Arand’s Stopover

It’s fall. And the Fall migrations are underway. Birds and butterflies alike are heading south from their summer breeding grounds to their winter havens. Warblers are harder to find. Monarch butterflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most visible visitors. Even in my own backyard, a fairly small backyard (1/8 of an acre) that borders a road. Yet we have some woods on the common ground behind our house, shrubs, and bird feeders.

monarchMonarchs are rather amazing. Upon coming out of hibernation in Mexico, they fly north and east. They lay their eggs and the first generation emerges in March and April. The second generation in May and June. The third generation in July and August. The fourth generation in September and October. This fourth generation then lives for eight months, migrates down to Mexico, hibernates in oyamel fir trees over the winter, and then migrates north where a new (first generation) emerges again. So the first three generations live 2-6 weeks while the fourth generation lives 6-8 months! I didn’t realize this when as a kid in Cuba City, WI we would capture monarch caterpillars and raise them until they emerged from their chrysalises. Never too late to learn. It’s also fun to now track them.

Hummingbirds offer similar marvels. Attending a Hummingbird festival in West Virginia this past August we learned a number of fascinating items. (It turns out that the delightful guy who led it is a member of the ELCA and has a helpful website on the topic).  One of them pertained to their migration.

hummer31On their way down they load up on nectar and carbohydrates. Once they reach the shores of the gulf of Mexico, they shift their diet to insects and load up on protein. This then must carry them as some of these tiny marvels continue their migration by flying nearly 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico.  A good place to track their migration can be found right here in my own backyard, Fenton, MO!

So its amazing to think of how one’s own back yard fits within a migratory flyway that links up with habitats and feeding areas extending north into Canada and south into Mexico! So we’ll keep watering those flowers that the butterflies like and keep fresh our five to six hummingbird feeders.

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