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monarch-tag-monhegan-22sep2016HERE ON MONHEGAN ISLAND, 10 miles off Maine’s midcoast, tired warblers drop from the heavens at dawn — gifts from Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind. At Monhegan Brewing Company, a nano-brewery here on this mile-long Atlantic rock, IPAs flow in hues of autumn leaves and earthy sparrows. Lisa Brackett’s warm donuts are as welcome as birds each morning. (Beer and donuts — two of a birder’s four food groups.) And lobster fisherman prepare traps for the season that begins on October 1, Trap Day, the equivalent of a national holiday here on Monhegan.

The only thing missing is Glenn.

The brigade of birdwatchers here on Monhegan each fall used to include Glenn Jenks, a teacher, musician, rose connoisseur, and autumn light here on the island. We lost Glenn, much too early, on January 21.

So on Wednesday, a dozen of us gathered atop the cliffs at White Head for Glenn, to cast flowers to the wind and the sea, and to remind Genn’s family and wife, Faith Getchell, that we hadn’t forgotten.

As we stood in a circle, a Monarch flew among us on its way south. By instinct, I swung my net, landed the butterfly, and prepared yet another tribute to Glenn. I tagged the Monarch with a sticker and unique number: LMM 226. And with everyone’s consent, we named this butterfly for Glenn (a female we called “Glenna”) and sent her onward, most likely never to be seen by us again, but perhaps to be relocated this winter in Mexico. I didn’t know Glenn nearly as well as his friends here on the island; so this gossamer gesture was a high honor  at the ceremony.

A day later, Ruth and I were watching butterflies at Lobster Cove, Monhegan’s southern point. Painted Lady, American Lady, and even a rare Buckeye fluttered among the purple and white asters. Monarchs in good numbers were taking nectar for fuel before launching south toward Mexico. Among them was a copulating pair.

Migrating Monarchs generally don’t copulate in fall. They’re in reproductive diapause, a rest from breeding. Wintering grounds in Mexico beckon. So instead of mating, the Monarchs fly. With only my iPhone, I rushed to get a photo of this unusual, carnal autumn event. That’s when I noticed a tag, a tiny round sticker on the female’s hind wing.

It was Glenna, LMM 226. Joined with a male, she was having a “flight delay.”

I’m not sure what happens to a female Monarch that copulates this far north during migration. I suspect the added weight of a male’s sperm would hinder her migration. I’m not sure she’ll lay eggs on the old and leathery milkweed up here. Perhaps this female may not even make it to Mexico (or even to Florida, where we suspect some of these “coastal” Monarchs end up).

Or maybe LMM 226 won’t even make it off Monhegan Island this fall. 

I suspect Glenn would be just fine with that.

  1. I was delighted to see this post! I remember my visit to Monhegan, last fall, so fondly! Just as last year, I’ve seen lots of Monarchs at Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie, New York! Last year, they were still there in November!

  2. Susan Boyce says:

    Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to write and share them. Glenn was a very very dear friend of mine and I am so changed by his passing. I too find solace in nature, clouds, birds, bugs, flowers and of course in his beautiful music. I keep looking for his wonderful spirit, the joy, the thrills, the smiles, the songs, the silliness. I hear it in his music, I feel his presence when I see a lovely flower or a grand puffy cloud or a stunning luna moth making its way across the forest floor. Thank you for honoring him so beautifully.

    • Bryan says:

      Hi Susan, Thanks so much for your beautiful thoughts — and your recollections of Glenn. It’s been wonderful to hear from lots of folks, including friends back home in Vermont, who’ve been sharing these kind, vivid memories. When I find some time, I’ll add a few of them to the blog post. All my best, Bryan

  3. Jeannie Elias says:

    I didn’t know Glenn alas, but thanks to your words and tribute to his spirit, now I do, thank you.

  4. jenn says:

    someone stop cutting onions in my living room !

  5. Jeannie says:

    I knew Glenn a little, having toured rose gardens with him and sung his music with Down East Singers. Our December concert will include his “Heaven and Earth are Full of Thy Glory”, sung in his honor. This story is simply a “WOW”!

  6. Laurie Ross says:

    Thank you Bryan for this sweet tribute to Glenn. I have forwarded it to Faith.

  7. Jeffrey Allen says:

    Lovely story Bryan.

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