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THE OUTDOORS ALMANAC | MIGRATIONS

Monarchs at their regal best

November 08, 2005|Veronique de Turenne

THE days are shorter, the weather has cooled and the eucalyptus trees are in bloom. It's a golden time in Pismo Beach as tens of thousands of monarch butterflies, their orange and black wings like tiny stained-glass windows, descend on the coastal town as part of their annual migration. Guided by what some scientists believe may be light-sensitive crystals in their brains, each year the Danaus plexippus journey as far as 2,000 miles, at speeds up to 30 mph, to about 300 winter sites from Baja California to well north of San Francisco. The event is equal parts migration and assignation, as tens of thousands of human beings make similar journeys at the same time and to the same place. "We get more and more people each year," says Terri Jackson, a California State Parks docent at the Pismo Nature Center. "Last year we had 30,000 monarchs and 60,000 humans." This year another docent, who turned his home garden into a monarch refuge, has been bringing chrysalises -- butterflies still in their cocoons -- to show visitors. "More than once, the butterfly has come out of the chrysalis right there," Jackson says. "People are just mesmerized." Pismo State Beach North Beach Campground is a quarter mile north of Grand Avenue on the west side of Highway 1 in Pismo Beach. Admission is free. For information call (805) 489-8115 or go to www.slostateparks.com and click on Pismo Beach.

-- Veronique de Turenne

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