Butterflies, Santa Cruz, and State Beaches

Monarch Butterflies at Lighthouse State Beach_1.jpg

Roger and I headed down to Santa Cruz today. Roger specifically wanted to go see the Monarch Butterflies at Natural Bridges State Beach.

Unfortunately, the butterflies had moved out of that location as a result of the massive storms in Northern California a couple of weeks ago. There were only a few fluttering about.

There is a second Monarch wintering location at Lighthouse Field State Beach. As seen in the picture, there were still thousands of monarchs at the location. Click through to see a wider angle view of a tree completely covered in monarchs. It was incredible.

Amazingly, Lighthouse Field State Beach is located right in the middle of the Santa Cruz city coastline. If you have ever been to SC, the grove with the monarchs is an easy walk from the wharf and boardwalk.

Of course, I took a bunch of pictures.

Natural Bridges State Beach 20.jpg

This one makes for a very nice desktop image. It was taken at Natural Bridges SB and I was trying to capture the striation of light and dark sand that forms where water spreads out and flows gently across the surface. It is amazing how detailed the results can be. I’m pretty sure it is because light and dark sand have different densities. At least, I can’t think of another reason as the grain size seems pretty consistent.

The full resolution image makes for a very nice desktop image.

Natural Bridges State Beach 15.jpg

This plant was caught in the stream. It had sprouted in the sand and then was caught in the current as the stream moved. Not but seconds after that photo was taken, it washed away.

Lighthouse State Beach 12.jpg

In the butterfly grove were a half dozen of these mushrooms. The cap is easily 5 or 6 inches across. Update: Dan Wood indicated that this mushroom is one of the Amanita family of mushrooms. Seems right to me. Amanita mushrooms are generally poisonous. Update2: Larina added that this is, specifically, an instance of Amanita Muscaria and also indicated how incredibly stupid it is to eat random wild mushrooms. Absolutely correct! Apparently, some brave (stupid?) folks make the claim that you can boil off the toxins in various Amanita mushrooms to yield a yummy dinner. I would never ever try that. For those of you that know me, that I would refuse a kind of food is a very serious matter. It is. Eat the wrong shroom and your liver will just stop doing that liver thing. I love mushrooms and have eaten many a wild mushroom in the appropriate setting. At someone’s house is not an appropriate setting– I’m talking about at a restaurant (killing patrons is bad for business) or at a professional mycologists dinner. Thanks, Larina, for the additional information!

Lighthouse State Beach 14.jpg

This is another image that makes for a very nice desktop. It is the weathered cut end of an old log. Ants have taken up residence, hence the little bits of wood shoved into the various holes.

2 Responses to “Butterflies, Santa Cruz, and State Beaches”

  1. Dan Wood says:

    The mushroom is an amanita, quite a beautiful and famous one. It looks like it has rolled oats sprinkled on top. Definitely not edible, but fun to bring home and show friends and family….

  2. Larina Rohr says:

    The mushroom is Amanita muscaria commonly called a Fly Agaric. You can find more information about it at this link: http://www.mykoweb.com/CAF/species/Amanita_muscaria.html . If you are interested in the mushrooms and other fungi of the bay area, I’d heartily recommend David Arora’s excellent book Mushrooms Demystified.

    Also, this is kind of important, but you CAN NOT render a poisonous Amanita edible by boiling it. There are Amanitas that are edible, and in fact prized by some mushroom hunters (for instance the Spring Amanita, Amanita velosa), but they can easily be confused with poisonous species, and no matter how you cook a death cap, it’s still going to kill you (or if you’re lucky, you’ll get to find out what its like to get a liver transplant).

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