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Monarch butterflies from the winter reserve of "El Rosario" in Michoacan, Mexico. In the first picture, they are drinking water at one of the many natural springs on the ground. The second and third pictures are of butterflies feeding on nectar. The fourth and fifth pictures show the aglomerations in the Oyamela Fir Trees. The last picture is of the thousands of dead butterflies in the underbrush. No one is allowed to walk outside of the trail or touch, molest, pick-up or keep any butterfly specimens.
Fir-pine forests of the El Rosario Reserve above Angangueo, Michoacan.
This was the most wonderful experience imaginable! The Monarch watch estimates that there were about 140 million butterflies present this year within the 56 square miles of the Monarch Reserve. The day we were there was warm and sunny and thousands of monarchs were flying and feeding. There are so many in flight that you can hear their collective wing beats like a small rush of wind. The forests of Michoacan are very special, in that there are many flowering plants for the butterflies to feed on during warm weather and a lot of ground water available for drinking. Many were mating on the ground. The fir tree that the Monarchs prefer for their overwintering masses is called the Oyamel or the Sacred Fir (Abies religiosa) and is native to Mexico. While thousands die each year, millions more survive to begin their return migration to the US and Canada. About 80 local guides care for the El Rosario Reserve and accompany all visitors. They also search for and collect all the tags from monarchs that have been banded before migration.