Fluttery journey of a thousand miles

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(Photo 1) Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Covington and the Kentucky Waterways Alliance built a pollinator garden in Barb Cook Park this summer.

(Photo 2) The new Mayor's Monarch Pledge sign at Hands Pike Park in South Covington.

Saturday ‘tagging’ events part of effort to save iconic monarch

COVINGTON, Ky. – With firm but gentle pressure, Patrick Moore picked the colorful monarch butterfly out of the net, pressed the leading edges of its wings together, and then carefully attached a tiny sticker to the part of the wing called its “discal cell.”
 
Releasing it into the air, Moore described his high hopes for the procedure:
 
“How cool would it be if we could tag a monarch in Covington that gets recovered well over a thousand miles away in Mexico?”
 
Moore, Parks Project Coordinator with Covington Parks & Rec, isn’t delusional: Last October, such a miracle actually happened. A monarch tagged at a Civil War battlefield in central Kentucky was recovered a few months later at a butterfly preserve in Michoacán, Mexico.
 
The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife called the 1,600-mile migration and needle-in-a-haystack recovery “a very rare and exciting occurrence” – nevertheless, come Saturday morning in Covington, volunteers hope to duplicate it.
 
Led by staff from Covington Parks & Rec and Keep Covington Beautiful, volunteers will scout out Goebel and Randolph parks to collect, tag, and release any monarchs that visit the parks’ pollinator gardens, which are planted with milkweed and other flowers designed to attract butterflies.
 
Volunteers are welcome, but openings are limited and pre-registration HERE is required. The events run from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
 
“The butterflies are actually bigger and stronger than you’d think, but you really have to take care not to damage them,” Moore said. “Volunteers who capture any in their nets will bring them to a few of us ‘trained’ to tag them.”
 
The work is Covington’s contribution to an international effort led by the National Wildlife Federation to save the species, known for its iconic orange-and-black coloring and its annual migration from summer habitat in North America to wintering grounds in Mexico. Loss of habitat and use of herbicides have greatly decreased monarch numbers.
 
Covington has joined what’s called the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge. So far this year, the projects organized by Parks & Rec have included:
  • A new pollinator garden at the redeveloped Barb Cook Park in Latonia, built with help from the Rotary Club of Covington and the Kentucky Waterways Alliance.
  • New educational signs installed by City Public Works crews at four locations: Randolph, Hands Pike (picture above), and Peaselburg parks and near the storm water detention basin at the corner of Highland Avenue and Benton Lane.
  • The improvement of butterfly habitat during cleanup events at Goebel Park’s pollinator garden. 
The tagging this Saturday will help yield data important to studying the health of the species and the impact of climate change on migration patterns, Moore said, just like is done with migratory birds like wood ducks and geese.
 
The monarch he tagged last week as a pilot project was – to his knowledge – the first ever tagged and logged in Covington.
 
“Unlike most butterflies seen in Kentucky, monarchs don’t live here year-round, so the timing is tricky,” he said.
 
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