GOLETA, Calif. — Dozens of visitors gasped in awe at what they described to be a magical experience.
“To witness this natural phenomenon and what we just witnessed a few minutes ago, where a whole cluster burst. They all took flight at the same time…. it's sometimes there's no words. It's amazing,” said Senior Biologist Charis van der Heide.
The Ellwood main butterfly grove is the largest wintering site in southern California. Over 14,000 butterflies were counted for, marking an increase from last year’s count of around 9,000.
The monarchs migrate to Ellwood Mesa for the overwintering season from October through February.
“Just like the big swarms of them flying off from the wind. I saw like three or four times because we've been here a while now and it was like the coolest thing I think I've ever seen in my life, honestly,” said Abbey Bosco, visiting from San Diego.
When the Boscos heard that the monarch population was starting to decline they started creating a mini ecosystem for them in their backyard in San Diego.
They said seeing these critters in the thousands in Goleta has been a full circle journey.
“My daughter and I spend so much time supporting them down at our house and to know some of our it might be out there and well be,” said April Bosco, visiting from San Diego.
The Boscos aren’t the only duo brought closer together through their love of monarch butterflies.
“James and I saw the birth of one of these monarchs in his playhouse. There was a chrysalis hanging, remember? Yeah. We watched one on the night out. Come out, come out of the chrysalis. So it's kind of monarchs that kind of special for him and I,” said grandmother-grandson duo Beverly and James Decker, who visited from Summerland.
Experts said the best time to come to the butterfly grove is in the afternoon from around noon to 3 p.m.
The monarchs tend to flutter around when it’s warmer, but are likely to remain huddled in between the trees when temperatures cool.
Visitors will have a couple months to see these critters before they migrate in February.