It is not your imagination: monarchs have returned in force this fall to the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. To see monarchs (Danaus plexippus) clustering in the Ranch’s Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), take the short spur off the Forest Loop Trail to the monarch viewing area. The site is marked by a split rail fence.
Xerces Society volunteer Holly Sletteland reported more than 5,000 monarchs on the Preserve during the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. That nearly three times more than last year, and the largest number seen since 2016, although still far below the 20,000 counted in 2015. Overwintering sites along the California coast are seeing similar increases in populations.
Monarchs start to fly when they warm up so the best time to see them at rest is when temperatures are below 55 degrees. Monarchs cluster about 15 feet off the ground where the wind is calm, but morning rays can warm them up. Look for mostly grayish closed wings, not bright orange. In flight, it is easy to spot monarchs when they are silhouetted against the sky or to recognize them by the large shadows they cast.
In other good news, the annual Thanksgiving weekend tree planting brought out a record number of community members and visitors who planted around 350 seedlings in two hours. Volunteers included stalwarts from Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve (FFRP) to multi-generational groups of first timers. Brian Morgan organized the event, making for a flawless day. Carlos Mendoza and Martin Garcia from Cambria Community Services District pitched in, while West Coast Tree Service donated 500 gallons of water so the trees could start out with a good drink. Greenspace donated dozens of seedlings left over from their San Simeon planting which supplemented trees grown in FFRP’s restoration nursery.
This year’s planting was just inland of the Ridge Trail. The new trees can be spotted among the grasses since, as two-year-old seedlings, they have a good deal of growth on them both above ground and with healthy roots. The coming rain will help them to become established and continue to expand our community’s forest which has increased in area 25 percent since 2003.
Please take special note that FFRP will be participating in Hospitality Night on Monday, December 5. Stop on by the FFRP shop at 604D Main Street to sample some café de olla and sweet treats.