I have been very fortunate this year to witness the monarch migration twice. It took a few trips, but they were well worth it. The encounters were teaching moments as well, a combination of observance and what I could glean from the internet. The first time, my eyes wide open with wonder, the butterflies were feasting on nectar and a gathering storm must have held them back from their journey. A combination of factors I had yet to put together allowed me to see them roost for the night. By first light, they likely will be gone a thing I have learned the hard way.
The second time I was just as amazed, this time seeing multitudes of monarchs soaring in from their flight across Lake Ontario. It was a very calm, warm day. I wondered if that precipitated them to move across the open water. They were high above our heads and low sweeping across the road as I tried to not hit them with my car. The soaring ones looking like orange confetti against a deep blue sky continued in the southwesterly direction I had read about, while the others clearly seemed in need of rest. I found many just sitting on the leaves of trees for extended time.
It was difficult to photograph such a phenomenon. The butterflies were spread out, but enough that the amount was impressive. It was like feeling the urgent pulse of migration, a primal force marked with fragile ties to food and weather. These butterflies were the generation that makes the single trip back to Mexico and they were in pristine condition unlike the ones that I sometimes see in mid summer.They travel an average of fifty miles or more a day, only in daylight and if the temperature is above 55 degrees. It is so ephemeral that I would see a group of them, and poof, they would be gone the next walk through the same field ten minutes later.
It is good to feel so humble in view of an event that is a feat unto itself, a rhythm that reminds me that nature is the timekeeper.