Photo essay: The magic of the monarchs
Story and photos by Eddee Daniel
The broad hillside is awash in wildflowers. Dense patches of blossoming boneset are interspersed with gleaming goldenrod and tall sawtooth sunflowers that bounce and sway in the wind. It is exquisite, delightful and enough in itself to warrant a walk alongside the noisy bustle of I-41 in Wauwatosa. But then, as I stroll up the path into the midst of the flowers, a veritable cloud of monarch butterflies begins to rise around me and transforms the merely beautiful into something far more wondrous and magical.
It is stunning! And all the more so considering how often I’ve been in this place before. I’ve visited the Monarch Trail on the Milwaukee County Grounds many times over the years. I’ve been enchanted by the clusters of fluttering monarchs that settle in the trees to roost during the annual migration. I’d even been in this same spot earlier this season, witnessed mating praying mantises as well as butterflies, and glimpsed a wide variety of other creatures along the way. I imagined I had seen it all. But nothing has prepared me for this!
As I continue up the trail more and more brightly patterned butterflies in their distinctive orange and black raiment rise to dance around my head. There must be hundreds of them, maybe thousands! Mouth agape, I forget (for a bit) to raise my camera. I feel as though I’m in a snow globe full of butterflies that has been shaken.
After a few minutes of reverie, I am joined by an exuberant “Butterfly Barb” Agnew, who looks as if she might take flight herself at any moment. I watch—and finally remember my camera—as monarchs circle round her, too.
(I also managed to get a bit of video of the spectacle, which gives a better sense of it than a still image. You can view it on Youtube.)
I have Barb to thank for alerting me to this day, which surely must be the peak of the migration. (But we wonder all the same!) We all have her to thank, of course, for the development and maintenance of the Monarch Trail. Unlike myself, she comes out here every day during the migration…in order to count. She has help from other Friends of the Monarch Trail. They assure me that it is not my imagination, that this really is an especially strong showing, perhaps the best since the establishment of the Trail.
Last year was a good enough year that we were all hopeful about this year’s prospects. I invite you, dear reader, to revisit the post I submitted then, which gave a brief history of the Monarch Trail, along with the photos. This year I’ll let the photos do the talking. Enjoy!
To learn more about the Monarch Trail and to subscribe to their newsletters, go to Friends of the Monarch Trail.
Eddee Daniel is a long-time supporter of Friends of the Monarch Trail as well as a Preserve Our Parks board member.