I have written a lot of stories this year featuring parks within the Geauga Park District, all of which can be found at this link along with all of my other stories. As it states in my author profile, I have recently become an official Geauga Park District volunteer. I have photographed several events for them, including a Monarch tagging event at Frohring Meadows, which I am going to tell you about today.
My day started at Swine Creek Reservation taking pictures at the Youth Fishing event with Judge Grendell. Read about that event here .
Then, I made my way over to Frohring Meadows to photograph one of my favorite events of the summer. I personally have raised hundreds of Monarch butterflies over the past eight years. I started doing it with the children that I babysat for. It was a great learning experience for them.
I pulled in shortly after the event started. I was glad to see the parking lot was almost full. Everyone was gathered under the shelter listening to Geauga Park District Naturalist Dottie talking about the beautiful butterflies and other insects that they would be looking for that day.
Before I get into the event details, I should tell you a little bit about the Monarch population this year. I can almost guarantee that you have not seen very many Monarchs this year. Weather played a big part in that as well as habitat destruction. Monarchs migrate thousands of miles to Mexico every year in the fall. They overwinter in the forests high in the mountains. Illegal logging in the Mexican forests is being blamed for the shrinking acreage. Climate change is also thought to be contributing to the butterfly population crash; it is causing the disappearance of milkweed, the only plant on which monarchs lay their eggs and on which their caterpillars feed. The increased use of pesticides on roadsides and farms over the years is most prominently being blamed for the loss of milkweed. More information can be found here.
About the park
Frohring Meadows is a very popular place to see Monarchs this time of the year. This 298-acre park consists of a 100-acre prairie full of flowers, such as Coneflower, Blazing Star, New England Aster, and Mountain Mint, and some warm season tall grass species. There is also a low-lying wet sedge meadow habitat that is frequented by migratory shorebirds, aquatic invertebrates, dragonflies, and damselflies. This park also features a diverse woodland of red and sugar maples, beech, black cherry, tulip, red oak, ash, and hickory trees. Every spring, several species of amphibians and spotted salamanders return to the vernal pools here to lay their eggs. So, Frohring Meadows is pretty much a photographer’s paradise!
In 1996, Paul Frohring, a pioneer in the development of nutritional and medical supplements, donated the land that surrounded his Bainbridge farmhouse to Geauga Park District. Much of the property was once farmland; soybeans, oats, corn, and wheat were harvested here. In 1999, Geauga Park District entered into a 50-year lease with Chagrin Falls for 122 acres adjacent to the Frohring property.*
This park is very popular for walkers, dog walkers, and even bicyclists. The 2.8 mile Big Bluestem Trail loops around the property, taking visitors through the woods and the meadow. This trail is also used for cross country skiing. The fully accessible Dragonfly Trail circles the wetland area of the prairie. In the midst of the meadow is the Katydid Shelter that will seat up to 50 people, restrooms, and a fenced in butterfly garden. Download a park map and brochure HERE.
Back to the event
I walked into the shelter, introduced myself to the other volunteers, and watched and listened to Dottie’s animated explanation of how to net a butterfly. She also had a Monarch butterfly that they had caught and tagged. Her helper, Angela, carefully held the butterfly and walked around showing it to everyone. Dottie asked all of the kids to come outside and make a circle with everyone putting their hands in the middle making a sort of launching pad for this Monarch to be released and take flight. Everyone wished the Monarch a safe journey to Mexico and we all watched as it got its bearings right and headed south.
Dottie called everyone back into the shelter, passed out nets to all the kids, and sent everyone out in the prairie. She told them that they could catch whatever they wanted to, and she would put all of the insects and butterflies on display in containers for the next few hours. At 3:30, there would be a big insect release and we would return everything back to the prairie.
I followed the Dragonfly Trail for a bit taking lots of pictures along the way of flowers, insects, and visitors on the hunt for the illusive Monarch butterfly. It was actually quite entertaining just watching all of the nets flying around in the tall grass and hearing the kids shouting, “I got one!” I came across a family on the Bluestem trail. It was a Mom, Dad, and three kids from Reminderville. They were actually just there looking for Monarchs on their own. They did not even know about the event that day. They raise Monarchs at home. I talked with them for at least 20 minutes about the Monarchs, the Geauga Park District’s programs, Portage Park programs, GeaugaNews.com, and PortageNews.net. Two of the kids were really enjoying the park. The littlest guy was sleeping in the stroller. What a great family!
On the hunt for something rare
My camera battery eventually died. So, I decided to get myself a net and see if I had any luck finding any rare bugs. Walking along the edge and through the meadow, it was like you were in a sea of grasshoppers. Dottie gave us all a little tip: walking along the path, we would find insects, but walking through the middle of the meadow, we would find MORE insects. I took her advice and made my own path winding through the goldenrod.
When I emerged back onto the trail, I was covered in those sticky little briars, as were most of the people that were out insect hunting. I caught a cabbage white butterfly, which I took up to Dottie to put in the butterfly enclosure. I ventured all the way up to the front corner of the park, where I had seen a Monarch when I first pulled into the park.
By this time, the sun had warmed everything up a bit. The sky was full of clouds and there was a light breeze. I absolutely love to get lost on purpose. Wandering through the meadow by myself with no one else in sight was pretty awesome. With the busy summer I have had, it had been awhile since I had gone hiking. It was nice to just be outside in nature enjoying the sights and sounds. Two constant sounds were the buzzing of the bees and chirping of the crickets. But, occasionally I would hear a dragonfly zipping by or birds chirping along the wood line.
Suddenly, a large flying insect caught my attention. It was bouncing from flower to flower, gathering nectar. I did as Dottie demonstrated earlier and tried to slowly sneak up on it. From far away, it almost looked to me like a hummingbird moth, but as I got closer, I could tell it was some sort of stinging insect. 3….2….1….swoosh! I swung my net through the air, and turned the handle, trapping whatever I had caught inside the net. I GOT IT!!! This thing was huge!
I did not want to grab the net and close it with my hand in case it was able to sting me while trying to escape. So, I wrapped the net around the frame and started my trek back to the Katydid Shelter. Forget the trails, I am heading straight through whatever terrain was between me and Dottie. I wanted to find out what I had captured. About halfway back, of course, a Monarch floats into site. I am torn. Do I release this cool stinging critter and try to catch the Monarch, or do I just keep going? The butterfly made the choice for me by flying out of my reach. I got to the wetland area of the meadow and had to watch where I was walking more closely. I saw this large insect fly past me. OH NO! Did my bug escape? I slowly unwrapped my net and sure enough, it was gone. Sneaky little critter!
So, I went back to the closest trail since everything ahead of me was too wet to venture into wearing only my hiking boots. I continued on the Bluestem Trail back toward the power lines. I noticed high atop one of the towers, three turkey vultures sunning themselves.
Results for the day
Since it was almost time for the big insect release, I went back to the shelter. I helped Dottie and the other volunteers release all of the creatures that were collected that day; lots of grasshoppers, several types of butterflies, a praying mantis, a few stinging insects, ladybugs, and a wooly bear. One visitor even told us that he flushed a coyote out while he was walking through the meadow. The final count for tagged Monarchs that day was 18, and visitors to the program were more than 125 people. We packed up all of the program materials and put them into the van. What a successful event for the Monarchs and Geauga Park District.
If you have never been to Frohring Meadows, it is definitely a great place to take a stroll. Check it out and let me know what you think. If you would like more information on raising Monarchs, go to MonarchWatch.org or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you see any Monarchs this year?
If you want to help the Monarchs,
16780 Savage Road
Chagrin Falls, OH 44023
*The online home for Frohring Meadows, from which information for this article was obtained, can be found HERE.
Have you ever been to Frohring Meadows? What do you like about this park? Leave us comments below.