CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Metroparks naturalist Natalie Schroder loves Fall migration season.
"Monarchs and butterflies still make me believe in magic", she recently told WKYC Photojournalist Carl Bachtel while at Cleveland Lakefront Metropark's Wildwood Marina.
The fragile orange and black beauties make the non-stop trek from Canada across 60 miles of Lake Erie to the Ohio shoreline. There, they will stop, rest, and feed. Schroder adds, "They love these white snakeroot flowers, even more than goldenrod. Ironweed and Joe-Pye weed are also good, Fall blooming plants that can feed them and other butterflies."
After stopping to feed and rest, the butterflies will take wing once again, heading all the way to Mexico where they spend the Winter. Schroder even "tags" the butterfies with numbered stickers so naturalists can track their movements. "I have tagged hundreds of monarchs and only had one turn up in Mexico," she said. "It's only one, but I'm so proud it made it."
This year, two other species are joining the monarchs on their way south. Birds are in their Fall migration, along with something else you may have not heard of: Dragonflies!
Huge swarms of green darner dragonflies are crossing Lake Erie and showing up on National Weather Service radar. WKYC Meteorologist Michael Estime mentioned them in Tuesday evening's 11pm newscast. "All that green you saw, those are dragonflies!", he exclaimed.
Viewers have sent in videos and pictures of thousands of the winged carnivores, who are feeding on small insects before continuing to South Texas and Mexico.
Monarchs have been in decline for years due to loss of habitat and indiscriminate pesticide use, but public awareness campaigns through county, state, and national parks have ignited interest in helping the butterflies. They will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and when they hatch, that's what the green, white and black caterpillars eat. Seed collection and sharing drives have helped somewhat, but more needs to be done.
Planting late blooming flowers can attract the beautiful butterflies and other pollinators to your yard.
Cleveland Metroparks has several events this weekend to spotlight the migrations, including Monarch hikes Friday and Saturday. Natalie will be tagging Monarchs at Wildwood on Sunday.
For more information, click here for the link to the Cleveland Metroparks webpage.