Community Called to Count Butterflies Saturday

Monarch butterfly. Courtesy photo

By Kirsten Laskey

Did you know that the Monarch butterfly migrates? This small creature, with its delicate orange-and-black wings will traverse the North American continent from Mexico to Canada.

It’s a journey that spans many generations of this particular species of butterflies.

The natural world that lies just beyond your doorstep is full of fascinating facts and stories, if you just take the opportunity to step out into it.

And the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) is offering a chance on Saturday, Aug. 11.

PEEC’s Butterfly Count will start at 9 a.m. Participants will meet at Burnt Mesa Trailhead in Bandelier. In addition to Burnt Mesa, Camp May and Canon de Valle will also serve as locations for the butterfly count.

Participants are encouraged to wear sturdy walking shoes and to bring close-focusing binoculars. The event is informal; people are welcome to leave whenever they wish.

Armed with a few nets and sets of binoculars, participants will search and count different species of butterflies.

Steve Cary, a local butterfly expert, will offer information about the species that are spotted.

You don’t have to be an expert yourself to take part in this event. Katie Watson, the PEEC program director, said a friend took a group of homeschooled students to last year’s count.

“The kids had a lot of energy to catch the butterflies,” Watson said. Plus, she said Cary gave great information about the butterflies; in fact, her friend’s son can still identify different species of butterflies.

“It’s always interesting to see a butterfly up close,” she said.

Watson said the youngsters were made to feel very welcome. “For the kids it made them feel important and feel apart of the larger science community.”

This welcoming environment can help inspire students to become scientists as adults, she added.

Dorothy Hoard performed the first butterfly count in 1993. She provided the data to the North American Butterfly Association. This year’s data will be submitted to the New Mexico Butterfly Association.

But really what the event is about is education, Hoard said.

“It’s really just fascinating,” she said.

Blue Monarch butterfly. Courtesy photo

Some of the butterflies people may spy during Saturday’s count include Swallowtails and Painted Ladies. Hoard said there are also a variety of blue butterflies.

For a small county, she said, there is quite a habitat range.

After the Las Conchas Fire, Hoard said the count was restricted to just Camp May but she was surprised by the number of butterflies that were counted.

“It was really encouraging to find so many so soon,” Hoard said.

People are encouraged to take part in the count because stepping out into nature “just makes life more interesting and more wonderful,” she said.


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