Monarch Butterflies of Ellwood Mesa

Monarch butterflies travel hundreds of miles each fall to bask in the warmth of secluded eucalyptus, Monterey pine and coast live oak groves along the central California coast. They cluster in the hundreds and even thousands, appearing as a mass extension of the trees upon which they rest.

At Ellwood Mesa, a city-owned coastal preserve just north of Santa Barbara, biologists count more than 6,000 monarch butterflies on a warm winter’s morning in early December.

“Hopefully, more are coming,” says Charis van der Heide, volunteer with the Xerces Society, who has counted monarchs at this site and others along the central California coast for about five years. “The peak time for overwintering Monarchs butterflies in this area is January. It seems the peak time can shift due to weather and temperature each year.”

Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, Ventura, CA

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