Butterflies at Ellwood in Goleta

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Butterflies at Ellwood in Goleta
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By Robert Bernstein

I have been visiting the monarch butterflies at Ellwood Eucalyptus Grove in Goleta since the 1980s. In 1989 I participated in tagging butterflies there. As far as I know almost no tagged butterflies were ever recovered. I have watched the numbers decline fairly steadily in the decades since. Last year there were almost none.

On Christmas Day we walked to the main grove from our home. We were pleased to see quite a few butterflies that day. Here are my photos.

Just before getting to the grove we observed this interesting erosion pattern:

There were a few clusters of butterflies at the Ellwood Main Grove like this one:

There we met a butterfly docent Craig Wakamiya who took us to a "secret" grove about 900 feet to the East. He called it the East Grove. This is Craig:
It was a somewhat muddy walk that day and I was glad I was wearing boots. We indeed saw several clusters like the ones at the main grove, as well as some more loosely grouped on the leaves like this:

This somewhat tattered monarch perched on a crushed can that someone stuck into a log:

This local woman Lisa also joined Craig's "secret" tour and was rewarded with a monarch perching on her hand:

On January 13 we ventured back over there with friends Shannon and Shelley. We all knew each other from our mutual work in Nicaragua in the 1980s when Reagan was doing his best to destroy that country. Shannon still lives in Nicaragua, but was back visiting here. Here are my photos from that day.

We were planning to go to the Main Grove first, but before we got there, a helpful mother with her child directed us to the East Grove. Indeed, there were still some good clusters there like this one:
And this one:
We then headed to the Main Grove. On our way we encountered a rope swing and Shannon and I each took a brief swing there!

Over at the Main Grove at the official viewing area we found this small but magnificent cluster:

We then walked out to the bluffs for a group photo:

My wife Merlie found a newly dead crab on the beach below and Shannon posed with it:

As we walked back on the Ellwood Mesa we saw this hawk take off from a nearby tree:

We then walked back to our home via the UCSB North Campus Open Space and saw these herons posed near the trail:

On Saturday January 29 I went back to both groves again. Now there are no butterflies at all in the Main Grove. But there were more butterflies than ever at the East Grove.

Here is a Google Earth view of the Ellwood Main Grove:
https://earth.google.com/earth/d/1BKb-xVfg2_nVo23P88S74GOPCK1k_PT2?usp=sharing

In this view, East is straight down. And the "secret" East Grove is about 270 meters or 900 feet East of the Main Grove.

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Lucky 777 Feb 02, 2022 11:20 AM
Butterflies at Ellwood in Goleta

If you wear orange clothing the butterflies are more likely to land on you. And best to go on a warm day when they let go of their clustering spots and flutter about. Males have a spot on their main wings, and you will often find their bodies in the leaf litter. After attempting sex in mid-air they sometimes break in half and flutter down to lie dead on the ground. I often go to the grove on Valentine's Day to meditate on the consequences of brief romance.

two abbys Feb 02, 2022 11:37 AM
Butterflies at Ellwood in Goleta

Wow that's a gorgeous crab! I've never seen one like it but looks like a southern or globose kelp crab, Taliepus nuttalli?! Can anyone provide a firm ID?

SB_TAHOE Feb 03, 2022 11:27 AM
Butterflies at Ellwood in Goleta

Thank you for the photos and information Robert. Advice for those of you that are thinking of visiting and plan to park in the lot on Hollister across from Ellwood school: There have been several cars broken into there recently according to a NextDoor post. The suggestion is to take all personal items out of your car including the glove box and trunk, leave the glove box and console lid open, leave the car unlocked. Otherwise the thief breaks into your car causing potentially hundreds of dollars damage. When you leave the car unlocked and obviously empty the thief moves on. People reported that the thieves found their purses and wallets even ones hidden under seats and in trunks and went straight to Target and bought expensive gift cards.

condorhiker Feb 03, 2022 01:04 PM
Butterflies at Ellwood in Goleta

In the picture of the "herons", the gray bird is a Great Blue Heron and the white bird is a Great Egret.

sbrobert Feb 09, 2022 11:59 AM
Butterflies at Ellwood in Goleta

CONDORHIKER Thank you for the correct bird identifications. SB TAHOE Thank you for the warning. Very sad that this is the reward for doing the right thing and parking in the "official" parking lot.

LUCKY777 Thank you for the clothing tip. But Valentine's Day is a bit late to see them. They are already leaving now.

Thanks to all for the kind words!

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