It's one of Mother Nature's most mystifying magic acts, and it's happening right now across Michigan.
The fall migration of monarch butterflies is an annual event in which the brilliant fluttering insects travel thousands of miles south for the winter, following invisible "flyway" paths en route to their final destination, the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. In Michigan, these flyways often hug the Great Lakes shorelines, where wind and certain weather can cause the globetrottin' butterflies to hunker down together as they wait for the next beneficial breeze to carry them on their way.
And when the monarchs congregate like this -- roosting sometimes in the thousands, draping treetops in quilted cloaks of orange-and-black wings -- it is truly a spectacle to behold.
"It's an incredible sight to see thousands of butterflies in one location," said Micah Jordan, park supervisor at Tawas Point State Park in East Tawas, Mich., noting that this year has been particularly spectacular.
"There is an excessive number of butterflies this year," he said. "It's really beautiful."