Archive for the ‘Mason’ Category

Watching for Monarch Butterflies and Texas Horned Toads at Lucky Boy Ranch

September 23, 2008

It’s been a feast or famine season for weather, with an intense drought busted by some relief-providing rains…and that means there’s nectar waiting for this season’s Monarch Butterflies.

A gang of us will head out this weekend to see what we find.  We have 500 tags, a net for every taker, and high hopes of nabbing the elusive creatures.    Three weeks ago we spotted tens of Monarchs along the river, and plenty of eggs on the swamp milkweed.  Stay tuned for a full report.

Meanwhile, who would have guessed that in addition to the illustrious Monarchwatch, the organization that started the Monarch tagging project, there is also a Horned Toad Lizard Watch? 

Horned Toads Make Occasional Appearnces at Lucky Boy Ranch

Horned Toads Make Occasional Appearances at Lucky Boy Ranch

It’s true.   In 1997, Texas Parks and Wildlife began tracking the appearance of Horned Toads, affectionately known by Texans as the “Horny Toad.”   We’ve noticed the funny lizards (the official state reptile) seem to have declined in abundance over the years.  Read the 10-year summary of Horned Toad spottings here.

The good news is that Lucky Boy has a steady supply of Carpenter Ants, which is the Horned Toad’s primary food source.   This may explain why we’re seeing more of the horned reptiles of late.   Just in the last two years, we’ve had three sightings–one just last weekend by Nick and his crew.  Thanks to Lilliana Fields for the fine photo.

So…if we ever tire of tagging Monarchs (unlikely), we can always track Horned Toads.


Monarch Butterflies Skip Lucky Boy, Surge Toward Coast

October 31, 2007

    Houdini hunting at Lucky Boy Ranch                                              

Monarchs totally passed us by last weekend, in what I viewed as the final tagging opportunity in a frustrating, unusual season.   Houdini, pictured above, had more luck with birds than I did with butterflies.

It appears the Monarch butterflies took a more western route and are now flooding the Gulf coastline.  Lucky for those living along the beach.

Didn’t spot a single one at the ranch this weekend.  Lots of pecans, though.  Let’s not talk about the encounter between the Expedition and two separate bucks on our full moon drive out on Friday night.   Our SUV will be in the shop for weeks.

Upon returning home Sunday, one lone Monarch glided around the backyard. 

Weekend Wishes Come True: Monarch Butterflies at Lucky Boy

October 23, 2007

Monarch on Cedar

As the Grackles biked south against strong headwinds for the MS150, Monarch Butterflies fluttered to Lucky Boy Ranch fighting the same strong gusts.  The good news, as for the Grackles, is they arrived safely…and in big numbers.    

THIS is the Monarch festival I’ve been bragging about all season.  Wouldn’t you know it was the one weekend when I would head to the ranch with only Cocoa and Sufy as my canine tagging team?   Most of my ranch partners were biking to the beach.

Still managed to snag 72 Monarchs in my net, not to mention two I tagged in my own backyard for a weekend talley of 74.  That brings the season total to 144–far from my millenial goal, but I’m not complaining.

It was unusual tagging as Monarchs rested and roosted in the thick cedar along the Llano as winds gusted to 30 miles per hour.  Sufy and Cocoa would run ahead of me, flushing them like quail.  The resilient creatures fought the blowing current, treading air and making them possible–but not easy–to net. 

Hundreds, probably thousands of Monarchs showed up this weekend.   Thrice I had more than five butterflies in my net, and I can’t count how often I swinged and missed.    Multiple Monarchs in the bag feels fantastic, the squirming life of minnows in a bucket.

Next week will be the peak. 

13 Monarch Butterflies and Six Friends MAKE Monika’s Birthday

October 16, 2007

Tagged Monarch Butterfly at Veronica’s                                                                    My weekend-long birthday celebration got off on the right foot–or should I say wing?–when Veronica surprised me with a Monarch Butterfly that had laid its egg on her butterfly weed.  The photo above was taken in her yard.  

Talk about lucky:  Veronica has butterflies still hatching in her yard this late in the season.  What a way to start a birthday weekend.   She, Joseph and I made our way to the ranch and snagged two more before nightfall.

         Tagged Monarch Butterfly

On Saturday, David, Leigh-Anna, Katy and Bob joined the Monarch tag team and while it wasn’t the Monarch monsoon I was anticipating–we fell short of my weekend goal of 51, tagging a Lucky 13–it was a fantastic weekend of kayaking, tagging, great friendship, food and wine. 

Joseph, Leigh Anna and David tagged their first Monarchs and officially caught Butterfly Fever.  Joseph won the Monarch Maniac Award, chasing down the floating flutterers while toting a 12-foot-long PVC pipe “extender” that allowed him to snag them way up high.   David and Leigh Anna witnessed  an osprey diving for a fish in front of the picnic spot–a first.   And Katy made the most fantastic dinner and birthday cake (with help from Veronica) while Bob supplied the bubbly and wine. 

Winds gusted from the south at about 25 mph and the temperatures climbed into the 90s.   We speculated that the Monarchs were waiting out the wind with no incentive to move South.  Why bother?  Warm weather, still some nectar, and plenty of water, so their attitude was decidely “mañana.” 

We’re expecting a strong finish to Monarch season as cold fronts find us.   In the meantime, thanks to my family and friends for indulging my lepidoptomania and making the weekend so special.

One Monarch Tagged and Sent Off with A Kiss

October 9, 2007

 Asia Sends off Tagged Monarch Butterfly with a kiss    

Friends came all the way from New York to tag Monarch butterflies, and we were lucky to get JUST ONE this weekend.   Asia, pictured above, learned to place the tag on the discal cell, before sending the healthy male off with a kiss.  It was the lone tagged Monarch in our guests’ Lucky Boy  weekend.                       

While the Chicago Marathon was cut short because of the heat, our clever butterfly friends sat out the 90-degree temperatures somewhere north of Mason County.

Marilyn, Lee, Asia, Austin, Peggy, Pat and David came from Woodstock, New York, Dallas and Austin, respectively, nets in hand.  We spent several hours combing the pecan trees along the Llano River on foot and via kayak.   Fewer than a dozen Monarchs were spotted all weekend.  While Asia tagged one Saturday morning and I nabbed one upon arrival Friday, it was another weekend of Queens, fritillaries and the occasional Red Admiral.  

We had other encounters with butterflies, though.  Lee and Austin performed an experiment on Gulf Fritillaries for Austin’s science project, whereby five butterflies were placed in the refrigerator for one – five minutes.  We recorded how long it took each to “wake up”  and fly off.     I bet Austin gets an “A” on his science project.   Austin, please let us know how that turns out.

Texas Monarch Watch assigns the late arrival to an extremely warm September.  The Monarchs appeared to be in Oklahoma this weekend, about two weeks behind schedule.  With the cutleaf daisies going to seed and the milkweed drying up, nectar sources may be scarce by the time they arrive.  Goldenrod is still on the river, but not much. 

We’ll be waiting for them next weekend with some overripe watermelon as a welcome mat.  Stay tuned.

Monarchs Bypass Nectar Fest at Lucky Boy

October 1, 2007


What if you gave a nectar party and nobody came?  Imagine assembling the perfect feast for special guests who choose to skip your soiree.

That’s how it felt this weekend at Lucky Boy, as an open bar of milkweed, goldenrod, purple mist flower and standing cypress awaited the arrival of our honored guests: migrating Monarch butterflies.  But they were no-shows.

Plenty of other butterfly friends stopped by.  A fritillary festival of sorts, with a variety of Swallowtails–Blacks, Pipevines and Tigers–an abundance of Queens and even a few Red Admirals, who hadn’t made an appearance in a long while.

This weekend, Monarchs were conspicuously absent.  In seven hours of attempts, only nine Monarchs were netted and tagged, bringing our season total to 32.  Oma tagged her first.  Congratulations!

Frustration grew as hundreds of Queens, like the one pictured above, posed as their idols.  The pink milkweed which lured the Monarchs to our riverbanks two weeks ago has gone to seed or was destroyed by aphids.  Perhaps they passed us by for a more enticing nectar Happy Hour.  Or, more likely, gusty winds and looming storms kept them moving south, high in the clouds, riding the wave.  

Jenny says Monarchs are ubiquitous in her frontyard milkweed patch in Grapevine.  And she’s sending them our way.  Better luck next week.