Monarch butterfly sighting

I tend to think of butterflies as delicate, no doubt because they are small and can fly with such lightness and grace.  The Monarch is quite a big and dramatic butterfly, and an amazing traveller.  Native to North America, Monarchs got to New Zealand and established themselves here in the 1800's.  It's a long way!

They are apparently the most recognised butterfly in New Zealand.  There is even a Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust which researches and educates about all butterflies here, not just the Monarch.  Like most butterflies, Monarchs don't like the cold.  In North America they migrate, flying up to thousands of kilometres to get to southern California and Mexico to overwinter together in huge groups.  When the weather gets cooler here they fly up north (it's the southern hemisphere) to the warmth (at least 10 degrees C) and swarm in sheltered sites, often in coastal areas.  Generally they are inactive but they can become active on warm days in the winter, feeding on nectar, sunning themselves and flying around.  What a pleasant way to spend winter!  I know that many people grow swan plants in order to watch the voracious stripey caterpillars, the rather gorgeous gold studded green chrysalides, and the emerging butterflies. 

I was passing a garden when I saw this Monarch by chance - feeding on the blue echium flowers (Echium candicans) with their bright pink stamens.  Having my camera close to hand most of the time means I can "capture" such happy chance sightings - I hope that you enjoy them too.