Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I have to say that my camera chose a terrible time to break.  B's first Christmas.  Christmas in general, with all of its traditions and excitement.  And this trip to the coast to see the monarch butterflies.  At least we had a small, alternate camera to use, so all was not lost.

I've been wanting to see these little buggers for a long time now.  We made a trip last year, but they had already left.  Sad day. 

So when we had an unexpected few days of Aunt N because her flight home was cancelled, we checked the butterfly count and headed on over.

All those little dark dots in the sky are butterflies.

And those orange-ish things clustered on the branches?  Yep, those would be butterflies, too.  I think they said there were something like 25,000 in the grove.  Pretty cool.

Of course, I would really rather have seen them in 1990 when there was 230,000.  Can you imagine?  That would be a sight!

Unfortunately, those days may be over unless we somehow manage to counter the effects of urbanization.  Plant some milkweed already!!  Sheesh!

But the monarch butterflies are fairly amazing creatures.  Most of them live little more than a month or two.  Just enough time to eat a little, fly a little, and procreate.

But each year, during late summer or early fall, a special generation is born.  A generation of butterflies that live 6 to 8 months and who know, inexplicably, where exactly to fly to survive the winter.  All the butterflies that are born in the western US fly to the same spots along the west coast.  All the rest go to Mexico.  And since I couldn't be paid enough to travel to Mexico these days, I was happy to stick to the west coast.

Someday, I hope I learn how these butterflies know where to fly.  And how that 5th generation is able to live longer.  And while we're at it, how do they manage to eat toxic milkweed, but just pump the poison into their wings so it makes predators spit them out?  And how do they fly thousands of miles on those delicate wings?

Seriously amazing creatures.  I think I left the grove with many more questions than I had when I got there.  Just what I need, another thing to look up.

True to our recent performances, we forgot something we needed on this trip.  A stroller.  Or a sling.  Or a baby pack of any kind.  So since baby B was entirely too LAZY to walk, she wore our arms out as we carried her.  I hope she returns the favor one day.

None of the kids were very impressed with the butterflies.  Maybe because they were flying and hanging out way up high in the trees.  But they had fun finding trampled flowers and acorn tops that looked like birthday cakes.

And J found a chance to show off his strength by bulldozing his aunt and sister . . . bulldozing them backwards, along the rail.  To each his own.

But N enjoyed the trip, despite the hours of being crammed in a van full of kids.

And I was happy to get the chance to see the butterflies. I just wish that my camera wasn't broken and that I had a good telephoto lens.  Oh well, maybe next time.

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