For the second year in a row, sixth-grade students from Macon County will find themselves galloping through goldenrod to catch, tag, and release Monarch butterflies as part of “Migration Celebration,” a field trip designed to engage students in real science concerning bird and butterfly migration.
The event will take place through Oct. 4 at Tessentee Bottomland Preserve, a tract of land owned and managed by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee. The Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research will coordinate the program as part of their “Schoolyard” outreach and education initiative. Students will also learn about migrating songbirds from the non-profit Southern Appalachian Raptor Research, which uses Tessentee Bottomland Preserve as a long-term research site to better understand the rates of survivorship and productivity in bird populations.
Tessentee Bottomland Preserve is a stop on the N.C. Birding Trail with 125 species of birds located within its 70-acre boundary. Biologists will use mist nets to catch, band, and release migrating songbirds, giving students an opportunity to see birds up-close.
Students will wield their own nets to try and catch Monarch butterflies as they fly south to over-winter in the Transvolcanic Mountains of Mexico. Once caught, students will learn to carefully take the butterfly out of the net, determine whether the Monarch is a male or a female based on the wing pattern, and place a small sticker on the hind wing with a phone number and unique identification tag.
Data collected by the students will be sent to MonarchWatch (www.monarchwatch.org), the organization overseeing the project. The butterfly will then be released to continue its journey south. Students will also catch, identify, and release other butterflies to help with an inventory of butterflies at the preserve. To date more than 45 species of butterflies have been found, including several new to mountain and county records.