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Rancho Sienna News

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10 October . 2016

Balcones Canyonlands offers prime spot to view Monarch butterfly migration

Located only about 26 miles from Rancho Sienna via FM 1431, the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1992 to preserve the primary habitat of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, and the refuge hosts 245 species of birds overall.

This 27,500-acre refuge is also a prime spot to view the twice-a-year spectacle of Monarch butterflies as they travel an incredible 3,000-mile journey between their principal breeding grounds in the north to their winter home in southern Mexico.

The Texas Hill Country is an important area for Monarch migration, located smack in the middle of one of their two principal fall flyways. This 300-mile wide path stretches from Wichita Falls to Eagle Pass, putting Austin and the Hill Country squarely along the route.

Monarchs enter the Texas portion of this flyway during the last days of September. By the third week of October, most have passed through into Mexico. The second flyway is situated along the Texas coast, and lasts roughly from the third week of October to the middle of November.

Monarchs are the only butterflies to make such a long, two-way migration every year. Amazingly, they fly in masses to the same winter roosts, often to the exact same trees.

There are many unanswered questions about how these small, delicate creatures are able to make such a demanding journey. Some experts think that Monarchs glide on air currents as they fly south, to conserve the precious fuel they have built up in their bodies by feeding on nectar during their overland journey.

Another unsolved mystery is how Monarchs find the overwintering sites each year. Somehow they know their way, even though the butterflies returning to Mexico each fall are the great-great-grandchildren of the butterflies that left the previous spring. No one knows exactly how their homing system works, adding to the mystery and magic of these beautiful insects.

Unfortunately, the Monarch is threatened by loss of habitat in both the U.S. and Mexico.

To help preserve this amazing butterfly, the Texan by Nature group founded by former first lady Laura Bush has started a statewide Monarch Wrangler initiative to provide individuals, companies and organizations with results-oriented ways to create essential habitat for the Monarch. Visit their website to see easy actions you can take to help preserve these marvels of nature for many years to come.