Sunday, June 27, 2010

monarch ~ 06/27/10 ~ Rec Trail

monarch butterfly
Danaus plexippus
My hometown of Pacific Grove is somewhat known for its overwintering sites of the monarch butterfly. In fact, there's a registered something somewhere that says PG is "Butterfly Town, U.S.A.", in addition to "America's Last Hometown" and "America's Most Romantic Town".  I think our local chamber of commerce went into overdrive with these "known as" slogans.  And get this, there's a city ordinance on the books that'll fine you $1000 if you're caught molesting a monarch.  I'm not joking.  As I've stated before there are at least 300 known monarch overwintering sites all along the Central Coast of CA, so PG is hardly unique.

As evidenced with my picture above, monarchs are here during the summer months, too. An older friend Pat Antonio (doing well in her 90's) says she remembers there being more monarchs here year-round when the Southern Pacific Railroad still operated and milkweed grew wild along the tracks.  She lives within view of the old railroad station.  The former track path has since been converted into the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail.  She claims that since the City started maintaining the trail and removing milkweed, she noticed a dramatic decrease in summer populations of monarchs.

ps 09/18/14 - Pat passed away last year March.  I was sad to hear of it, but she lived an amazingly adventurous life.  She gave me Powell and Hogue's California Insects when I first moved back to CA.  I had Jerry sign it, and I treasure it.  Thank you, Pat, for your stories and encouragement.

From the time I initially wrote this post in 2010, I asked another friend Bee about Pat's report of milkweed along the railroad tracks here in town.  While Bee was a student up at Stanford studying plants, she would often ride the train home.  However, she didn't live here in town and would be picked up for the short ride down to the Highlands.  She claims there never was any milkweed.  She's also 15 years younger than Pat, so it could be a timing thing if the City had already started weeding.  Then, Vern Yadon, our local botanist of piperia-naming fame, told me he doesn't believe milkweed can even grow on the Peninsula because of the climate.  It's often loudly proclaimed that Pacific Grove does not have monarchs here year-round (I'm not sure why, maybe to boost the specialness of the overwintering tourism?), but this post is evidence to refute popular knowledge.  With all my butterfly activities this year, I specifically noted seeing monarchs flying past my living room window in July, August and just yesterday.  So, I'm telling you, there's gotta be milkweed somewhere near.  It just hasn't been found, yet.

pss 10/25/14 - I originally, and quite ignorantly, included a bit about tagging by the Ventana Wildlife Society, mainly because of my tagging experience in Ohio.  They don't tag!  They do an annual Thanksgiving Count.  Ha!  That was a gross error on my part.  Also, I discovered a friend of ours has non-native milkweed growing in her yard.  She said she got the seeds at the local natural history museum, and she had plenty of monarch caterpillars this year.  According to the package, the seeds should not be planted within a mile of the Sanctuary.  There you go.

planted gull

Sometimes, I just want to post a picture without having to look up stuff. This gull gave me a good laugh today. I wondered if it had made a nest in this planter behind the historical Doc Ricketts lab on Cannery Row.

west coast lady ~ 06/27/10 ~ Rec Trail

west coast lady
Vanessa annabella

This "lady" was defending its territory (or was it flirting?) with the red admiral shown below in a frenetic butterfly swirl and chase. The red admiral was definitely the aggressor in this encounter. Shapiro states the two species can hybridize. To see what this hybrid V. atlanta var. edwardsi looks like check out

red admiral ~ 06/27/10 ~ Rec Trail

red admiral
Vanessa atalanta

The flash went off for the first photograph and I kinda like the result. If all I had was that pic, I'd have a hard time identifying this butterfly. Usually at rest, red admirals show much more of the underside of their forewing with distinctive red, blue, and white stripes (a little early for the 4th of July). Click on the common name above to see what I mean. From the topside, the red stripes makes it obvious which butterfly this is. Red admirals are quite common around here and are indeed common around the world. Like buckeyes, they like to sun themselves in the afternoon on dirty paths, which doesn't make for a pretty backdrop.