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A rabble of butterflies in Santz Cruz.

They cling to the tips of eucalyptus branches in weighty clusters, the upfolded wings of one insect overlapping the next in delicate shingle formations.

Each year, the monarch butterflies come from as far away as the Canadian Rockies to the California coast, seeking refuge from freezing winter temperatures. You can see one of the largest concentrations (called a rabble) at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz.

This year the swarm is larger than ever--up to 150,000 butterflies--thanks in part to two mild, wet years. The monarchs will be staying in this wind-sheltered grove until late February or well into March, depending on the weather.

In temperatures below 55[deg.], the butterflies can't fly, so for safety and warmth they hang high up in the trees in bunches, with folded wings showing their dusky undersides. As the day warms, they unfold their wings, presenting their familiar colors, and flutter about to feed.

To get a good look, take a short hike over the sometimes mucky 1/4-mile Monarch Trail that starts across from park headquarters. You can borrow an interpretive brochure at the trailhead, or buy a copy (20 cents) at the office. You can also join a tour; they're given as staffing permits, usually on weekdays. For information, call (408) 423-4609.

The 54-acre park is at the west edge of Santa Cruz. Signs on State 1 show the exit to take; other signs will lead you south on Natural Bridges Drive to the headquarters parking lot. Day-use fee is $2 per car.
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Title Annotation:Natural Bridges State Beach
Publication:Sunset
Date:Feb 1, 1985
Words:254
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