Friday, March 9, 2012

butterflies in early March

zebra longwing

Yesterday was gross and rainy -- not good hiking weather. So we went for a walk indoors instead. There's something to be said for warmth, light and green at this time of year. I hadn't been to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory in years, so I thought it might be time for a revisit.

It's not a big place, but it's very pleasant. Outside the glasshouse there's a couple of spaces for exhibits; the permanent exhibit is about Insects of the World and there's a space for rotating exhibits. This one was on bats (woot!) and though not very large it was quite informative. My only complaint about their interpretation in both the galleries is that there's an awful lot of verbiage and it's often very small font. smallfry liked looking at the colourful insects under glass, though. She particularly liked looking at the live honeybees in the honeybee exhibit.


The glasshouse is really pleasant. Lots of green, a comfortable humidity and a slightly tropical heat (around 24C). There's the constant sound of water running, thanks to two waterfalls and a little stream that runs around the entire place. There were others there, but it wasn't terribly crowded on a Thursday morning.

owl butterfly

There are butterflies everywhere. When we got there, sort of mid-morning, there weren't a lot flying around; don't know if the light wasn't right, or they're perhaps late risers? but by the time I left after the lunch hour, there were butterflies flying everywhere. It's a very pretty effect.

can't remember what this one is called, but they're one of my favourites

There are also many, many birds. They have ornamental finches in spades (who were collecting nesting material as I was there, so one expects there will be more ornamental finches at some point in the near future, unless staff find the nests) and there are a couple of quails, and new to me this time was a green-cheeked conure hanging out across from the hatching station.

his name, poor thing, is "Cheecho"

The hatching station is where the butterfly chrysalides are hung to hatch. The Conservatory gets all their chrysalides from farms in the tropics; I'm not sure whether any of the butterflies they already have ever lay eggs, and I didn't ask. One suspects that though the finches leave the [live, healthy] butterflies alone that caterpillars might not be so lucky. Not sure they have the right food plants for the butterfly species they have either. At any rate, they hatch from their well-travelled chrysalides in a special area open to the rest of the conservatory, where the staff have the chrysalides all labelled carefully and where you can watch the butterflies chilling out, pumping their wings full and resting before they flutter off into the wider conservatory.

the chrysalides hang from sticks in the middle panel

I didn't spend time talking to anyone; smallfry and I did a couple of circuits, I practiced with the camera (still need a lot more practice, I think) and then we sat for a while. A very nice way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy, windy March day.


david wofford said...

The garden looks very green and fresh. The place is very well built and very diverse. The hatching station for butterflies is really cool. Wish I have that kind of style in my garden.

David Wofford
Just click here for creating a butterfly garden

Nan said...

You are so lucky to be able to do this! I would love to see it.

kiirstin said...

Dave - It is lovely, yes! It feels pretty natural despite its small size.

Nan - There are actually two butterfly conservatories close enough for day trips to us, though the second one is about an hour and a half drive -- larger, though, and more well-established. It's my plan when smallfry is a little better at travelling long distances to take a trip there at some point, too!