Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monarch Butterflies

 Natural Bridges State Beach is world-renowned for its yearly migration of monarch butterflies. Visitors can see thousands during the butterflies' peak season. The best time to see monarchs in the park is usually from mid-October to late January. (Dates the butterflies arrive and leave can vary widely from year to year. Call ahead to find out if the monarchs have arrived in mid-October, and to make sure they are still in the grove in late January.)
 This beach, with its famous natural bridge, is an excellent place to view shore and ocean birds, migrating whales, and seals and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, tidepools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, crabs, sea anemones, and other colorful ocean life. Tide charts are available in the bookstore.
 The park also includes areas of coastal scrub meadows, with bright native wildflowers in the spring. Moore Creek flows down to the ocean through these meadows, forming a wetlands in the sand.
 These tiny creatures are getting ready for a migration that would leave stronger animals, and most humans, exhausted. Every fall, the Monarch butterfly begins a long journey. It will take some 1,800 miles (2,900 km) and four generations before their descendants return to where they started.
The first generation begins their migration in wintering locations along the California coast. There, they cluster in eucalyptus groves, mating in late January and leaving for spring migration by March.

The Monarchs lay their eggs inland on milkweed plants in the Sierra Nevada foothills and then die. The second generation hatches and flies across the mountains into Oregon, Nevada or Arizona. Third and fourth Monarch butterfly generations fan out even further and then return to the California to the place where their


great-great grandparents started.