Funk, a student at Seashore Middle School at Padre Island was one of 329 students and numerous school districts at the eighth annual Fennessey Ranch Monarch Madness day event on Thursday, Oct. 17.
Brien O’Connor Dunn is owner of the Fennessey Ranch and resides in Bayside.
The event primarily is for fifth- and sixth-graders, but other middle school grades are involved, as well.
Funk didn’t catch a monarch, but she managed to net a small dragonfly, and that was just fine with her.
Meanwhile, volunteer Hillary Green was helping Shawn Gonlugur, another Seashore Middle School student, get a grasshopper out if his net.
“He keeps squirming down,” Gonlugur said.
“We’ll squeeze him up,” Green said.
With a little work, the grasshopper ended up in the insect container Gonlugur was equipped with.
Seashore student Derik Boles managed to net a butterfly – not a monarch – but one that looked like a queen butterfly.
Dunn and the Fennessey Ranch, located between Bayside and Refugio, offers the event to area South Texas schools every year. Students learn about migratory habits of animals, habitat, identification of different types of butterflies and much more during the four-and-a-half hour visit to the ranch.
Ranch General Manager Sally Crofutt said Monarch Madness is designed to be a hands-on educational experience in which students learn about conservation, migration, and much more while having fun.
This year, students wore color-coded T-shirts so they could go through the 13 educational stations in an organized manner. The more than 320 T-shirts were provided by Nikon.
Other sponsors include the University of Houston, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and the Fennessey Ranch among others.
Crofutt said a partner is the National Aransas Wildlife Refuge, and staff from the Refuge volunteered at the event.
“We’re getting that expertise in the sciences and level of passion. AWR showed up the day after they reopened,” Crofutt said.
Finally, Crofutt said the Refugio County Commissioners Court helped out immensely by agreeing to manage a Coastal Impact Assistance Program to help fund the educational event.
The CIAP grant paid for the entire event. CIAP grants come from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Funding for next year’s event is up in the air.
“I don’t know where we will get it next year, but we’ll figure it out,” Crofutt said.
Here are the various stations set up for schools to visit during the event:
Station No. 1 was about the monarch butterfly and its life cycle. The instructor was Amanda Rocha from the Victoria Zoo.
Station No. 2 was “Come Fly With the Texas State Aquarium” and provided information on bird migration. Debbie Edwards was the instructor.
Station No. 3 was about macro photography; how to take photos of bugs. Professional wildlife photographers Todd and Nancy Steele were the instructors.
Station No. 4 was on how to do “Field Sketching.” Teaching and helping at the station were Sue Ellen Brown, Diane Stevens and Ana Claire Brown .
Station No. 5 involved a habitat hike and was instructed by Carolyn Rose of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.
Station No. 6 was about migration and life cycles of frogs. The instructor was Jessica Gould from the Victoria Zoo.
Station No. 7 was about butterfly identification and was instructed by Linda May and Mary Habeeb, with the help of the Coastal Bend Wildlife Photo Contest.
Station No. 8 was a wetlands information trailer and was instructed by Jay Tarkington of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Station No. 9 was a board walk.
Station No. 10 had touch tanks with instructor Sara Pellateri of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.
Station No. 11 was the bug hunt with instructors Hillary Green and Tommy Thompson.
Station No. 12 was about migratory birds, particularly the whooping crane. The instructors were Dr. Liz Smith of the International Crane Foundation, Luz Lum and Joe and Margaret Babb.
Finally, Station No. 13 was the Fennessey Ranch Hay Ride.
Crofutt took some of the rides with students.
“They were excited. They were having a ball,” Crofutt said.
During the hay ride, Crofutt guided the students by a spectacular sight.
“There was this gigantic bee hive that we all saw in the wild,” she said.