This weekend was California Biodiversity Day 2019 sponsored by the California Natural Resources Agency. Scientists sought observations by fellow scientists, gardeners and ordinary citizens in mapping plants and animals living in California.
Male and female monarchs get together on the leaves of an alder tree to perpetuate the species. Photo by Jeff Wallace.
In honor of Biodiversity Day, I took a break from my chores and spent some time outside in my backyard with my husband to observe the local wildlife. We saw eight different species of butterflies, cactus wrens eating California coffee berries, hummingbirds sipping nectar from California fuchsia, a lizard doing push-ups on our garden wall, and a leaf-cutter bee laying eggs.
A pair of woodland skippers resting on a ceanothus. (Elizabeth Wallace)
After taking these photos, we uploaded them to iNaturalist, a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.
Metalmark butterfly at rest. (Elizabeth Wallace)
It’s fun discovering tiny butterflies and native bees that live in the garden. I spend a lot of time watching the butterflies, wishing they would rest so I can capture their image with my iPhone.
My friend in Costa Mesa noticed Monarch caterpillars had eaten all of the leaves of her two narrow-leaf milkweed bushes this week. She was alarmed and worried the caterpillars would need more food. She drove to Armstrong Nursery on Thursday and purchased a large narrow-leaf milkweed and her Monarch caterpillars are happily munching away once again. They are hungry!
Monarch caterpillar feasting on a narrow-leaf milkweed. Photo by Cynthia Grilli.
Scientists were concerned because the annual Western Monarch butterfly count was historically low this year (fewer than 30,000 butterflies were counted–down 99 percent from the 1980’s). They fear the Western Monarch may be nearing extinction.
It feels hopeful to see these chubby caterpillars, and the two adults mating in my garden this week. If you would like to learn more about how you can help Monarchs, go to The Xerces Society.