wood thrush, little crum creek, pa

For a week in May, a visitor’s song from the trees
is all that gave the wood thrush away. Nothing to do, then, but listen,
and wait, and spot its landing to feed on invertebrates.

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This summer, when not zipping from flower to flower,

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some ruby-throated hummingbirds settled for a spell upon a creekside feeder.

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Daily male & female fed in turn

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until one day, bound beyond Mexico by way of the Gulf,
our red-bibbed males first headed south

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and, just this week, by look of the vacant feeder,
a final female followed.

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A yellow-rumped warbler, flitting for insects on every limb, rests a minute before eventually continuing north again.

Like the black-throated blues, and at least one elusive black and white warbler, several seemed to stay only a week or two on this part of Little Crum Creek.

Gone now several days …  we might meet again in fall.

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Still shots hardly do justice to the zip, dart, and dive of red admirals in motion along Little Crum Creek.

And lately several have been fluttering rapidly over shoulders of local admirers.

Fortunately, on Friday, a few paused long enough for this brief appreciation.

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News clips from New Jersey, New York, and Ohio are reporting remarkable amounts of red admirals currently traveling north from southern states.

Some suggest that the annual migration is bolstered by locally emerging butterflies and a mild winter that helped more red admirals than usual survive the year.

Whatever the cause, several have suddenly filled the air here too.

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For an hour at sundown Friday, amid a creekside celebration with family, nearly two dozen red admirals swirled in fluttering clouds of three to eight, each giving tireless chase to the others above our marveling gaze.

What a way to mark a day!
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100_6937September’s monarch appears to be a local, possibly hatched right here along Little Crum Creek, maybe in a meadow of the nearby Crum woods, or even in a neighbor’s butterfly-friendly backyard garden.

Upon a milkweed leaf, its mother deposited an egg. In a couple of days, a caterpillar emerged, fed for two weeks, and encased itself in a chrysalis.  Two weeks later, there was a butterfly.

This incredible creature had undergone a complete metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, just like its parents, and their parents before.

But their amazing transformations began elsewhere.

Back toward the end of February, while we were still anticipating more of winter’s record snowfall, thousands of monarch butterflies warmed in the sun of central Mexico, preparing for an epic northward migration.  Among them were the great-grandparents of our local monarch.

100_6529cropHSetting forth in March, they might have reached as far north as southern Texas before meeting, mating, and setting their subsequent eggs on leaves of the precious milkweed plant.

This generation and the next continued the journey, each flying for only about 5 weeks while spreading across the eastern states, reaching as far north as southern Canada.

But, here in September, our local monarch will not resume the mating migration to the north.  Fall is fast approaching.  Leaves are turning.  Days are cooling.  And the monarch can not fly under 55 degrees F.  At any moment, our butterfly will join millions of other monarchs on the journey back to Mexico—someplace neither he nor any other living monarch has ever been.

100_6568edcropCOff they’ll go, each flying about 2,000 miles, over 2 months, crossing the same amount of ground covered by all three previous generations combined.  Somehow, many will arrive together where the multigenerational migration had begun nine months earlier.

This astounding accomplishment would seem enough for one delicate butterfly.  But, should it survive the perilous journey, our native monarch will then brave three to four months of Mexican winter, huddling for draping warmth in the fir trees of the Sierra Madre Mountains with thousands of other successful sojourners.

Then, nearing spring, when snow is perhaps still falling on Little Crum Creek, the monarch we’ve known will warm to the impulse of renewing this epic journey.  Like its great-grandparents one year before, it will head north as steadfastly as it had set south. And like them, it will meet a mate to set eggs on the Mexican or Texan milkweed, thereby ensuring at least one integral leg of the migration’s northward return.

100_6514edcropIt is always marvelous then to greet the summer’s first monarchs along Little Crum Creek.  And the marveling hardly dissipates throughout the short season, never knowing when we have seen the last intrepid traveler.

Reports of each monarch’s visit to the woodland’s edge are hollered across yards and through homes.

Then, suddenly, some soon September day, they are all well on their way again, trickling across the country, amassing into great fluttering clouds, met with awe by people in the southern states and welcomed with festival by the Mexican villages of the monarch’s mountain destinations.

What an honor to behold the monarch for a time.  What a privilege to share the land that hosts it.  We are continually surprised to learn where one has been.  We are ever amazed to imagine where one is heading.

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