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Those pre-dinner visits to our “butterfly grove” was as much a part of Thanksgiving as my mother’s raw cranberry relish and pumpkin pie.

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There were always kids’ questions we couldn’t answer. One that came up annually was about how these fluttery creatures managed to make such a long journey when all they seemed to do was fly in circles.

As I recall, we entomologically challenged adults offered storybook answers. One memorable one involved getting into the tail wind of a moving van heading for Los Angeles.

Truth was, of course, I didn’t know. I just knew the butterflies were a delight.

One of the good things about a journalism career is that if you have good sources, you learn a little bit about a whole lot of things.

My go-to source for everything involving nature in this county is Peter Leveque, a retired SRJC instructor who has his finger in many ecological pies.

He sent me on to Michael Ellis, a naturalist who owns a business called Footloose Forays that takes clients on nature excursions the world over from a Sonoma County base. Ellis seemed pleased to be asked and supplied the information I sought.

“It’s not a single butterfly,” he said. “It’s generational migration.”

Thus, I learned it takes four generations for those northeastern monarchs to go off to warmer climates and get back to their summer homes in the northeast.

Pacific monarchs might make it in three generations, depending on where they stop to winter.

When they head south, according to Ellis, the first and northernmost point that some may choose to stop is around Rockport on the Mendocino Coast. Some get — or their children and grandchildren do — to Baja California.

After that, hitting the high points, it’s Bodega Bay, Point Reyes, Bolinas, Pacific Grove and points south.

General interest in this migration seems to center around Pacific Grove, which not only welcomes these wonderful creatures, but exploits them. Decades ago, the eucalyptus near Monterey County’s famous 17-Mile-Drive became a well-advertised tourist attraction. And Pacific Grove became the “Butterfly City.”

Too much, some of us say, of a good thing.

The butterfly experts Michael spoke with assured — and he has assured me — that they can still be found in Bodega Bay, somewhere near the Bodega Dunes State Park campground.

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I don’t know exactly where. And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. Bodega Bay is doing just fine without being a “Butterfly City.”

I’m pretty sure that wherever they are hanging out — literally — it isn’t “our” old butterfly trees. I’m pretty sure of that.

We sold that grove and those dunes to the state park system long ago — not a lot of choice in that decision.

Our Thanksgivings moved to town. Our children grew up and moved on. We don’t “weekend” in Bodega Bay anymore.

But we certainly have happy memories. And many of them involve clouds of monarch butterflies.

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While it is definitely worrisome to hear about the dangers in the eastern migration, it is comforting to learn from Ellis that the monarchs are alive and well, sailing on limber wings, in Bodega Bay.

Like the whales that parade past Bodega Head in observance of February’s presidential birthdays, the November butterflies are among the many things we have to be thankful for.

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