When I first moved to the farm, in 2002, there were monarch butterflies everywhere. I deliberately kept a big stand of milkweed for them, hoping to attract more.
At the Phipps Conservatory, the other day [stderr] they had the butterfly room open. I love that, not because I like watching the beautiful sad things thrash their lives away, but because usually you can watch them inflating their wings as they emerge from the chrysalis.
A few days ago I finished mowing the barrier-lawn (if you let the grass get tall up to the house, porchupines and stonks and every other manner of critter will come wander into the house) and I saw a monarch go fluttering by. It was the only one I’ve seen this year.
It’s not easy to get a shot of a butterfly on the wing with an iPhone – you’re running around after the darned thing, and it’s flying, and you’re trying to navigate using the slightly-delayed screen of your phone.
The next day I was telling my neighbor about it, and she mentioned she hasn’t seen any monarchs lately, either, “Except, the other day – I kid you not – I saw a blue one.” No way! She insisted that it was real, and that there were blue monarchs, and while we were talking about it – no lie – one came flying over and landed about 10 feet from us. My phone was in my car about 40 feet away and by the time I came running back over, it had left for safer pastures.
When I first moved up here, spring was a riot of little toads and frogs. The entire area would be hopping with them. Now, I can hear a few singing every spring but I don’t see them at all, anymore. The ecosystem around my house has changed, through the advent and departure of my dogs (who ate or barked at anything worth notice that came within 1/4 mile of the house) so some creatures are in the ascendant: deer, porchupines, skunks, and coyotes. Others are on the way out: monarch butterflies, the mated pair of North American Kites I used to watch hunting on the ridge-line over the hayfield – the crows are still there but they are suspicious of humans now (thanks, hunter assholes!) and the frogs are mostly gone. The snakes seem to be doing OK but I haven’t seen a rattler or a copperhead in a couple years; it’s mostly rat snakes.
This is pretty much right, I think: