October 31, Many Monarchs! Between Rio Verde and Jalpan in the Sierra Madre Occidental

We got up early at Hotel San Jose in Cuidad del Mais.  It was overcast with occasional drizzle.  After some consultation with a gentleman alongside the main road we headed uphill out of town, past a plaza and playground onto hwy 8 south out of town. The road was rough with many, potholes but the vegetation was lush. 

huizache daisy

The ecosystem was chaparral with sunflowers, cosmos, huizache daisy, coreopsis, blue boneset, Indian tobacco and many species of morning glories including large blue, tiny blue and white blooms.  The most common tree was the huizache. 

blue boneset

Back from the road were fields of flowers.

Burros and cows grazing by the side of the road were a common sight.

We turned west at Rayon on 70. The vegetation changed to lush cloud forest.

We saw our first monarchs, three of them, east of Rio Verde at about 11 am. 5 miles south of Rio Verde on hwy 69, we began to see large numbers of monarchs moving back and forth between the huizache and pepper trees growing on either side of the highway.  They appeared to be nectaring on coreopsis and sunflowers.  There were scattered sprinkles of rain.  In the six minutes between 11:24 and 11:30 we saw 24 monarchs.  Four minutes later we crossed a small arroyo going north south.  We saw 43 monarchs in two minutes.


We pulled over at the village of Agua Dolce.  It was surrounded by mountains and filled with cultivated flowers . It had rained there in the night and early in the morning, but the rain had stopped, at least while we were there. Dozens and dozens of monarchs were coming up out of an arroyo.  We could see more flying as high as 150 feet — too many to count. Carol spoke with a couple of the local folks


At Kilometer 75  beyond Agua Dolce, around noon, we encountered thousands of monarchs passing back and forth across the road between huizache trees lining both sides of the highway.  


30 kilometers later as we passed through San Ciro de Acosta and saw very few monarchs. Soon after, we entered the biosphere of Sierra Gorda and the town of Arroyo Seco and it began to shower. 


In the village of Conca in an incredibly lush valley we began to see monarchs again in small numbers.  However, we saw very few until we stopped in the town of Jalpan.  As we wound through the town looking for a place to eat we saw many monarchs flying around the treetops on side roads and along route 120.  While we ate it began to rain in earnest and we saw no more flying monarchs. It was 3:30, we figured that with the rain they had settled into the trees for the night.  We needed to be moving on to reach some place to stop for the night.  The remaining daylight hours we spent winding through incredible mountain passes in the Sierra Madre Occidentals. Looking down steep canyon walls and across beautiful, massive, and sensuous folds of land. Along the way we stopped frequently to photograph waterfalls, vistas and plants. 

Crossing over the mountains and coming back down on the western slopes, we worked our way back into very arid territory.

Preparations were beginning for the Day of the Dead—trucks full of flowers and decorated shrines.


We arrived in Queretero long after dark , passing through a confusing and  frustrating maze of highways under construction and congestion but with just a little luck and the advice of a teenage boy in a shopping mall parking lot we managed to find the Casablanca Inn and lodging for the night.

This is the map of our journey on October 31st. We are still trying to put together our thoughts on how the flow of monarchs from the 30th and 31st are related and the effects of topography and such but we have been enjoying a busy celebration of the Day of the Dead and I am behind on getting my photos prepared and notes posted.  The orange areas on the map are where we saw monarchs according to our notes. Once I get home to better equipment,  I will create another map that will make it possible to see where we saw them the day before as well and see if there is any relationship between the sightings.



About monarchchaser

I am a naturalist, illustrator/author and educator who has been raising and releasing monarch butterflies for over 40 years.
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