them in butterfly nets, so they could be tagged. Each Monarch was given a tiny, round, uniquely numbered identifying tag and entered on a data sheet before being released.

Monarch Watch maintains records on the tag numbers that are given to those who do the tagging, so when tagged Monarchs are found and reported (via the phone or email shown on the tag), the end point data adds to the world's understanding of the Monarch's migration pathways and patterns.

All but one tagged Monarch headed southward without hesitation, and, even the one who was momentarily confused quickly corrected direction!

And, there were plenty of close-up views, hand-releases, and photo opportunities for all. The many kids who came out for the event also added to its fun and success. Their sustained interest and sensitive handling of the Monarchs deserve special note. We even had at least one aspiring entomologist in attendance, 11-year-old Kyle Evans. His younger brother, Dylan, aims to be a photographer, so the two can do field work together!

Also notable was the capture of "The Tiniest Monarch Ever" - an individual so small we had to do a double-take to be sure we were looking at a Monarch. Many other lovely species were out enjoying the day, too, and adding color to ours, including Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Common Buckeye, Red Admiral, Cabbage White, Variegated Fritillary, Pearl Crescent, Red-spotted Purple, Silver-spotted Skipper, Common Checkered-Skipper, Orange Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur, Eastern Tailed-Blue, and Sachem-and perhaps a few we are forgetting.

Check out these photos of our excellent adventure and plan to join us on a future walk! Place your mouse pointer over each thumbnail to view a larger image. (Larger images may take a bit of time to download for viewing.)


































 Report and photos by D. Firmani

Monarch Tagging and Butterfly Walk

It was a beautiful early fall (well, last day of summer) morning for the more than 40 visitors to the Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary for the September Nature Walk. The morning started off cool and warmed up nicely to around 70 degrees by 11:00, although it was a bit breezy for good Monarch butterfly watching. We did manage to capture, tag and release three Monarchs, only momentarily interrupting their migration to Mexico. Our younger participants, who made most of the captures, thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of releasing their butterflies to continue their journey. Butterflies were noticeably scarce on this breezy morning. However, in addition to Monarchs we saw a few other species including Red-spotted Purple, Meadow Fritillary, Eastern Comma, Pearl Crescent, and Least Skippers.

Even without an abundance of butterflies, the view of the landscape from the top of the big meadow is always spectacular. In late summer and fall the meadow is a sea of gold, blue-green and russet, from the goldenrods and warm-season grasses. An occasional false sunflower pokes its head above the other flowers to attract the passing butterfly. American Goldfinches were amusing to watch as they swung from the thistle-heads, extracting seeds. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen nectaring on the thistles also. We wrapped up the walk at around 11:00, after a peaceful and relaxing morning in nature.

Cheryl Farfaras, Trip Leader

2010, 2013 -The Audubon Society of Central Maryland

 Updated: 01.24.14