Butterflies at Ellwood in Goleta

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:

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


Written by sbrobert

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