The Butterflies Are Back!
November 4, 2016
They flew from tree to tree in their black and orange Halloween colors, like itinerant flowers temporarily adorning wherever they landed. They’d gather together in bouquets only to suddenly disassemble and congregate elsewhere. The weather was sunny and warm, even hot, causing the over-wintering monarchs butterflies to be exceptionally active, fluttering by high above our heads.
“Those monarchs are mating!” The docent jumped forward and pointed as people scattered, rearranging into a circle around the insect pair. The butterflies had landed on the deck of the observation platform allowing all the tourists to witness their no longer private coupling. They tussled with each other and rapidly flapped their coppery wings. A boy of about eight talked excitedly about how they were fighting, while his grandmother corrected him. They were not fighting, she said, “they were very good friends.” He would have none of that; to him this was an epic colorful battle.
Eventually the end of their abdomens were properly joined and they paused their frantic movement for a few seconds. This, I guessed, was when the bodily fluids were exchanged. They would stay stuck together for hours or even overnight. The males next task was to fly up into a tree, bringing the female with him underneath, like a groom carrying his bride, to wait in greater safety until their bodies naturally separated. This male had trouble getting lift-off and the conjoined butterflies merely hopped along, falling off the deck and into some brambles. They were still near the ground when I left.
The roar of big surf could be heard distinctly in the butterfly’s glen so I hiked to the Natural Bridges State Park beach to check it out. The waves were foamy and churning and had rearranged the topography of the beach so that it was now mostly a salt water lagoon. Three snowy egrets waded and pranced through the water, searching for and finding small crustaceans and other goodies. A whistle from above brought my gaze to the sky where two osprey soared overhead. Local crows hassled them mercilessly until the big raptors finally disappeared.
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