Tips: how to find migrating monarch butterflies

Monarchs at Robert Moses Beach, Oct. 5, 2011

On a beach just outside New York City limits Barbara discovered hundreds of monarch butterflies one day in 2005. Since then she’s been hooked on the spectacle and returns every year at this time to look for the roost.

“I sat on the railing by the boardwalk and thousands of monarchs flew over my head, it was very surreal. After a couple of hours of watching them I followed them to the pine trees where they were roosting for the night, Never before and never since have I witnessed so many. In 2010 the monarchs returned by the hundreds and this year over the past 3 out of 5 days they are making a huge appearance.”

Barbara is now one of thousands of Americans who report their butterfly sightings on Journey North, an educational site that tracks all kinds of migrations. Most people don’t know that monarchs migrate or gather like birds on their journey across thousands of miles to California, Mexico and Florida. Lately citizen scientists are tagging them and mending wings with tape to help track their mysterious migration, which has been disrupted by a lack of their favorite food, milkweed.

1. Check Journey North to see where and when they visit your area. They’re flying south ahead of the freeze, which can kill them. Unlike, say, cranes who only live in a few spots, you can spot monarchs anywhere. You’ll have better luck along the routes and keeping up with the migration wave. Overnight roosts are now in Texas and Oklahoma and 5,000 spent the night on Assateague Island, VA (better known for wild horses).

2. Go out after a rain. “the best migration and roosting days are after a rainy day(s),” Barbara says.

3. Check all around an area where you’ve seen them. They like to eat milkweed, which grows by water, and they like to sleep in evergreens. “They don’t always roost in the same trees. These past three days the wind was out of the  east and they roosted in the pine trees near the dunes and ocean. When the wind is out of the west they appear to roost more in the pine trees near the main road.”

4. If you want to give something back to the monarchs, plant some milkweed for them to make up for habitat loss. If you can’t find seeds in your area, check out or, where you can get a pack for $3.

Read about Brooklyn’s Best Butterfly Bush

pelicanpuffinhummingbird Where to SEE WEIRD BIRDS (All the interesting birds: pelicans, puffins, prairie chickens, vultures, hummingbirds)



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