Monarch Celebration

Monarch 5I spent the weekend in Clay County, Texas, as is my treasured habit. The seasons are a blessing and provide a sense of perpetual motion. The heat makes me excited about certain things and then when I just can’t stand the heat anymore, the temperature drops and brings inspiration to do the next round of great things. This weekend was all about the butterflies. That’s not strictly true. A great deal of attention was spent watching the kids emerge from the house to enjoy the cooler weather and they spent that on horseshoes and hay bales and heading to a blind with their father to look for very ill mannered feral hogs.

Monarch 1 But, the Monarchs made an appearance. This is the first time in 3 years that I’ve seen them visit in great numbers at the ranch. It was a treat to take a few private moments to stand in the midst of the bunches of wildflowers and try to catch photos of them. They decided I was mostly harmless and went about their business beautifully. The photos are hard to catch, what with my proclivity to use a very shallow depth of field. But even some of the mistakes were quite lovely.

Monarch 4My Aunt Betty told me that she is spending this week helping tag Monarchs by placing tiny number stickers on the undersides of wings so that the creatures can be tracked. I love that idea. My Aunt Betty is amongst the most interesting people I know and it appears she is working on her Master Naturalist certification. She is always up to something cool. I would have loved to have blown up a photo to find a tiny number on the wing. None this year. But, Betty said one of her tagged butterflies was once found in Mexico, journey completed.

Monarch 3There were gobs of butterflies. I’ve seen more. When I was a teenager and lived on Lake Wichita, there was a year when they visited in a quantity that could only be called an infestation, covering the house and trees. This was more of a pleasant gathering. They loved the flowers that I call Cowpen Daisies, and gathered on them almost exclusively, mostly ignoring the remaining sunflowers and other blooms. I’m sure there is a more scientific moniker for Cowpen Daisies. But they chose these yellow shrubs over almost all else and it was easy to slip into the middle of the giant groups of flowers and pretend I was a fence post. I took a ridiculous number of photos several times during the day and these are my favorites.Monarch 2Monarch 6 Monarch 7 Monarch 8Sometimes this part of Texas and points west don’t get enough credit for their beauty. This weekend I also saw huge groups of pelicans flying above us and thought about the giant groups of pelicans that would stop and visit at Lake Wichita, just like the Monarchs did. Don’t get me started on the hordes of geese settling into the fields. There is a raw beauty here even when things are still. But when these migrations are happening, North Texas is fairly magical. I think it is magical all the time. That’s me. But you cannot deny the singular beauty of thousands of butterflies playing about on Texas wildflowers.

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