The west is bereft while Mexico’s overwintering sites have countless butterflies streaming in to take up winter quarters in the high mountain forests. Here are some reports from California and Mexico. Remember, this summer the monarch populations in the west (those who overwinter in California) were considered abysmally low while the eastern population excited people by its abundance.
First the sad but not unexpected news. Pismo Monarch Grove sees massive decline in butterflies.
“Right now, we have about 800 monarchs in our grove,” California State Parks Interpreter Mallory Claassen said Wednesday. “Last year at this time we had roughly 12,000 monarchs.”
Claassen said more than 20,000 monarchs were counted at the Pismo Monarch Grove the previous year.
The population of monarchs worldwide has been declining year after year and the most recent count from the U.S. Center for Biological Diversity found just 150 million monarchs fluttered in 2016. That’s a 68 percent decline over the past 22 years, according to the CBD.
Dr. David James of Washington State University released information on his Facebook page Monarch Butterflies in the Pacific Northwest.
The Annual Thanksgiving Counts have now begun and the numbers we have heard from about 8 sites are decidedly worrying. All of them show a reduction from 2017 in the order of 90%. Eight sites out of 260+ is a small sample size so hopefully the numbers will improve as more counts are done. However, if there is an overall reduction in the western Monarch population of 75-90% we could be faced with a record low total number this year. In 2017 a total number of 192,629 Monarchs were counted at 262 overwintering sites. A reduction of 75-90% would bring this number down to ~20,000-50,000. The previous lowest number was in 2009 when only 58,468 were recorded. There have only been two other occasions when numbers dipped below 100,000. 99,353 in 2002 and 86,437 in 2007.
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Observation from a monarch census volunteer —
Here in Goleta, a monarch counting workshop scheduled for November 10 at Ellwood was moved to another site because a preliminary count of all the Ellwood sites only came up with 27 butterflies. Since I received the notice on November 8, the count must have been done before the big fires started, so this low number isn't related to those events. The workshop was moved to the Carpinteria Creek site, where I understand there were almost 800 monarchs. Not a lot, but enough to practice counting on.
James offers some hope, though, that the western monarch numbers may be boosted by eastern monarchs crossing the Rocky Mountains to fill in gaps.
Here’s the remainder of the text from the above post.
The late and revered Monarch researcher, Lincoln Brower connected this remarkable recovery with a likely westward shift of spring migrating Monarchs from the Mexican overwintering sites. He theorized that the western population may be subject to periodic declines from drought and climate cycles and depends on refreshment from Mexico. We will get the opportunity to see if this occurs in spring 2019. If the large summer population of monarchs in the eastern US translates into a large overwintering population, any "leakage'' to west of the Rockies could be significant.
When I last reported on the Mexican monarchs, they had missed their Day of the Dead arrival although this isn’t uncommon. They showed up a few days later on November 6th.
As of November 20th, the Cerro Plano overwintering sites held thousands of monarchs. Other colonies like El Rosario also are seeing abundant monarchs and are open to tourists.
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