04 February 2013

Ellwood Butterfly Preserve


Locate the trail head.

The monarch butterflies come each year and stay for a few months. The peak for this year has already happened and was not nearly so impressive as the one last year, but there are still quite a few hanging around in the blue gum eucalyptus grove. We went out to Ellwood to see the colony that stops there. There are a few entry points to the Ellwood Bluffs area and we started close to the butterfly preserve area. There are three signs near the beginning to inform about the butterflies and a well established trail leads from there to the grove where they flock. There are a few trees in bloom, but otherwise not so many flowers.

bee heavy with pollen and going for more
A hungry bee taking advantage of the flowering trees and getting heavy with pollen as it does.

We crossed a little wooden bridge over a stream bed that was soggy in places, then some planks over a bit more puddled water into the grove. At first, there are a few butterfly shapes easily spotted fluttering between the tree branches.

buterflies in flight
The dark shapes of butterflies against the sky are easily spotted when looking up at the edges of the eucalyptus grove.

Just a few tens of yards further into the grove, and looking up might reveal a bunch of particularly fat leaves hanging dead on one branch or a thing like a fluttering bee wasp nest on another. Looking more carefully, these are clumps of butterflies hanging together in the trees. We could see sunny spots where butterflies sat spaced in the sun as well as the big clumps that were often, but not always, in the shade. A volunteer is even on hand to answer questions and point out the larger clumps.

butterflies clumping togther in the afternoon sun
One of the sun lit clumps of monarch butterflies in the preserve's eucalyptus trees.

another potential clump
More butterflies high in the trees.

We walked around the little loops that pass through the preserve to check for more butterflies.

more clumping butterflies
A bigger clump of butterflies hanging in the shade in the trees.

another big chunk of butterflies
Even more butterflies.

butterflies in the trees
Another clump forming in the sun.

blooming eucalyptus
The eucalyptus is also in bloom.

more orange wings in the sun
A few more butterflies in the trees.

While on the bluffs, of course we had to go out onto them a little bit.

Ellwood Beach
Looking east over the beach from up on the Ellwood Bluffs.

mountains behind Goleta
Looking back at the mountains. A little left of center is the locality of my wanderings last week.

more of the bluffs
More of the Ellwood Bluffs.

Afterwards, we watched the butterflies for a little bit longer. At one point, one of the clumps burst apart and butterflies were suddenly flying very densely above.

butterflies having sex
Dirty pictures of butterflies!

even bigger clumps
It is getting later and cooler, so the clumps of butterflies are growing.

shattered butterfly clump
The sky recently filled with butterflies, but they quickly collect into other clumps or disperse.

After a while, we returned the way we'd come originally.

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 7 Feb 2013

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