A Bounty of Butterflies


When wandering in the wild, one is naturally drawn to grand spectacles: the largest mammals, the most songful birds, the brightest flowers, and the most prominent vistas.  While these are remarkable experiences that make any adventure worthwhile, they are not the only marvels contained within the landscape.  Hidden in plain view are a myriad of insects, who furtively play key roles in every ecosystem.  Through their complex interactions with the land and each other, these critters are a source of endless wonder for those willing to look closely.

The most recognizable and best understood insects are the butterflies, whose elegant flight and vibrant colors are a gateway to understanding the larger class to which they belong.  While some, like monarchs and swallowtails, are easily perceptible, there are many more that are practically invisible to the unsuspecting eye.  The western pygmy blue, a common butterfly in Crystal Cove, has a wingspan between 1 and 2 centimeters and many skippers are so drab they disappear in the landscape.  Seeing these little flyers may seem difficult, but once one knows where to look, butterflies become enumerable.  Butterflies, like many insects, are pollinators and frequently visit flowers.  While some, like painted ladies, do not have specific plant preferences, others like Bernardino Blues, nectar only on buckwheat.  By observing relationships like these, the casual wanderer can become a studious watcher, as butterflies (and many other insects) emerge from the landscape where they weren’t noticed before.

For the last seven months Crystal Cove Conservancy has been taking a close look at our own park.  Every month, conservancy staff, state park’s staff, and volunteers hit the trails in Moro Canyon and record the butterflies they see.  Through these walks we hope to learn more about the butterflies in the park and how they use its natural resources.  Our July survey yielded 21 difference species of butterflies along only 3 miles of trail.  One doesn’t need to travel far to observe numerous butterflies, whether in a neighborhood or the wild, butterflies are everywhere, just take a closer look.

If you are interested in participating in our monthly butterfly surveys, please email Chris Halsch at chrish@crystalcove.org.

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