Friday, October 14, 2016

monarch tagging

Oliver with one of 14 monarchs he caught

Last Friday found me on Sparks Lane in Cades Cove. We were there to net and tag monarch butterflies.

Clare Datillo and Aimee Davis are both volunteers for Tiffany Beachy in the Tremont citizen science program and it is monarch-tagging season. With us were several parents with children from the home school classes I lead at Ijams: Marie with sons Carpenter and Auzlo, Amy with daughter Kylie, Christina with son Malachi, Aimer with son Will, Clare with Oliver, Annabel, and Fern, plus visiting New Yorker Annie Novak, author of "The Rooftop Growing Guide," in Tennessee chasing and tagging monarchs on her own researching a book on monarchs

Monarchs have been tagged with tiny numbered stickers for decades in order to learn their migration patterns and get a sense of their overall population which has been in decline of late. 

For a creature that flutters and stutters, moving along rather capriciously, they can be remarkably difficult to catch. Their overall behavior is certainly not aimless. To catch one, I knew I needed to fall in with a master. Therefore, I followed 10-year-old Oliver who has the necessary lepidopteran expertise. I’ve worked with him at Ijams. He’s focused and, indeed, soon he spotted one.

“It’s yours,” he said.

Nodding at his selfless act, I made it so. Swish! Later it was tagged with the number WJL735, just in case you see it.

The flowering colony of white asters proved to be a sweet spot, an oasis. That plus a favorable breeze that had kicked up from the northeast made the late morning and early afternoon bountiful. After my initial catch, Oliver caught three in one net, then four in a second, then five in a third, each time trying to outdo the catch of the one before. Others from our group began to join us. Multiple monarchs were caught then taken to Clare and Aimer to tag and record.  

In all, 34 monarchs were netted, tagged and released by our group. Oliver caught 14 of them.

“This was the best trip I was ever on,” said volunteer Aimee. “Many times we come out and do not find a single one.”

“Best day of the year!” said Clare.

- Supplied photos by Clare Datillo and Amy Roberts

Sparks Lane

Clare Datillo and the difference between a monarch and a viceroy
To the hunt

Field of white asters

My first catch, tagged with number WJL735
Our group

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