As 2013 draws to a close, Regional Park District naturalists will send it off with a variety of programs showcasing the seasonal attractions of the East Bay's great outdoors.
Ordinarily, the annual gathering of monarch butterflies in the eucalyptus grove at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont is a must-see natural phenomenon. Unfortunately, this year is different. On the day after Thanksgiving, staff counted an estimated 1,000 monarch butterflies in the grove. But after rain and a cold snap, the population dropped to 800 in early December. It was down to 30 by midmonth, and only a few butterflies remained as of late December. Many factors may have contributed to their departure. There are two websites with lots of information about monarch butterfly conservation: www.xerces.org and www.monarchalert.calpoly.edu.
Although there are few butterflies remaining in the grove, you can still see their life cycle in action at Ardenwood's greenhouse, where milkweed plants still host monarch eggs, caterpillars and chrysalides. And butterfly-themed programs continue through December. Guided walks will meet at the granary building at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Also, there will be guided walks from the Granary at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. New Year's Day.
Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84 (the Dumbarton Bridge approach). For details, including entry fees, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2797.
LADYBUGS: Not to be outdone by butterflies, ladybugs have a seasonal convention of their own. One of the best places to see this is at the junction of the Stream and Prince Trails at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. The ladybugs gather to mate in red and black clusters on trailside bushes.
The park entrance is on Redwood Road, about 2 miles past its intersection with Skyline Boulevard in Oakland. Park at Canyon Meadows at the end of the entrance road, then walk the Stream Trail to the junction. Maps are available at park information panels.
GETTING VOLCANIC: On Friday, naturalist "Trail Gail" Broesder will lead a hike from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the Oakland Hills. The free hike is for ages 12 and older. Meet Gail at the Sibley entrance parking lot on Skyline Boulevard a short distance south of the intersection with Grizzly Peak Boulevard. Bring a snack to share. For details, call 510-544-2233.
Where's the quake?: Point Pinole Regional Shoreline in Richmond, a park where once dynamite was manufactured, will be the venue for a hike from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, led by naturalist Anthony Fisher.
The group will explore intertidal animal life, take in beautiful views of the bay, and look for evidence of the Hayward earthquake fault. Meet at the park entrance, which is on Giant Highway off Richmond Parkway. For information, call 510-544-2233. And wherever you go, whatever you do, here's wishing you a safe, prosperous and happy New Year.
Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.