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Mar 22

Monarchs embarked on the journey north

Spring has officially arrived. My daily walk takes me through a forest clearing deep in snow. As always in that spot, I have a vivid memory of its summer residents, Monarchs enjoying the milkweed, drifting from plant to plant, the females laying eggs that would turn into boldly striped caterpillars.

Those that emerged here last fall and made it to the Mexico wintering grounds are among the ones that are now returning. Journey North is reporting sightings in a band across the continent - Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida. Over a couple of generations, some of their progeny will make it back to the Simcoe forest tract where the Common Milkweed flourishes in the sandy soil.

They’re on their way.

March is the month Monarch butterflies start moving north from their wintering grounds in the high mountains of Mexico. And the colony at Cerro Pelón Butterfly Reserve is on the move, Ellen Sharp advised last week. She and her husband Joel Moreno own the JM Butterfly B&B at the edge of the reserve, where I stayed in December. In mid-February, the weather warmed, a “massive amount of mating” was observed, and the remigration north appeared to begin, early. 

All is not well.

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Dec 13

On the Monarch migration trail: It's such a long way

I’m at 10,000 feet in the pine and fir forest of the higher levels of the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico. I stand on an uneven narrow path going up Cerro Pelón, watching thousands of brilliant Monarch butterflies dance through the trees above me. A few flutter to the ground, to bask in a patch of sunshine. 

I’m a bit deaf, but my friend Ellen who is my companion on this journey (we first met volunteering at Tiny Marsh) tells me the movement of their wings sounds like the rustling of leaves. With my binoculars, I pick out the colonies - the pale undersides of the wings of massive clusters of butterflies gathered on the branches of the Oyamel Firs, the only trees on which the Monarchs will roost. 

Some, I think, have made their way here from my home 4,250 kilometres away, in Ontario. 

Two months ago, one of them may have passed through my garden, pausing to nectar at the asters, phloxes and Joe Pye weeds. One might even have been one of those caterpillars I raised that consumed impressive amounts of milkweed, to finally eclose from a green jewel-like chrysalid and sail off in a southerly direction.Read more
Dec 13

Book reviews: Beresford-Kroeger and O'Hara / Trees and Trails

To Speak for the Trees - My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forestby Diana Beresford-Kroeger (2019 - hardback, 295 pp, Random House Canada) 

A Trail Called Home - True Stories from the Golden Horseshoe by Paul O'Hara (2019 - hardback, 231 pp, Dundurn)

Trees can live longer than we do and so they connect us, to our past and to our future. They reach high into the sky and deep into the ground, linking us to the world above where fascinating winged creatures live, and below, to the dark world where billions of organisms toil unseen to sustain the soils that support life.

The indigenous people who came before us on this land revered the majesty of an ancient tree. Treaties and other important matters would be discussed in the shade of a “council” oak, elm, beech or other species of giant that had a life that spanned many human generations. 

Those who came later saw trees differently.

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