Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

December 13, 2005 > Monarchs come home for the winter

Monarchs come home for the winter

by Pushpa Warrier

"Butterflies... not quite birds, as they were not quite flowers, mysterious and fascinating as are all indeterminate creatures."

Elizabeth Goudge

Much converse do I find in thee, Historian of my infancy! Float near me; do not yet depart! Dead times revive in thee: Thou bring'st, gay creature as thou art! A solemn image to my heart.

Author: William Wordsworth

Source: To a Butterfly

The East Bay Regional Park District has a clear vision : 'to preserve a priceless heritage of natural and cultural resources open space, parks and trails for the future and to set aside park areas for enjoyment and healthful recreation for generations to come.' An environmental ethic guides them in all that they do. The Butterfly Garden is an interesting phenomenon dedicated towards that endeavour. Located at Coyote Hills Regional Park, the Butterfly Garden has been in operation since 1999, evolving and maturing due to the efforts of interpretative naturalist Jan Southworth.

Southworth has been with the East Bay Regional Park District for twenty-nine years, splitting her tenure between Coyote Hills Regional Park and Ardenwood Farm. Her association with Ardenwood Farm as a naturalist/interpreter presents an opportunity to experience and share knowledge of Monarch butterflies spending winter months on the farm property. As a local conservationist, she has opportunities to interact with park visitors, especially children and has realized that many are not comfortable with natural habitats. As part of her work, Jan takes time for long hikes in the Park with children. The butterfly garden is a non-threatening starting point since butterflies are beautiful creatures, both captivating and benign.

Jan's 'demonstration garden' is a model for others to develop their own habitats in urban and suburban landscapes. According to Jan, in the 1940s and early '50s, a child walking in Fremont could see seventy-five to a hundred different species of butterflies in the spring. Today, that number has dwindled to five or ten. When children are asked to identify the different species of butterflies, they identify only three - 'the big orange, the big yellow and the little white ones.' Jan realized that due to the declining population of butterflies worldwide (today there is a decrease of eighty-five percent of diversity and population of butterflies), residents were losing a quality of life - Butterflies were gradually becoming extinct.

As you enter the Coyote Hills Butterfly Garden, colorful tiles created by muralist Nancy Pratt of Newark depict different species of butterflies and some of their characteristics. This collection is expected to grow in time. Visitors will be enthralled by the sight of butterflies in varying stages of life - caterpillars, chrysalises and butterflies can be seen in the garden. A binder full of pictures is available in the park office to understand different species of butterflies in the garden.

After the Butterfly Garden was in operation for several years, Jan felt it was time for an impressive entrance that would make an indelible impression on visitors. Fascinated by the circular doorways used by 'Hobbits' in 'Lord of the Rings,' she wanted to emulate that design. Jan and her husband Norm Kidder, Supervising Naturalist at Sunol Regional Wilderness, also in the East Bay Regional Park District, put their minds together and came up with a design for the gate. Jan secured a Community Service Award from Sun Microsystems to help defray the cost and, after exploring a variety of options and by a stroke of good fortune, the couple discovered that the Operations Supervisor at Coyote Hills, Kelly Barrington, was a metalwork hobbyist. The gate, complete with a butterfly handle - a brand new portal to the garden - was dedicated to the Garden on November 13th, 2004.

Another attraction of the garden is the Butterfly Vivarium, dedicated to teaching educators. The garden prepares five-gallon containers with milkweed plants suitable to be host plants for butterfly caterpillars. These plants are kept in an enclosed area and at a propitious time, the doors of this enclosure are opened to allow butterflies to enter and lay eggs on these host plants. The plants then end up providing a good environment for eggs and caterpillars. A one day butterfly "Educators Academy," is available at Coyote Hills for teachers from local schools. At the end of the course, teachers are given a five-gallon container with caterpillars and butterfly eggs, ready for classroom study.

Plans are available for people interested in developing a butterfly habitat in their own backyard. Contact Jan Southworth at (510) 795-9385 for opportunities to wander along peaceful pathways and watch hummingbirds and butterflies at play. The butterfly garden, at Coyote Hills Regional Park, is located next to the park office. It is open to the public on the second Saturday of each month, and accessible by appointment for school and other groups.

For more information on wintering butterflies at Ardenwood Historic Farm and the Butterfly Garden at Coyote Hills Regional Park, call the appropriate park or visit

Ardenwood Regional Preserve

34600 Ardenwood Boulevard

(Ardenwood Boulevard exit off Highway 84)

Fremont, CA 94555-3645

(510) 796-0663

Meet the Monarchs

A slide show and an easy hike out to the eucalyptus grove to marvel at butterflies overwintering at Ardenwood. This is a drop-in program; no registration is required. For information, call (510) 796-0663.

Monarch Butterfly Walks

A one hour, half-mile tour of Ardenwood's monarch overwintering site. Walks are suitable for all ages and disabled accessible. This is a drop-in program; no registration is required. For information, call (510) 796-0663.

Monarchs for Kids

An interactive puppet show about monarch eggs, caterpillars, chrysalides and butterflies. Make a butterfly wand and take a short hike. This is a drop-in program; no registration is required. For information, call (510) 796-0663.

Coyote Hills Regional Park

8000 Patterson Ranch Road

(Paseo Padre exit off Highway 84)

Fremont, CA 94555-3502

(510) 795-9385

Butterfly Garden is open the second Saturday of each month.

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