|View from the top.|
On the way up the mountain, the vegetation changed from Eucalyptus plantation, to pine forest, then low thorny plants and acacia brush, and finally to cactus and yucca forests at the top. Each type of vegetation brought with it different types of wildlife.
|A Great Horned Owl in a zoo-like cage at the park.|
The park is also home to huge amounts of insect life. A single flowering bush in one of the high montane meadows had hundreds of small, colorful, Skipper-like butterflies, several types of brightly colored crickets, a mating pair of Walking Sticks, and was swarming with bees. We saw a small number of various lizards and turtles basking in the sunlight. Many mammals inhabit the park, like fox or even mountain lion, although they are elusive and rarely seen.
|Insects on the insect bush. (Click the image to enlarge)|
|A single Monarch.|
|Monarchs at Parque Nacional El Cimatario - November 2010. (Click the image to enlarge)|
The Monarch migration and lifecycle is fascinating. The butterflies that spend winters in Mexico start flying north in early spring and breed in the southern US. It takes two or three more generations to reach the northeastern US and Canada. Each generation breeds, lays eggs, and dies within a span of two months. The eggs hatch within a week of being laid. The hatched caterpillars feed on milkweed, grow fat, and begin their metamorphosis as they change into a chrysalis two weeks after hatching. Less than two weeks later a full-grown Monarch Butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and mates within a week, laying its own eggs then dying. In early fall, the final generation that hatches in the northern-most parts of their range flies all the way back to Mexico where it’s great, great grandparents started the journey six months earlier, and lives up to seven months overwintering in Mexico before heading north to start the life-cycle anew come spring.
The cold weather that day was a sign of the winter to come. It brought with it flocks of colorful migrating birds from the north in search of food and shelter. It set each flowering plant abuzz with life, as sources of nectar and pollen were few and far between. And it blew in millions of Monarchs Butterflies, exhausted from their 3,000 mile journey from places as far north as my butterfly garden in Buffalo, NY, gathering to stay warm, to this little known and small patch of forest in central Mexico.
Insect Bush - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyJAVmT3Z6s
Thousand of Monarchs flying - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHA78wpv3Og
More Monarchs - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg354OgJrVs