A Very Butterfly Day

George and I were jonesing for a monarch butterfly fix. This winter’s Big Storm uprooted the largest milkweed plant in our garden, and no monarchs have visited the smaller ones. Our butterfly-spotting treks to Albany Hill and Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, the over-wintering spots closest to us, were disappointing. We saw a few fluttering around Albany Hill, but nothing like past years’ large clusters. One paused on a branch at the top of the Hill long enough for me to photograph it.Monarch Butterfly at Albany Hill

And that’s why we both woke up yesterday morning with one thought: time to head for Ardenwood Historic Farm Park. Monarchs over-winter in Ardenwood’s eucalyptus grove from December to mid-February, and we’d heard through the butterfly grapevine (aka Facebook) that the numbers were good this year.

Ardenwood’s rangers are well-informed and eager to educate visitors about monarchs, from showing the butterfly’s life cycle to explaining the importance of growing milkweed and flowers, and not using pesticides. George quickly spotted a caterpillar munching on a milkweed leaf (Asclepias physocarpa) in their garden.

Monarch caterpillar

Then the ranger pointed out a chrysalis hidden under another leaf. An exciting first for us; we’ve seen so many monarch chrysalises in our butterfly “nursery”, but have never seen one in the wild!

Monarch chrysalisAnd finally! Hundreds of gorgeous orange monarchs fluttered above us in the bright blue sky.

Monarch butterflies

George and I, with the other awed visitors, lay on our backs to watch the dance.

Monarch butterflies

Two flew near a red-tailed hawk making lazy circles.

Monarch and hawk

As the sun slanted lower, the butterflies began to light on the eucalyptus branches.

Monarch  butterflies at Ardenwood

We reluctantly left the monarchs to speed through the rest of the Park before it closed (stay tuned for further adventures). Want to see more of my monarch butterfly blog posts? Click these links:

Monarch Butterfly Mating Dance

More Monarch Butterflies

A Monarch Butterfly Visits the Garden

Monarch Butterfly Emerges

Monarch Caterpillar to Chrysalis

First Monarch Caterpillar Emerges

Monarch Eggs in the Garden!

Monarch in the Garden

Butterflies & Barbie at the Albany Library

 

Advertisements

Tilden Botanic Garden

What to do for George’s birthday? We hadn’t taken a walk through the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park for a while, so we headed up there after birthday brunch. The Garden is amazing, ten acres of native plants, including many rare and endangered. We were welcomed by two red-tailed hawks, circling high above.

Red-tailed hawksOne dipped a bit lower, riding the warm air.
Red-tailed hawk

A dragonfly zipped by and rested on a branch for a moment.

Dragonfly

There have been some additions and changes to the Garden since we last visited. Or maybe we never noticed this stand of Darlingtonia californica, or California Pitcher Plant, a carnivorous plant.

Darlingtonia

The California Pipevine, or Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia californica) is resplendent in several places through the Garden. And although we didn’t see any mature Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, we saw several caterpillars. This one had just shed its skin.

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillar

This is a Dutchman’s Pipe seed pod.

Pipevine seedpod

On to an amazing display of Humboldt’s Lily. There were several towering up to about 6 feet high, just covered with flowers.

Humboldt lilies

A single Humboldt’s Lily flower.

Humboldt lily

The honeybees and bumblebees were out in full force. Here’s a honeybee, with a pollen pack on its leg, busy feeding from a flower on a flannelbush shrub.

Flannel bush flower with beeI couldn’t believe how many bees were on the many flowers of a Matilija Poppy plant. This one flower had at least ten bees coming and going for the half hour we sat and watched, amazed.

Matilija poppy

A wonderful birthday walk in the Garden, and now … a nap.

George restingHave you been to the Tilden Botanic Garden? Is there a Botanic Garden in your city? What’s your favorite plant or animal there?