Like an open thread from days gone by, only different…
Walk the Wilderness is a new blog I’ve only recently discovered, one full of photos and experiences from two people living and working in India, two people trying very hard to enjoy the vast wilderness surrounding them. The images and accounts are magical, the latest being of an encounter with an Indian tiger. I feel nothing but jealousy at such a magical moment, and the pictures make me long for a life far removed from the one I live.
Go. Go now. You won’t be disappointed with the majestic splendor so expertly captured and displayed, and you’ll long for the opportunities lived by two people willing to share them with the whole of Planet Earth.
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While continuing the move of images from my old photoblog, I realized a great deal of the categorization I used there didn’t fit with the simplicity of this journal. It therefore behooves me to adapt in whatever way I can to accommodate that filing system.
But while trying to do so, I ran across yet another issue: the growing expanse of my life list. Originally I intended to include links to the individual posts, yet splitting that out by kingdom has not reduced the growing size of each page linking to media representative of the species I’ve encountered.
How best to resolve that issue has vexed me these past several weeks.
Now I have the answer. Or answers, as it were.
Not only will I migrate an adapted list of the categories from my old photoblog, but I will begin tagging life list entries so I can use a tag search to identify related posts.
Sounds like so much malarkey, right? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
The point is that the life list links will be updated quickly with tagged searches that include all available media, not just individual links to each post, and the photoblog migration will add new categories to the existing post structure.
Most of this is hogwash to all but the anal among us. For me, it’s a brief writ to outline how I can make sense of this growing diary.
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Only once have I visited the monarch butterfly colonies in Mexico during their overwintering stay. The sight is profound, overwhelming for even the most uncaring amongst us. The UNESCO Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve page explains why:
Every autumn, millions, perhaps a billion, butterflies from wide areas of North America return to the site and cluster on small areas of the forest reserve, colouring its trees orange and literally bending their branches under their collective weight. In the spring, these butterflies begin an 8 month migration that takes them all the way to Eastern Canada and back, during which time four successive generations are born and die. How they find their way back to their overwintering site remains a mystery.
The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve World Heritage property protects key overwintering sites for the monarch butterfly. The overwintering concentration of butterflies in the property is a superlative natural phenomenon. The millions of monarch butterflies that return to the property every year bend tree branches by their weight, fill the sky when they take flight, and make a sound like light rain with the beating of their wings. Witnessing this unique phenomenon is an exceptional experience of nature.
The overwintering concentration of the monarch butterfly in the property is the most dramatic manifestation of the phenomenon of insect migration. Up to a billion monarch butterflies return annually, from breeding areas as far away as Canada, to land in close-packed clusters within 14 overwintering colonies in the oyamel fir forests of central Mexico. The property protects 8 of these colonies and an estimated 70% of the total overwintering population of the monarch butterfly’s eastern population.
The first time I ever saw this wonder, I stood and wept at the visage of such profound beauty, the collection of so many creatures that represent the greatest of all insect migrations. And that’s assuming that billions of migratory lifeforms don’t actually represent the greatest of all migrations, of all life, everywhere.
Yet NASA offered satellite images last year that make me wonder how much longer this natural phenomenon will occur. To wit:
Recently, scientists identified severe degradation of the forest habitat within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in central Mexico using imagery from the commercial Ikonos satellite. […] The degraded area is the site of the Lomas de Aparicio monarch colony. […] Colonies typically cover areas of 0.25–2.0 hectares (equivalent to a circle with a diameter of 60–160 meters, or 200–525 feet). The area had been largely intact since at least 1986. Overwintering colonies have been documented there since 1996, but have probably formed there long into the past.
In the 2004 image, the beginnings of the logging operation are apparent in an area to the east of (and partially inside) the core zone. Based upon this pair of images, and a similar image taken in 2006 by the QuickBird satellite, scientists Lincoln Brower, Daniel Slayback, and Isabel Ramirez have determined that approximately 450 hectares (1,110 acres) of forest were logged between 2004 and 2008, representing 3.3% of the 13,552 hectares (33,410 acres) core zone of the reserve. The majority of this logging (290 hectares, or 717 acres) has occurred since March 2006.
Forest degradation—which progresses from thinning to clear-cutting—has been an ongoing problem throughout the reserve. Other logging incursions have destroyed several other prime overwintering areas within the reserve, making them unsuitable for monarch colonies. Based upon the degradation apparent in these images, it is unlikely monarchs will form overwintering colonies at this Lomas de Aparicio site in future years. If they do return, they will be subject to much greater environmental risks during their six-month overwintering stay. An intact forest canopy serves a critical role by protecting the monarchs from both freezing cold during winter storms and from excessive warmth during the days. If unprotected from the sun, monarchs dehydrate and also risk starvation: they burn substantially more of their fat reserves when they can’t keep cool.
The researchers are greatly concerned that the entire monarch butterfly migration and overwintering phenomenon in eastern North America may collapse in the near future if the Mexican government does not fully enforce the logging ban.
Viewing the satellite images from NASA provides a critical view of this devastating impact on the monarch colonies. What’s left of several major sites is nothing short of devastation. The land is now useless to the insects, and their options are growing shorter and shorter each year.
I offer this because I’ll post a monarch entry in the near future. North Texas provides a funnel through which a vast majority of the monarch migration passes. Each autumn the air becomes filled with butterflies making their way from northern territories to their overwintering spaces in Mexico. And each autumn for the last few years, their numbers have grown smaller when compared to what has come this way for many decades already passed.