Two zinnia beds in the front yard attracted a monarch butterfly. I was watering when it landed on a big red flower. I turned off the hose and watched. It probed the circle of tiny yellow flowers in the center. I opened its wings, closed them then jumped off flutter- gliding to another flower – always the red ones. It landed on many red flowers always jumping into the air and browsing.

`        It flew off to the neighbor’s front yard, then back to the zinnias. It stayed in the area for a half hour. I could see its two bulbous antennae touching, always touching. Then it flew off again. I waited. This happened five or six times. It was trying to find more flowers but always returned to the two zinnias beds. It nervously probed with its proboscis several times for each flower. It looked to me as if this animal was `desperate for food. Sometimes it kept this long tubular tongue in one flower probably finding more nectar. All the time, it’s silent wing motions contrasted with a siren of a passing EMS truck, a landscaping crew, and a couple of teenagers shouting.

I ran into the house to fetch my camera. The monarch was gone. I recall seeing hundreds of monarch holding onto a shrub on Fire Island. During migration, they stop flying as darkness descends.  Those days are gone.  Where will my monarch go?

At the Edgewood Preserve, a New York State Department of Conversation in Deer Park, I came upon a huge stand of milkweed plants…hundreds of them. They are a small island refuel oasis for monarchs. I hope they find these plants.

I started orange milkweed plants from seed. I planted two dozen seedlings (also called butterfly weed) in a center island of wildflowers in hopes of attracting monarchs. However, there are hardly any monarchs any more.

I had the opportunity to observe one for a half hour. It is easily the most beautiful living thing in the neighborhood. The color and patterns on its wings, the way it flies, how it jumps off a flower, and its choice of flower. There was plenty for me to see right outside in the front yard. I grow zinnias every year mostly to have cut flowers of us and friends. But with the visit by a single monarch, I have the best bouquet ever, a single butterfly found an oasis.

Tom Stock

Tom Stock has been involved in the Long Island environmental and outdoor education community for decades.

He has published two books; THE NISSEQUOGUE RIVER: A JOURNEY and HIDDEN AGENDA; A POETRY JOURNEY.He has also published many essays and poems in such journals as the Long Island Forum and The Long Islander.

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