Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Monarch Butterfly Front Has Arrived!

There are no monarchs in this photo, which I took at 2:30 pm today, but at 11:00 am as I walked in the door here at Mr. K's Used Books, I saw three just gliding and flitting by maybe 15 feet off the ground right in front of the building.  In the next 25 minutes, as I stepped outside now and then waiting for my book deal appointment with the manager, I counted another dozen.  In total, just going about my business today, I counted 27 in four different locations, including when I was blowing leaves off the roof of our house. 

So far, in addition to Mr. K's,  the monarch book is for sale at:

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville
The Compleat Naturalist (in Biltmore Village.)
BB Barnes Nursery and Landscaping
Town Hardware in Black Mountain
The Cradle of Forestry (near Brevard)
The North Carolina Arboretum gift shop

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The NC Arboretum's Monarch Day

We didn't sell many books at the NC Arboretum's Monarch Day today, but we had a good time talking with people. We did give away a lot of garnets to children. I made the flower arrangement with zinnias and goldenrod, with three chrysalises hanging a beech branch.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mountain Xpress Features My Photo

My cover photo was featured in the Mountain Xpress Community Calendar section, the paper edition, this week as part of an announcement of the arboretum's Monarch Day, which is this Saturday.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cradle of Forestry

Here’s my book on display at the Cradle of Forestry’s gift shop yesterday. We attended their excellent “Bring Back the Monarchs” program, lead by Joyce Pearsall.  On the way to the event we stopped at the Mills River Valley Overlook and met Jerry and Liz Fishman who were bird watching there.  Later they e-mailed me an “unofficial” hawk watch count for the day: Broad-winged Hawks, 92 (70 streaming out of a single kettle), Falcon, 1 (not a positive ID but possible Merlin).  Turkey Vulture, 3.

After the monarch event we returned home via the parkway, but stopping on the way at mile 409-410 to hike to and climb the fire tower, where we met a 14 year-old young man on top.  He was there alone—some of his family members had dropped him off. He had been whistling a simple three-note tune through his hands sounding much like an ocarina. He said he had been born in Mexico. We enjoyed the cool breeze and fantastic views for a while, then we left the tower and the boy sitting on top of one of the other buildings on the ridge.  At the bottom of the trail his mother drove up and I gave her a copy of my book for him. We pulled out to leave and his sister approached to ask for my autograph, which he had requested by phone.  I told her about the monarchs overwintering in Mexico.  I was thinking the boy needed some encouragement, even if just a little book from a stranger, a book about something he might take an interest in.  (The fire tower hike is mentioned in the book.)  Or maybe he might find direction in life as a scientist or naturalist.    

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Praise for the Monarch Guide

"Just wanted to touch base with you and let you know that we received your books today. I am very happy to have them on hand for the Butterfly event this weekend. The book is very nice with great photography and a super price point for our visitors."

-The Director of Interpretive Sales at the Cradle of Forestry in America in an e-mail today.


"I don't know if I told you, but I think your book is wonderful! I love your writing style, as if we were sitting and having a conversation. There is wit and humor and great information... I am actually reading it [a pdf file] again and I cannot wait to have a copy in my hands."

-A Blue Ridge Parkway Interpretive Ranger at the Moses Cone Memorial Park.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Clouds Fall to Earth

Sunset from Craggy Gardens Visitor Center, BRP.  9/10/17
Chapter 1.
Hunting Day

Rho Aquilae encounters earthbound people for the first time. 

I began writing Clouds Fall to Earth in 2011 and worked on it off and on for two years, roughing out seven of the planned twelve chapters. I also created much of the world in some detail, including history, economics, technology, and culture. It actually connects with my short story "Shoreless Ocean of Eternity", which you can find in my when earth whispers collection. "Shoreless", then, is a prequel. Clouds Fall has been "on the shelf", untouched, since 2013, but always in the back of my mind.  This is chapter one.  It's not perfected yet, but I think it might be of interest.  I'd rather have something of the book out for people to read than for it to lay buried in my computer.  And this might motivate me to finally finish writing it and get it published.

Read the chapter HERE.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

News Release


New Book Ready for the Monarch Butterfly Migration

“A favorite scenic road of the eastern United States, endless gorgeous views, and one of the most amazing migratory creatures in the world—all make for an ideal fall day outdoors. This guide will help you make the most of your day, with tips on when and where to look, facts and photos of the monarch life cycle, information about learning more, and practical ideas on how you can help the monarch butterfly population grow.”

So says the back cover of the newly released book, A Pictorial Guide to the Monarch Butterfly Migration over the Southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway by local hobby beekeeper and entomologist, Mickey Hunt.

This small book—a mere 37 pages—is timely because the monarch’s southward migration to Mexico is poised to begin, peaking in the Balsam Range south of Asheville toward the end of September. Biologists and amateur monarch watchers all over the country are wondering if the numbers of the butterflies overwintering in Mexico’s Trans-Volcanic Mountains this coming season will be larger or smaller than last winter.

“The known high point of the total monarch population in about a dozen sites in Mexico was the winter of 1996-1997,” said Hunt. “The butterflies covered 18.19 hectares. It’s been down and up since then, but with a downward trend toward the lowest point in the winter of 2013-2014 at .67 hectares. That’s a huge decline, and it alarmed a lot of people.”

One hectare is 2.47 acres. According to the World Wildlife Fund, whose volunteers do the estimating in the mountainous monarch wintering areas, the hectares occupied by the butterflies increased to 4.01 from that lowest point and then dropped to 2.91 last winter.

“But everyone who is paying attention is optimistic,” said Hunt. “We believe our conservation efforts are making a difference. I’ve seen monarch larvae in my milkweed garden all summer long and I’ve raised some of them in my bay window. It’s been a joy seeing the released males patrolling for girlfriends to create another generation.”

Hunt’s monarch migration guide contains dozens of his often close-up photographs of the varied stages of the monarch life cycle, a bar graph showing the monarch population changes, and a migration route map, as well as information about where to buy milkweed seeds and plants, the exclusive food for monarch larvae in North America. There is a section on where to learn more, including some of the best organizations that focus on education and conservation, and monarch educational events in western North Carolina.

One of those events is the Cradle of Forestry’s “Bring Back the Monarchs” program on Sunday, September 17.  Another is the North Carolina Arboretum’s annual Monarch Day, to be held this year on Saturday, September 23.

“I’ve been invited to be a part of the Monarch Day,” said Hunt. “No one really needs this little book, but it might be helpful in giving the wider ecological context. It’s great for younger students. In a nutshell, I’ll just tell people at the arboretum to drive up to Cherry Cove View or the Caney Fork Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway as quick as they can. Watching the migrating monarchs is an amazing aesthetic experience. It’s a window to a natural, global force expressed by a small and beautiful creature. It’s possible to understand an issue in the abstract, but actually seeing the monarchs gliding overhead, or clustering on goldenrod and aster is what shows you their value.”

A Pictorial Guide to the Monarch Butterfly Migration over the Southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway is available now on and Create Space, and will soon be in some of the independent bookstores and garden centers in the Asheville area.

Mickey Hunt has been exploring along the southern Blue Ridge Parkway with his family for 30+ years. He lives in east Asheville. His book website is and his blog,

Contact Hunt:

Image © Mickey Hunt

[Note: High quality photos of monarchs on the BRP are available to accompany this story.]

[For wholesale orders, a direct link to the book’s Create Space page:]

Friday, September 1, 2017

"A Pictorial Guide to the Monarch Butterfly Migration over the Southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway" is REALLY ALMOST HERE!

click to enlarge
I bet you've never seen a monarch butterfly larva like this.  Nor has anyone else. It's a caterpillar of the Io Moth (Automeris io) that I found munching away yesterday in my corn patch.  Like the saddleback larvae, this guy bears toxic, painful, stinging spikes. He's about 2.5 inches long.  

The monarch book is still "in production", meaning that I had a three day delay in completion this week due to a strange "corruption" in one of my photographs. It took that long to get a specific diagnosis. I fixed the problem on Wednesday, 8-30, and had printed proofs by this afternoon, a Friday.  But the proofs weren't perfect.  In fact I had forgotten to submit the updated file of the cover, and as always I found some things in the interior that needed fixing or improving.  The short of it is, I missed my self-imposed September 1 publishing deadline.  It takes 24 hours for the printer to review the new files. Now I have to decide if I take a chance and publish tomorrow without having had eyes on a real final, final book.  It might be just fine.  Otherwise it will take another two or three days to get another proof in hand.  I have press releases ready.  A few vendors may be ready to order.  For now I'll get the book's web page set up at  The migration is still a week or two away from North Carolina, so the book won't be late.  The peak should be here the last week of September, so we are still in good shape.

Great news: A U.S. Park Service Interpretive Ranger has offered to help me at my book table at the NC Arboretum's Monarch Day on Saturday, September 23, if she is free that day.  That will be fun.  She's been doing educational presentations on the monarch for about two years now.

Here's a profile our handsome fellow: