“An orange river of sunlight”: migration of the Monarchs

Was driving through the warm little town of Ojai California when a monarch butterfly flew helplessly in front of my windshield and then shot up past the little car and out into the open air with a single flap of his wings. Fly on!

Delightful sight. Made me wish for an instant to get out of the car and give chase. That passed, but today I come across an utterly amazing story about monarchs except that well…to call this a story gives it too little credit.

The next voice you hear will be a familiar one: Ari Shapiro of National Public Radio, a wonderfully familiar name in science reporting, and deservedly so. Yet no matter how solid his work, that's not what makes this one special.

In this one, Atlanta Public radio takes nature/science reporting/writing to a new level.

In fact, they raise the bar two or three times, by telling the mind-expanding story of the migration of the Monarch Butterly, smoothly blending radio journalism, the visual geography of Google Earth, delightful, almost Disney-esque nature/science graphics, and citizen science.

Willie Schubert and his colleagues are pursuing similar geojournalism ideas on on an even bigger scale at Climate Commons, I learned at a recent conference of environmental journalists, but what Shapiro et al manage in the below is to tell an old story — the migration of the Monarch — in a complete new way.

It's jaw-dropping.

It's one flaw, as a commentator mentioned, is that it ignores the Western Monarch butterfly, which winters along the Southern California coast, and migrates northward along the West Coast far into Canada.

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