Hello from Michoachan!

We finally found an internet connection!

billpyrofsunBill Fry at the Pyramid of the Sun

Tuesday we visited Teotihuacan, City of the Gods.  Our visit was just a very brief brush with this huge, complex archeological site.  It was election day in the US and we were planning to be in Tuxpan at Quinta Mitzi to watch the election returns that night. We climbed the Pyramid of the Sun, surveyed our surrounds and moved on.  A true explore of Teotihuacan will have to wait for another day.

billand-susieBill and Susie Fry on the Pyramid of the Sun

quintamitziQuinta Mitzi

After many missed turns, detours and topes we arrived in Tuxpan around 5 pm.  We began seeing monarchs again as we entered Michoacan.   Quinta Mitzi and Mitzi and Ranulpho de Mancilla are  a familiar and delightful Mexico stop.

urquhartroomNumber 14 where Fred and Norah Urquhart (and Bill and Susie Fry) stayed

This is the hotel that Fred and Nora Urquhart stayed in when they came to see the monarch overwintering sites for the first time.

ranulphoand-mitziMitzi and Ranulpho

Mitzi was born and raised in Chicago and married Ranulpho and moved to Mexico in 1949.  Quinta Mitzi has featured in all of my Mexico trips.  The motel is not generally open any more as Mitzi is 87( I think) and Ranulpho is 98, but if you call ahead and arrive before dark it is still one of the best places to stop.

usatquintamitzi

Amidst the bumpy roads and topes Susie had succumbed to Montezuma’s revenge and we were happy to give her a day to  rest and recuperate watching the beautiful 7 foot tall pointsettas outside her door and drinking Mitzi’s chamomile tea.  Bill and Susie took the room with the fireplace that Fred and Nora Urquhart had  stayed in.. We did a day trip to find Carole Jordan’s casita in Zitacuaro and met her landlady Oreilia and Betty from Biocensis (sp?).  They were extremely helpful getting us set up to move in on Thursday. The casita is small but lovely, one of several around a courtyard off of the street.

carolcountingCarol counting thousands of monarchs flying by below El Rosario
–sorry the butterflies didn’t photograph well

Thursday we drove up to the parking lot below El Rosario and then up to Angangeo.  The monarchs are arriving here.  We did not see too many in Angangeo or up in the area near the parking lots at El Rosario but in the forest well below the reserve they swarmed above the trees and were all over Ocampo.  We intend to drive back through Angangeo to La Chincua today.

angangeoChurch on the square in Angangeo

donbrunoThe Don Bruno is not open for the season yet

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The Pyramids and Atlantean figures at Tula

tula

Today we traveled south east to Tula—Toltec archeological site.  Along the way we counted many monarchs. We began to encounter them just outside of San Miguel de Allende and continuously as we drove sout on 57 toward Queretaro.  Most were crossing the highway going northeast.  It was late morning and just warming up.  We guessed that it was primarily nectaring activity as there were many flowers on both sides of the highway. 

 

We continued down to the outer reaches of Mexico city to see Tula.

 billsusieatlante

Bill and Susie Fry at Tula

We have continued on and are spending the night at the hotel Villas Archeologicas at Teotihuacan.  We hope to see some of that site in the morning before heading to Tuxpan and Quinta Mitzi as we approach the overwintering area and monarch reserves.

 

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Good morning from San Miguel de Allende

Our Day of the Dead Altar honoring Jay King, Norman H. Rea II, Bob Fry, Barbara G. Rea and Elizabeth Fry

Susan Fry, Ba Rea and Bill Fry

We put up an altar last night for our loved ones who have died. This morning we are packing up and getting ready to go to Teotihuacan.  I am so far behind on posting my photos! but it is important that I be here as well.   This is a fascinating process.  I am used to editing and checking many times over before exposing my writing to the world.  I have been making mistakes and trying to get them fixed as I find them…several places I have happily reported being in the Sierra Madre Occidentals and it is really the Sierra Madre Orientals, make the shift if you find places I have missed correcting…Eventually I will get it right.  We are greatly enjoying our adventure and I hope when we get to Zitacuaro and the butterfly reserves we will stay put for a few days and I will get a routine down and get more out to all those monarch watchers following along. We are taking lots of photos and handwritten notes…and “Being” here a lot!

Ba Rea

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Day of the Dead in San Miguel de Allende

Saturday morning, we had a great breakfast at Java Time, the coffee shop attached to Hotel Casablanca in Queretaro. I don’t know if any of you have traveled with Carol Cullar but it is always a fascinating adventure.  Coincidences and chance meetings are a regular occurrence. We were joined by the owner of the coffee shop who just happened to have attended junior high school at a school in Mexico when Carol was an art teacher  there. We had a wonderful discussion about our trip and places to see before setting off for San Miguel de Allende.

carolandjeff

Carol Cullar and Jeff Lewis

We arrived at Hotel Posada de  , a place Carol remembered fondly from her graduate school days in San Miguel in mid afternoon.  It is a remarkable place with parking in a courtyard behind big wooden doors off of a narrow, busy street just below the central square of the town.  How incredibly nice.  Nice rooms cloistered away from the road with ancient charm and with roof top sitting areas within easy walking distance of an all weekend celebration of the Day of the Dead—November 1st and 2nd  in the town square.canal-street

Canal Street San Miguel Allende

billandsusie-and-student

Bill and Susie with a student who spoke great English in front of the altar he and fellow students created.

cathedralChurch in the square San Miguel de Allende on Day of the Dead

skeletonfaceCelebrant preparing for Day of the Dead 

Sunday morning Carol and I went on an explore to track down some reported monarch clusters in a little village on the east side of (lake)Presa Ignacio Allende-east of San Miguel.  We found no clusters but were assured by the local folks that we had missed them by only a few days.

nomonarchsFolks we met who told us the “butterflies that hang down from the trees” had passed through several days ago.

 

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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.


 

 

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October 30, Chasing the Monarchs to Cuidad del Maiz

This morning we bade farewell to the tranquility of our stay at Hotel Morillo.  At breakfast we got a suggestion via the monarch listserv, Dplex,  from Bill Calvert that we divert our trip Through Cuidad del Maiz to Rio Verde in order to follow the monarchs.  It was a great tip and we spent much of our day counting monarchs.  Carol kept track of time and kept a tally of the monarchs that we saw. We called them out as we saw them, like kids playing a highway game.  It was great fun!

 

We drove south on hwy 54.  About 30 miles out of Saltillo, we took the road we had taken on Tuesday with the Monarch Monitoring conference, eastward over the mountain pass, past the Natural Protected Area Sierra Zapaliname and Ejido Chapultepec.  We began seeing monarchs regularly once we started moving eastward.  In the first 8 minutes we saw we saw 39 monarchs. From 11 to 11:15 we saw 67 monarchs as we approached the mountain pass.  There were fewer monarchs on the east side of the mountain pass as we passed Ej. Chapultepek. We saw only 14 in 15 minutes. At this point I can’t really post photos of the monarchs that we saw.  The excitement had more to do with the number of them that we saw in a minute.  They didn’t clump together for a photop!  

South of Saltillo: Bill Fry, Carol Cullar and Susan Fry

As we dropped into slightly lower elevations from 11:30-11:55, we saw 20 monarchs and began to enter the major apple production region for Mexico.  Natural vegetation consisted primarily of Joshua trees. The rest was many hundreds of acres of tightly packed apple trees, many of them under shade cloth. 

Joshua trees in foreground and apple trees under shade cloth

Just past that region, we turned south on highway 57 onto the Altiplano —  high plains — running between two ridges of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The plains stretched out wide creating the feel of the big skies, but the entire horizon was ringed by distant mountains.  There were only sporadic monarchs at that point so we stopped counting.  There were numerous nectar plants with yellow flowers: coreopsis, sunflower, huizache daisy, and false broomweed, as well as numerous Joshua trees, creosote bushes, and  cholla cacti. We saw most of the monarchs crossing the road toward the east, however the movement appeared to more associated with nectaring than with migration.

creosote

Chollo Cactus

We passed through Matehuala and stopped briefly at the Tropic of Cancer to take photos, recording our passage through that landmark.

Susie Fry, Bill Fry and Carol Cullar– Ba in inset

We resumed our count at 3:38 when we once again turned east, driving toward Cuidad del Maiz on highway 80.  Three miles past the turn off to Los Anoles, we began seeing monarchs.   In 6 minutes, beginning at 3:38, we saw 57 monarchs.  They seemed to be settling down in the huizache trees on either side of the road and may have been being stirred up by passing traffic. Between 3:49 and 3:52 we saw 26 monarchs. At 3:53 the road took a slightly more north-south orientation. We saw four times as many monarchs as we had been seeing: For the minute beginning at 3;53 we saw 22, at 3:54 – 21, and at 3:55 -23 monarchs as we came into the village of Sto. (Santo) Domingo.

Along highway 80 we passed many small villages and brightly painted school yards. At 3:56 we drove into heavy cloud cover. The air temperature dropped and it became much darker.  We saw 60 monarchs in 14 minutes and after that we saw only a very few scattered monarchs.

 

We have found good, but much less luxurious lodging for the night at the Hotel San Jose in the town of Cuidad del Maiz.  After a dinner of chicken and goat cooked over an open fire pit in an open air restaurant we have turned in.  We hope to pick up the trail of the monarchs in the morning.

 

 

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Following the Monarchs south out of Saltillo

We got a note from Bill Calvert on Dplex this morning:

“You should slip over to Cuidad del Maiz and head south towards Rio Verde. That’s where the monarchs go!”

So we are on our way.  We’ll check in as soon as we have internet again.

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From the Beautiful Hotel Morillo in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

This post comes to you from the incredibly beautiful courtyard of the Hotel Morillo in Coahuila, Mexico. http://www.elmorillo.com.mx 

We are relaxing after days of pushing to get into Mexico and meeting up with a Monarch Monitoring conference in Saltillo. As we bask in the sunshine we are watching a steady trickle of monarchs passing through.   The hotel is situated along an arroyo that we believe may be the reason for the steady flow. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We got up early Tuesday morning to join the Monarch Monitoring conference happening in Saltillo, Coahuila (Mexico).  About 40 people from Mexico, Canada and the US,  were gathered for a workshop with the goal of engaging more individuals in monarch monitoring programs such as Project MonarchHealth  http://www..monarcharasites.org , Monarch Watch http://www.monarchwatch.com , the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project http://www.mlmp.org  ,  Journey North http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/index.html  and Correo Real.   By working together, sharing data and involving people throughout monarchs’ migratory range, they are hoping to learn even more about monarchs. Increased monitoring is one of the recommendations of the North American Monarch Conservation Plan.

We arrived at the Fiesta Motel in Saltillo in time to have breakfast with the people attending the workshop.

At Breakfast at the Hotel Fiesta: Jean Lauriault, Ba Rea, Susan Fry, Bill Fry, and Carol Cullar. Photo by Don Davis

We followed the workshop’s bus, learning Mexican driving style all the way, through the streets of Saltilo to a botanical garden, Parque el Chapulin.  A naturalist took us on a tour.  There were monarchs flitting about and we could see some sunning themselves high in the trees getting ready to take off for the day.  The bulk of the migration has already passed through this area.  We saw just 3-6 monarchs together. We were late enough in the morning that we didn’t see any clusters.

 

Next we went up into the mountains south east of Saltillo to the Natural Protected Area  Sierra Zapaliname. State naturalists gave a presentation on the ecosystem. The nature of the migration through their area and the 5 species of milkweed found on that area.  After the presentation, a monarch release and a demonstration on how to check monarchs for OE infestation, the group took a hike to see the ecosystem.

The presentation

Karen Oberhauser. Director of the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project and Monarchs in the Classroom

  Eligio Garcia Serrano, Mexican scientist, monitor of the Biosfera de La Mariposa Monarch for the Mexican government for 12 years..

Eneida (Sorry Eneida…I’ll get her last name ASAP), Mexican scientist studying monarch butterflies; Don Davis, Monarch Naturalist from Toronto; and Elizabeth Howard, director of Journey North

Rocio Trevino, founder of Correo Real a monarch program and curriculum that connects classrooms in the United States with classrooms in Mexico in monitoring the monarch butterfly. 

The Butterfly Release

We opted out of the hike and instead took a tour around the adjacent Ejido Chapultepec. (Nahutl for Grasshopper Hill). 

On the way back to Saltillo we stopped to watch a group of Matachines dancers dancing in a Shrine to Nuestro Senior (Jesus) that was located next to the highway to bless truckers on their way to Zacatecas.

 

 

 

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The Road to Saltillo

 

We got up early this morning and started our preparations for the trip: insurance for the car, last minute purchases for the road.  By 11 or so we had crossed the bridge from Eagle Pass to Piedras Negras and were in Mexico.  We checked in with Mexican customs about 35 miles south of the border and got our travel permits.  The road south was flat with mountains in the distance.  There was a light drizzle from time to time as the vegetation transitioned from mesquite to Joshua trees. We were climbing steadily.  At one point we passed through beautiful rock standing tilted upward from the earth…pushed up and out of the way by movements of the earth’s plates. 

 

We saw no monarchs today.  Not surprising as we drove into Saltillo in dense fog at rush hour.   After an intense drive through unfamiliar streets with Spanish names we arrived at our destination at the Huizache Hotel.  Tomorrow we will join a field trip with fellow monarch chasers –– scientists, teachers, naturalists and monarch enthusiasts meeting in Saltillo to promote monarch monitoring programs .

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A Day in Texas

We headed off to Enchanted Rock, just north of Fredricksburg, Texas today.  Enchanted Rock is a huge pink granite outcrop.  We climbed to the top.  The main migration has passed but monarchs are still passing through.  We saw several gliding down over the rock.  

We arrived in Eagle Pass, Texas around 5:30 or so and had a good dinner with Carol Cullar. I’ll try to get a group photo in the morning.  The group is now complete: Ba Rea, Bill and Susan Fry, and Carol Cullar.  We expect to get our papers together and leave for Mexico in the morning. We should be in Saltillo by the end of the day.

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