October 28, 2004

The flutter-flit of little wings

This past weekend I attended a "butterfly release," which is something I'd never actually heard of, let alone participated in, before. A couple of hundred Monarch butterflies -- raised from eggs at a local butterfly farm (again, something I'd never heard of), numbered, tagged and gently folded into origami envelopes -- were sent on their merry way to the Santa Cruz coast. Once we each made a wish and they could be coaxed to leave their paper launching pads, that is.

This little guy decided to soak up some California sun first, however. It wasn't the warmest day, so we didn't have a huge liftoff in concert once the envelopes were opened, as might have been hoped. But eventually they all took wing, fluttering around us for a while before beginning their migration for the winter.

The tags are purportedly to track them (mine was #386, in case you were wondering), but I really have no idea how they're going to do that. Are there designated rest stops along the way? A check-in tree once they reach Natural Bridges? A guy whose job it is to walk around the grove with binoculars and a notebook? We may never know, since the Web site we were given to get "updates" on their progress has, thus far, been useless.

But I know my young lepidopteran friend has made it to the shore and is huddling in the eucalyptus trees with a couple thousand of his best friends. If you travel out this way between now and February, I highly recommend a stop at their winter resting ground. It's a beautiful and unique site. Tell my butterfly I said hi.