Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Monarchs Are Back!

Monarch Butterfly Preserve in Goleta
a magical sight to see

Off Coronado Drive at the far end of Goleta near the Sandpiper Golf Course is the Ellwood Butterfly Preserve, where thousands of Monarch Butterflies cling together in an amazing mating ritual  in the grove of Eucalyptus Trees.  They come to visit from the Western US, from  November through February to seek our temperate climate.

 Traveling from South to North on Hwy 101 take the Glen Annie/Storke Road off-ramp towards the Ocean, turn right on Hollister Avenue and follow Hollister until you see the sign at the left.  You will be almost at the Sandpiper Golfcourse and the Bacara Destination Resort.  Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, bring a jacket or sweater.  It is a short hike to get to the actual preserve, the path is uneven and the large Eucalyptus Grove creates cool shade.

There is free parking and signs mark the observation trail at the Preserve.
The Preserve is owned and maintained by the Land Trust of Santa Barbara and supported by donations.

Apparently this year Santa Barbara County had the highest population of all sites with more than 27,000 butterflies per Gilbert Perleberg, caretaker of the Preserve. (Can you imagine counting the butterflies?)

(pictures and information from the Santa Barbara Newspress 2/12/2011)

Butterfies can be seen mating on the pathways as one walks to the preserve, so be cautioned to be observant and careful.

The best time to visit is around 3-4 pm.  The afternoon sun brings out the reds and oranges in the wings of the butterflies.  It is an amazing and magical sight to see. Local children often visit the Preserve with their schools, and of course the site draws many visitors each season. 

Our family has become so enamored by the Monarchs that we plant many species of plants which attract butterflies.  We have also planted the Milk-Weed plants all over our gardens so that the caterpillars come to eat.  A couple of caterpillars can devour an entire plant in a couple of days.  Milk Weed plants are available by seed or plant at local nurseries and re-seed themselves very fact prolifically if they like your garden.  Once you have an established food source for the Caterpillars you will have a garden of mature Monarchs dancing in your flowers.  Here are some pictures taken by our son, Jon of a Pupea and a Monarch taking nectar from a flower in our garden.

photos by Jon Reeves

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