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From My Travel Journal


© Ellen Harasimowicz

Some of you may recall that I spent some quality time in the milkweed meadow last fall, watching children and adults tag monarch butterflies in the name of science. I even tagged some monarchs myself. These adventures were all aimed at learning about the tagging process so that I could write about it faithfully in my forthcoming book on citizen science. Going to Mexico to witness the other end of the tagging story was a natural extension of this research. It was also the only way for me to uncover the small details that lend a book of this sort authenticity. Here are some of the surprising discoveries I recorded in my travel journal …

”Our guide, Arturo, had a friend who had found two tagged butterflies; sadly, the friend wasn’t around. But when we returned to the lot at the base of the mountain (a treacherous ride that deserves more mention!) this friend showed up. He tracked Ellen, Gerardo, and I down on our way to lunch. He was shy about his finds, but he let us hold them and I was shocked that the tags 1) weren’t attached to a butterfly (I assumed tags were turned over to MonarchWatch with tag intact) and 2) had the trademark monarch scale pattern on the backside (when the tag is removed from the butterfly wing, orange and black scales come with it).”

”Chip Taylor funds the buy back of recovered MonarchWatch tags from his own pocket. This is shocking! In response to the huge number of recovered tags turned in at Cerro Pelon, he said, ‘If [El] Rosario is anything like this, we’ll run out of money.’”

Two days later I wrote this:

”By the time I was finished interviewing, Chip and crew had run out of funds. Several locals came into the Visitor Center hoping to sell recovered tags, but they had to be turned away. Two young girls were particularly memorable to me; they asked Chip if he could please buy their 47 recovered tags. He had to say no. I could tell this was hard for Chip; it was hard for me, too. Useful migration data was being turned away, and—worse still—two families in need of cash were disappointed. Will they save the tags and come again next year?”

This last was a real stunner. Daniel is a five-year-old boy who turned in twenty recovered tags with his family:

”I asked Daniel’s family—who between them had turned in twenty recovered tags—why the tags were so important to the American scientists. They had no idea.”

To borrow a calculation:

Cost of my trip: Hefty
Value of perspective gained: Priceless

Now to get that book written …

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Posted by on March 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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From My Travel Journal

This is for my friend Eric Luper, who doesn’t believe I rode a horse in the Sierra Madres:


© Ellen Harasimowicz

Told you so, Eric!

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Posted by on March 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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From My Travel Journal …

I’m still transcribing my journal pages from Mexico. This entry is from our last full day in Mexico, when we visited El Rosario, the most well-known of the monarch sanctuaries. At each sanctuary visitors are required to pay an entrance fee, and this fee includes the services of a local guide. At El Rosario, our guide was a lovely Mexican man named Sylvester, who accompanied us up the mountain and answered our many questions.


© Ellen Harasimowicz

“Up ahead we walked along the roped area and discovered an unusual puddling scene: rivulets of water meandered downhill through the grass and hundreds of monarchs puddled in the sun. It was so unexpected, so peaceful. Just ahead the trail turned uphill; it ended shortly after at a line of rope. Beyond the rope we could see large clusters of monarchs on shaded fir trees. As we looked longingly over the rope at those clusters, hoping Sylvester would take pity and let us closer, we looked up and saw a decent-sized cluster directly over our heads. We settled in to wait for the sun to hit this amazing find.”

When the sun finally reached our cluster, Ellen began shooting madly. After having watched her photograph for several days, I knew she would be a while. I hung around for a bit and watched her work, but eventually I was tempted back down the trail…

“After an hour or more, I set out for the puddle alone to wait for Ellen. There were many more people on the mountain now (too many, actually) … and THOUSANDS of puddling monarchs. Thousands! I had to just sit and watch. These were the most remarkable moments of the trip for me — thousands of monarchs drinking at my feet and thousands more flying over and around me. They were happy, full-up sort of moments, contentment in a whirligig of orange and black. The people around me spoke in whispers and stood in awe of the spectacle; I sat and soaked it all in.”

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Posted by on March 8, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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From My Travel Journal …

This weekend I am reliving my six days at the butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico by transcribing my travel notes. I thought I’d share some of the entertaining bits here. This entry is from the first day, when we visited Cerro Pelon, a monarch sanctuary just outside the town of Zitácuaro in the state of Michoacán. Thankfully, Ellen’s photographs of me on horseback are not edited yet …


© Ellen Harasimowicz

“The path up Cerro Pelon was rocky, dry, and very dusty. My horse and I were lucky enough to be in the front a lot of the way, which saved me from the worst of it. My ‘caballo loco’, however, insisted upon taking the steep and rocky terrain at a run. I eventually learned a “smooch” sound told him to “GO!” and a yank on the red rope/bridle thingy told him to “STOP!”, but before I did there were some scary moments…

We saw a smattering of butterflies on the way up. As we neared the top, though, about an hour after setting out, the numbers swelled and the butterflies were everywhere. They were stunning against the blue sky …”

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Posted by on March 7, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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Because I haven’t yet found words …


© Ellen Harasimowicz

Saturday, February 28, 2009
Cerro Pelon, Michoacán, Mexico

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Posted by on March 4, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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