The delicate little guests have come a-visiting to Santa Cruz like they do every winter. And boy, are they making themselves feel perfectly at home! These creatures are none other than the pretty Monarch Butterflies.
At Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz, in the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve, a wooden pathway leads down to a grove of eucalyptus trees. Fresh eucalyptus scent fills the air beneath a shaded canopy of branches. The butterflies have trademark black patterns and small white bubbles on orange wings – a design very pleasing to the eye. Clusters of them hang on to the branches of the trees like some kind of foreign fruit.
There is a flutter here and a flutter there as they fly from one tree to the other and stand out starkly against the blue sky peeping out of gaps in the branches. They are the cynosure of all the tourist’s eyes who throng to see them from the ground. Binoculars and cameras are pointed upwards and everyone, even the children speak in a hushed tone as if afraid to disturb the “monarchs” – the royal guests residing high above.
But something disturbs them and suddenly, a big swarm rises in the air all at once. Their sheer number, previously hidden amidst the leaves, overwhelms everyone and the hushed tones instantaneously morph into a common exclamation!
“Ooooooo…. that’s awesome …. wow …. fantastic …. just look at them!!”
The same sentiment also applies to the surrounding area in general. The Natural Bridges State Beach gets its name from the natural bridge formation near the ocean shore. The bridge is a geological formation – a product of years of erosion at the hands of earth’s powerful elements. The rocky arch juts out into the water, separating itself from a small cliff. At sunset, it lends itself as a model for photographers lining the shore.
The setting sun lights everything up in a soft haze and creates interesting silhouettes of buildings and people. A drive or a walk along the surrounding cliffs overlooking the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean is breathtaking.
On the beach, minutes after the sun dips below the horizon far across the ocean, the gathered shutterbugs capture a dreamy image of the bridge, with waves washing its feet and rose-tinted clouds forming a perfect backdrop to the scene, creating a fitting finale to the day.