MONARCHS IN NOVEMBER? Yes if you are in Florida! Yesterday, my daughter who now lives in Florida, got up before dark and headed to St. Marks Nature Preserve on the Gulf Coast of northwest Florida. There, volunteers use nets to gather these orange and black butterflies while they are still sleeping. They are bagged, counted and carefully tagged before being released to resume their annual migration. Liz was surprised at how the Monarchs could be handled without injury. She assisted in labeling 166 butterflies, making note of where they were spending the night and if they were clustered or separate. Palm trees, Wax Myrtle and Cedar were some resting places. The previous weekend, 800 butterflies were counted and labeled at this location! I am not sure if this is a usual count, but it is encouraging considering the storms we've had this fall.

In the pictures you see here, are the captured insects waiting to be tagged, and one actually being tagged. Liz said it was important to place the tag in the "mitten" of the lower right outside wing. Information about where the tagging took place would be printed on the tag. The butterfly did not have its flying affected by the marking or handling. Efforts like these have helped determine the flight patterns and destination of these amazing butterflies. Who knows? They may have started south from places like Phippsburg, Maine!

Up here in Maine, we are not seeing Monarchs, though yesterday while cleaning up in our yard at West Point, we found a black monarch chrysalis hanging from a Hosta leaf. Unfortunately, it will not produce a butterfly for the annual migration. Others were more timely and fortunate to complete their life cycles before frost.

OK, what else is happening in Maine? Yes, the hunting season has commenced and that means I think twice about venturing into the woods these days. As one drives around Phippsburg, the foliage color comes from Oak leaves that provide a yellow accent. On the shoreline, the Huckleberry leaves are red and make a colorful statement. The Rugosa Rose still produces an occasional bloom, but the foliage of this prickly plant is now yellow in contrast to its red rose hips. Again, the fruit of Winterberry is bright red, though its green leaves are now taking a frost induced toll, and dropping by the wayside. It's fun to walk along the trails and kick up the fallen leaves. It is hard to walk quietly. One wonders if hunters are able to sneak up on an unsuspecting prey. We've had no snow, and I am waiting to do some tracking. How is it where you live? Have you had your first snow? I am still enjoying a view of the snow on Mt. Washington as I walk the Maine shoreline. It isn't that far away as the crow flies...90 miles, a mere day trip for those migrating monarchs (with a tail wind!).

11/5/05 Novembered Ronnie.