Monday, September 19, 2016

Weekend Warriors

Mother Nature decorated for the "family reunion" in Manhattan last weekend. A field of Kansas sunflowers bloomed just north of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium, just in time for the home opener for the K-State Wildcat football team.
I made Randy take a brief time out as we were walking to a Kansas Agriculture in the Classroom gathering before the game. It's a photo shot I've always wanted to try. And though it doesn't qualify as one of my best photos of all time, it does combine two of my favorite Kansas things - sunflowers and K-State football.
It was the first time that we'd seen the latest changes to the north end of the stadium.
The band has its own space in the northeast corner, so we south end zone people were better able to keep time to the Wabash Cannonball, since the sound was pointed towards us.
There was a flyover before the game. But there's a different kind of "flyover" happening nearer to home. I missed the Monarch Mania event at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday since we were in Manhattan. But when I saw that a record number of Monarch butterflies had been tagged on Saturday, we decided to drive up to Quivira Sunday evening. 
At first, all we could find were hundreds of the Clouded Sulphur butterflies. Most didn't linger long enough for a close-up, but I finally captured one on a wild sunflower.
As we drove toward the Little Salt Marsh, I kept my eyes scanning the skies for Monarchs. I was disappointed not to see any fluttering along the ditches. But, we got out at the marsh to listen to the water and watch the sunlight across the surface. But across the road, I found what I was looking for. With the Kansas winds blowing, some Monarchs were sheltering down in a hollow, drinking nectar from the goldenrod.

How many butterflies can you find in the photo above? I didn't see them all at first. In fact, I labeled it "5 Monarchs" when I did some photo editing. But then I looked again. (You'll have to click on the photo to make it bigger to see all of them!)
Just like my sunflower photo at the football stadium, it wasn't easy to get the shot as the goldenrod swayed in the wind and as the butterflies played hopscotch as they danced from one bloom to the next. 
Even though temperatures this week in Kansas won't seem much like fall, the Monarchs' migration does signal a move toward autumn. The Monarchs begin the journey in their summer home in Canada and the northern regions of the U.S. They are headed for a mountain range 70 miles west of Mexico City in central Mexico, where they find the perfect habitat to survive November through March in the Oyamel forests. As many as 300 million spend the winter there. Wouldn't that be a sight to see?

It's not like ducks and geese which migrate year after year. The butterflies will only make this journey one time. So how do they know where to go? It is just another miracle of God's creation. Researchers say that it appears to be a combination of directional aids such as the magnetic pull of the earth, the position of the sun and the availability of milkweed, where the butterflies lay their eggs. No matter the reason, they are a beautiful signal of fall.
We started our weekend with "weekend warriors" on the gridiron.  (Our Wildcats beat Florida Atlantic University with a score of 63-7.)
 We ended it with the Monarchs, who are warriors in their own rite as they make their long, arduous journey.


  1. I just love how your seasons are defined by so many changes. The story of the monarch is amazing. Monarchs are the main butterfly we see and I would say all year, but perhaps I need to research their life cycle. In north Queensland is the beautiful blue Ulysses Butterfly so I don't appreciate the monarch as much as I should.

    1. I had to Google your Ulysses butterfly. Gorgeous! Yes, one of the things I love about Kansas is that we experience all the seasons. Today, it feels like summer again, so it can be kind of schizophrenic. I'm ready for true fall temperatures, but the weatherman says it will be in the 90s F all week.

  2. Kim,
    Sounds and looks like a fun weekend. After the rush of city traffic and college football crowds, I'm sure the quiet of nature was not taken for granted.

    How fun to see the monarch migration and get to photograph it.

    Amy and I saw very little wild life on our hikes. 2 Moose from a distance, squirrels and a few birds bids. Hiking in the mountains was very peaceful and awe inspiring. Both of us stopped and took in the sounds of water and wind. The pine smell was unlike any I had smelled before.

    Thanks for sharing a piece of Kansas pride and beauty!

    1. I'll look forward to seeing the beauty you saw via your upcoming blog post!