Butterflies at Point Pelee on the shores of Lake Erie
BUTTERFLY MIGRATION, A MIRACLE OF NATURE
As any nature lover will know,
migrations of varying magnitude have taken place throughout time all
over the world. In Alaska and Canada about 1.2 million caribou
migrate annually in the spring to their breeding grounds on the
Arctic tundra. In Africa the wildebeest, a meandering assortment of
clownish buffoons, trek in unimaginable numbers across the Serengeti
plains to the Masai Mara. In the distant past when buffalo were a
force of nature in North America, these magnificent animals during
their migration, were a source of food for the various tribes who
eagerly awaited their passing each year.
When contemplating migration, for me,
the most miraculous migration of all is that of the Monarch
butterfly. Each year in September, butterflies in the millions
gather at Point Pelee on the shores of Lake Erie in south-western
Canada. When the conditions are right – cool days and gentle winds
– colourful clouds of these minute creatures rise en masse, flutter
around in a distracted manner for awhile, then, as if programmed by
an unseen hand, set off on the most hazardous and epic journey of
their brief lives.
Their destination is the same each
year, a predestined location in the mountains of Mexico. To reach
it they must cross vast expanses of water and land, and all the while
surviving on the tiniest sips of nectar from flowers along the way.
Even more astounding; the destination is unknown. An innate instinct
draws them like a magnet to their place of wintering.
I decided to travel to Point Pelee to
witness this epic event, but like many before me...the time was not
right. Walking in the Point Pelee National Park, one of the few
Carolinian forests left in North America, I did see some evidence of
the gathering. Like brilliant flowers, clusters of butterflies clung
to drooping branches but they were few compared with the millions
that would eventually arrive.
Some butterfly enthusiasts have
travelled to Point Pelee for 20 consecutive years and have yet to
witness the peak of the migration. It seems, strangely, that the
only ones who really know what is going on are the butterflies.
Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Wednesday, 5th September, 2012