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09 December 2016      Press Release

Monarch Butterflies and Gray Whales Sightings this Winter

Winter is here! Monarch butterflies and gray whales sightings are in full swing.

Visitors can catch these tiny orange-and-black creatures clustered in the eucalyptus groves, while some of the world’s most majestic and largest sea mammals can be spotted in the vast Pacific Ocean.

At the Goleta Butterfly Grove, monarch butterflies spend their winter vacation in the open space. The population tends to peak near the end of December and the butterflies are most active during their mating season in February. The butterflies populate Ellwood Mesa in western Goleta until about mid-February, and then begin their return journey north. In the morning and on cool days, the monarchs tend to stay in clusters. On warm afternoons, the butterflies can be seen flying, gathering water and minerals from the soil. The insects begin their travels to the California coast from west of the Rocky Mountains to avoid harsh winter temperatures. The eucalyptus branches at the butterfly preserve create ideal microclimate characteristics that the insects require to survive the winter season, Hernandez said.

The grove is open for viewing daily during daylight hours. Admission is free. Free parking is available on site or at the lot across from Ellwood School, at 7686 Hollister Ave. Docent guides are available to visitors from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday through mid-February.

Pacific gray whales also call the Santa Barbara County coast their winter home. More than 20,000 gray whales migrate through the Santa Barbara Channel on their way to and from the warm lagoons of southern Baja California in Mexico. Peak gray whale migration season is mid-January through April in Southern California. Gray whales, California sea lions and pods of dolphins can be spotted from Goleta bluffs.

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