By Laura Lyles Reagan
Special to the PRESS
It was perfect weather for the 4th Annual Hallowings Monarch Migration Festival. The South Padre Island Birding Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary (SPIBNCAS) hosts the annual celebration of the Monarch butterfly migration which passes through South Padre Island late October and early November.
The generation of Monarchs born in the late summer and early fall makes the full migration to wintering grounds in central Mexico. They are a super breed generation that lives longer, are stronger, and are larger winged than usual to be able to withstand migrating south ahead of north winds from fall cold fronts.
Those seen on South Padre Island are migrating down the Gulf Coast coastline on the coastal flyway and begin to arrive on the island in late October, sometimes in large numbers. They are greeted by coastal nectar plants brought to full bloom by fall rains. The City of South Padre Island has designated lots throughout the island which are dedicated to native habitat for migratory butterflies and birds.
There are lots of flowers and color this time of year in SPIBNCAS gardens and the Monarchs stop by to take advantage and gather energy for the rest of their migration. Unfortunately, monarch populations have diminished over the last 20 years due to loss of native habitat necessary for their existence, some of which is caused by pesticides, says SPIBNCAS board president Alita Bagley.
SPIBNCAS is a certified Monarch Waystation which means monarch habitat has been cultivated and is being sustained. SPIBNCAS monarch and other butterfly gardens have varieties of milkweed and other native plants which attract multiple pollinator species. Visitors to the Hallowings Monarch Migration Festival had the opportunity to learn about monarchs, their habitat and how to cultivate and certify other Monarch Waystations.
While the SPIBNCAS aims to spread awareness and Monarch ecology and conservation, other conservation organizations were invited to showcase their work and sites at the festival. Washed Up Texas, RGV Texas Master Naturalists, Sea Turtle Inc., Laguna Atascosa NWR and UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab were in attendance.
Approximately 500 people attended the event. Activities included: Monarch Breakfast by the Port Isabel Rotary Club, Guided Birding and Butterfly Tours, Sandcastle Building Lessons, Native Plant Sale, Monarch Craft Activities for Kids and a Monarch Talk, which focuses on butterfly gardening. Then there was a Live Habitat Planting. UTRGV helped plant a new Monarch Waystation section. There was a Trashion Show which featured fashion and beach plastic pollution awareness. Leslie Blasing provided live music. There was a butterfly costume contest, an art show, food trucks and a reptile experience presentation also. There was something for everyone.
SPIBNCAS executive director, Cristin Howard said, “The board and staff of SPIBNCAS thank everyone for supporting Hallowings and invite all to come back next year.”
Visit www.monarchwatch.org to learn more about planting, cultivating, sustaining monarch habitat or registering and certifying an existing Monarch Waystation.