Monarchs and other Critters at Tower Grove Park (Glorious to Gruesome)

A tagged monarch in a field of tickseed sunflowers at Tower Grove Park this morning.

Last year at this time I made some glorious images of monarchs in the field of tickseed sunflowers next to the Gaddy Bird Garden at Tower Grove Park. I resolved to return again this year to check out the migrating monarchs. We were a little early a few weeks ago when my friend Bill and I checked out the site but we knew we were getting close to showtime. Yesterday, my friends Brenda and Barb, texted me to let me know that the field was full of monarchs again and that they had even observed one that was tagged. Looking forward to the action, Bill and I headed over to the park this morning.

We arrived a little after sunrise and the monarchs were already busy at the sunflowers. It didn’t take long for Bill to yell “tag” and I rushed over to make the featured image. After thinking about it for a while, and noticing a lot of tracks through the sunflower field, we assumed that some monarchs must have been tagged right in the park in the last few days or weeks. We’ll check the number anyways to find out the origin of the tag but I suspect it was right where I made the featured image.

A close-up of the monarch’s tag.

For those of you who haven’t seen a monarch tag, I’ve attached the image above for a close look. If you would like to learn more about the purpose of tagging monarchs to monitor their movements, check out the monarch watch website Here.

Later as I continued scouting the periphery of the field for nice monarch scenes I heard Bill say, “I’ve got something gruesome over here.” I pulled my tripod up to my shoulder and rushed over to his location where he was observing a praying mantis that had just attacked a monarch and was feeding on its abdomen. The doomed monarch continued to struggle for several minutes, even though it was missing much of its body. Observing the swollen abdomen of the hungry mantid, Bill said, “This definitely wasn’t its first rodeo with monarchs.” Later I was advised by one of my insect contacts that the hungry mantid was the common native Carolina mantis.

A praying mantis feasts on the abdomen of a doomed monarch at Tower Grove Park.

After the praying mantis encounter, Bill found a beautiful garden spider among the flowers. It made me think about all of the crazy critters among the flowers and how many of them might be crawling around on the back of my shirt — yikes! If you look closely, it appears to be releasing silk, but I’m not sure about that.

A spectacular garden spider among the sunflowers at Tower Grove Park.

After our adventure at Tower Grove Park, Bill and I decided we had had an excellent morning, deserving of a steak and egg breakfast at Lewis Cafe in St. Clair, Missouri. As always, the ribeye was thick and juicy and the hash browns were crispy. Life is good!

Thanks for looking,


Don’t forget that tickets will be going on sale soon (End of September) for our celebration in photographs of Missouri Birds at the Bryan Haynes Gallery in Washington, Missouri on Saturday evening, October 13. Fellow bird nerds will not want to miss this one. I’ll let you know here and on Facebook as soon as the announcement comes out on Bryan’s website:

Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com


America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.


6 comments on “Monarchs and other Critters at Tower Grove Park (Glorious to Gruesome)”

  1. As always, great pics, great captures and a great story. Can’t wait to come to your presenration.

  2. Fantastic pictures and thanks for information about tags. Monarchs are amazing butterflies.

  3. JUST when I believed that I had taken the BEST picture of the beautiful orb weaver spider on flowers…….
    YOU (of course :> ) come up with THIS AMAZING SHOT !!!!! Seriously, I have looked high and low. You are clearly the BEST, always!! :)))))))))))

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