By Joseph Colbert, CWB®, Wildlife Biologist
Jekyll Island Authority Conservation Department
Fall is the time of year that many of us look forward to watching some of our favorite seasonal wildlife species passing through Jekyll as they are moving from one region to another. This year look for migrating butterflies in addition to migratory birds featured overhead as you walk into the lobby of our newly renovated Mosaic Museum.
Monarchs, gulf fritillary’s, and cloudless sulfurs are three species commonly seen using the Atlantic Coastal Flyway to complete their fall migrations. Locals and residents have grown accustomed to seeing them glide down Jekyll’s beaches in the fall, but when it comes to understanding how many, when they fly, and what habitats are most important, information is scarce. In fact, no studies have been conducted on the Georgia coast to answer these questions.
Considering Georgia has a more undeveloped coastline than neighboring states, Jekyll Island’s support of regional butterfly migration could be critical. As such, in 2017 BAFA (Butterflies of the Atlantic Flyway Alliance) was initiated along with several local conservation-based partner agencies along the Georgia coast. Partner agencies include Jekyll Island, St Catherine’s Island, Little Saint Simons Island, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others. Several goals of the partner agencies are to, for the first time, document migration rates, gather information necessary to estimate population sizes, and develop a migratory butterfly management plan for the Georgia coast. It is no surprise that these charming, airborne creatures would choose such an attractive and natural stretch of coastline in Georgia as a part of their migratory highway system to make their journey. We expect to reveal some of our preliminary findings to the public as we continue to collect data with our partners, so stay tuned!