Butterflies, BioBlitz and Behind the Scenes at Ellwood Mesa


Have you been to the Goleta Butterfly Grove at Ellwood Mesa to see the monarch butterflies this season? We know many of you have because we’ve seen you on the trails and we’ve enjoyed your photos on social media. We’ve seen more butterflies and visitors at Ellwood this season than we have in many years.

Monarchs arrive at the California coast around mid-October, searching for overwintering habitat. In November, they start to settle into groves of trees for wind protection and other conditions they need to make it through the winter. By mid-December, they move out of areas with less than adequate habitat and gather into large clusters in the best groves. The population at Ellwood Main Butterfly Grove generally peaks around mid-December before the first significant winter storms hit the region. After New Year’s Day the population fluctuates but generally starts to decline due to mortality and dispersal. By mid-March the monarchs will have departed for their spring migration to breeding habitats across the western United States.

Learn more at our Monarch Butterfly Grove Visitor Information.

BioBlitz – Saturday, March 9, 9:30-11:30 am – New Date!

The City of Goleta Parks and Open Space Division and UC Santa Barbara’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration invite you to participate in a one-day inventory of biodiversity at the Butterfly Grove. The goal of this fun, hands-on experience is to identify and record as many plants, animals, fungi, and other species as possible in a single day. Citizen scientists contribute valuable data to ongoing biodiversity research and play a role in the conservation of important habitat for plants and wildlife. This BioBlitz will be used as an informal baseline survey of biodiversity at the Goleta Butterfly Grove before the City enters the next phase of enhancement and restoration. 

This event highlights the City’s commitment to encourage nature appreciation, community pride, and participation in the City’s parks and open spaces. For more information and to sign up, go to Butterfly Grove BioBlitz details and signup.

Behind the Scenes at Ellwood Mesa

The Goleta Butterfly Grove at Ellwood Mesa is one of the premier habitats for the monarch butterfly and the City is positioned to be a leader in western monarch butterfly conservation. The long-awaited implementation of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan –– including addressing urgent concerns of fire risk, replanting thousands of trees and native plants, and providing safe access for visitors – is just around the corner. The City has been working hard on several fronts so they will be ready to start as soon as the necessary permits are issued. Several key milestones were achieved this year and on-the-ground work is expected to begin this spring (fire risk vegetation management) and summer (habitat enhancement and access improvements).

In the meantime, the City continues to work behind the scenes on the following:

  • Planning, Documentation, and Design – City staff and consultants continue to respond to Coastal Commission requests for detailed maps, planting plans, engineering specifications, species protection plans, and more.
  • Growing Plants for Restoration – The City has entered agreements with UC Santa Barbara’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) to begin native seed collection and propagation and CalPoly San Luis Obispo’s Plant Conservatory to grow the eucalyptus trees that will be planted to restore the microclimate that monarch butterflies need.
  • Community Engagement – The City strives to increase the public’s knowledge and interest in what is happening at Ellwood. 2023 events included a monarch butterfly forum at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, a Firewise USA meeting for Ellwood residents, presentations to organizations with shared interests, site visits with City staff and monarch specialists, and onsite signage. The City has reactivated the Butterfly Grove docent program and provides regular project updates and information at CityofGoleta.org/Ellwood.
  • Ellwood Friends – with the support of the City and LegacyWorks Group, a group of Ellwood neighbors are forming a community organization to support the stewardship, conservation and celebration of Ellwood Mesa. They will work alongside City and non-profit partners to care for Ellwood Mesa. See EllwoodFriends.org.

Do you have questions about what is happening at Ellwood? We’d like to hear from you. Please contact the Parks and Open Space Division at ellwoodmesa@cityofgoleta.org.

Funding for the implementation of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan is provided by the California State Coastal Conservancy. The Coastal Conservancy is a California state agency, established in 1976, to protect and improve natural lands and waterways, to help people get to and enjoy the outdoors, and to sustain local economies along California’s coast. It acts with others to protect and restore, and increase public access to, California’s coast, ocean, coastal watersheds, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Its vision is of a beautiful, restored, and accessible coast for current and future generations of Californians.

Funding for fire prevention activities in and near Ellwood Mesa (Ellwood Mesa Neighborhoods Hazard Fuel Reduction) is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment– particularly in disadvantaged communities. The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling, and much more. At least 35 percent of these investments are located within and benefiting residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, and low-income households across California. For more information, visit the California Climate Investments website at: www.caclimateinvestments.ca.gov.