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Plight of the Monarch Butterfly
September 16, 2013

Welcome new readers.

Readers come and go, right now there is a growth.

Stick around and let's get to know each other.

We went to a nephew's wedding this past Saturday.

It is always fun to get together with family.

Free food is always a good thing too :-)

I'll even push Yolanda (wheelchair and all) onto the dance floor and do the best I can,
to let her feel she is dancing as I push her around, and twirl her from time to time.

The look on her face is priceless.

For you new readers, Yolanda is our daughter that was injured in a car accident many years ago.

She is brain injured, and legally a quadriplegic.

We thank God everyday for her.

The punk look is in this year.

I'm sharing a couple of pictures of Common grackles, sporting a new look.

Some may think the birds are bald with feathers growing back.

Actually, these are juvenile grackles going through molt.

Changing from the gray first feathers to the darker, more common plumage.

By their second year, they will be bright and shiny.

If the birds were bald, you would see ear holes.

God really knows what he is doing.

When I need a good dose of bird sounds, He gives us American goldfinches for late summer and early autumn entertainment.

When very few birds are making any kind of song or whistle.

When few birds seem to visit because they are molting, or whatever.

We have Goldies to fill the air with joyous activity and sounds.

By the way, have you noticed your male Goldies are starting to change over to their winter colors, like this one at our feeder?

Soon the bright yellow will be a drab olive green.

(Picture taken last year.)

Twice this past week we were blessed enough to visit the Holland State Park Beach of Lake Michigan.

Hot and muggy days feel much more comfortable when sitting beach side.

Few people on Tuesday, and fewer yet on Wednesday.

I like that.

I like that a lot.

As always, there are the ubiquitous seagulls (often called sky rats).

And this time a few Mallard ducks strolled up for a handout.

You expect it from seagulls, but the ducks were a bit of a pleasant surprise.

I shared a snack, and when that wasn't enough, a couple of ducks were brazen enough to start poking me with their bill.

I chuckled, and obliged them.

Even with the seagulls pecking them, the ducks held their own quite well.

I know seagulls have this bad rap and all, however if you spend some time watching them, they are intelligent, and very skilled birds.

By the way, I don't take my camera to the beach, as sand finds a way into everything.

By Friday night/Saturday morning, we were under a frost advisory.

It's that time of year.

(Only monarch seen in my yard this year.)

This past week was also to be peak migration time for the monarch butterflies in my part of Michigan.

To my great disappointment (yet expected), For two days (8 hours total), I counted a total of 5 monarchs.

One on Tuesday, and four on Wednesday.

All things considered, this may sound pretty good to you.

But it's not.

The North/south running shores of Lake Michigan make ideal migration trails.

The butterflies not only have a breeze to assist with flight, the shores offer a direction.

In years past, it would be common to see scores of the orange and black Butterflies.

As a single butterfly or small, loose, groupings.

Heaven must weep by the loss of so much beauty.

The plight of the monarch.

Lets help this insect survive.

Excerpts from the 'Boston Globe' earlier this year.

(Last years butterflies.)

“Monarch butterflies are symbolic of what’s happening on a larger scale,” said Chip Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas who runs the butterfly conservation and monitoring organization Monarch Watch. He said butterflies are part of a complicated ecosystem, and a ripple in their world affects everything around them: birds, other insects, flowers.

“We have to keep the connections going, and monarch butterflies tell us we’re not doing a good job of that,” he said.

The annual count of butterflies in their winter habitat in Mexico showed a 59 percent decline in the population from between December 2011 and December 2012.

It is normal for insect populations to fluctuate because of weather and other conditions, Taylor said. Monarchs depend on a “Goldilocks-type of ecology,” he said, and a too-hot summer or too-cold winter can affect their migration.

But the monarch’s decline has continued since the late 1990s. The population peaked in 1996-97, at nearly 18 times what it is today.

Monarch butterflies are unique because of their migration. Each fall, hundreds of millions make their way from the Eastern United States and Canada to the mountains of central Mexico, where they pass the winter. New generations of monarchs return north between April and June. But along the way, naturalists say, it is increasingly difficult for the insects to find milkweed.

“They literally are putting all their eggs in one basket,” said Wayne Petersen, an ornithologist and bug specialist with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which owns the Boston Nature Center.

Petersen said species that historically survive are those that can develop a Plan B for survival. Monarchs do not have that yet, he said. They count on their migration to survive cold winters.

Even in the nature center’s small ,1,680-square-foot butterfly garden in Mattapan, where there is plenty of milkweed, the monarchs are nowhere to be found.

Naturalist Andrew MacBlaine says he has seen just one monarch in the garden all summer. Last summer they were “all over the place,” he said.

For the population to recover, Taylor says monarchs need their habitat back.

Gardens can grow anywhere, even in the middle of the city, says Julie Brandlen, the sanctuary director at the Boston Nature Center. She recommends planting Joe Pye flower to provide monarchs with nectar, butterfly bush and marigolds to attract the insects with lively colors, and the all-important milkweed to create an environment for butterflies to stop and breed.

“It’s one of the world’s most magnificent phenomenons,” Taylor said of the migration. Witnesses to it can stand in areas of 20 acres with millions of monarch butterflies surrounding them, brushing through their hair and past their cheeks.

“It can be a mystical experience, a spiritual experience,” he said. “It represents the struggle for life.”

Here is Chip's website: Monarch Butterfly Watch

You can even sign up for his newsletter.

Here are some eye openers,.

(Wouldn't this be nice to see, so many monarchs at one time.)

The number of monarch butterflies making it to their winter refuge in Mexico dropped 59 percent this past year, falling to the lowest level since comparable record-keeping began 20 years ago, scientists reported Wednesday.

It's the third straight year of declines for the monarch butterflies that migrate from the United States and Canada to spend the winter sheltering in mountaintop fir forests in central Mexico.

Populations have dropped in six of the last seven years, and there are now only one-fifteenth as many butterflies as there were in 1997.

That's one for every 15 that at one time would visit our gardens.

The decline in the monarch population now marks a statistical long-term trend and can no longer be seen as a combination of yearly or seasonal events, the experts said.

Loss of habitat is mostly to blame, illegal logging in the mountains of Mexico, to the loss of milkweed habitat in The United States of America and Canada.

The use of Herbicides of soybean and corn fields that kills milkweed is a serious problem (we eat this stuff as well).

Natural causes like weather also play a roll, but natural hiccups always occur.

In reality, the historical decline over the past 19 years has multiple causes.

Here is one last sobering statistic.

Last winter, the butterflies covered just 2.93 acres (1.19 hectares), down from 7.14 acres (2.89 hectares) last year.

This number too continues to decline.

Bottom line, if we want to continue to see these regal butterflies, something has to happen, and fast.

Your little gardens, even in the city can offer nectar and milkweed can provide hosting plants for the caterpillars.

Well <>, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

Be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world.

Paul Harding

Keep reading.

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 15:13

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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