Brookside Gardens – Butterflies and more

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Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit was one of the places I volunteered in June – one of my happy places. One of my shifts was so cloud-covered and rainy that butterflies were still roosting in the fiscus at mid-morning.

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There were more clearwing butterflies in the conservatory that earlier in the season – enough that I saw one or two during most of my shifts.

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There aren’t as many paper kite butterflies this year…but they are still one of my favorites.

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The overall favorite for most people is the blue morpho; it’s one of mine too although for more than the blue color…I like the orange markings on the underside and body too. I manage to get some quick pictures during times when there are very few or no visitors in the exhibit.

And there were many other kinds of butterflies that posed for a picture at handy times.

And then there is the caterpillar house. Most of the caterpillars that were in the house during June were Julia Longwing or Zebra Longwing; both use passion flower as the host plant for their caterpillars.

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Toward the end of the month the eggs of the Palamedes swallowtail hatched….and the very small caterpillars begin to make their visible mark on the leaves. When they get bigger, they’ll have ‘eye spots’ to keep the predators away.

There were butterflies outside in the gardens too – mostly tiger swallowtails and skippers.

The bees enjoy the flowers too.

Sometimes a dragonfly would sit for long enough to be photographed.

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Birds like the gardens. A goldfinch and cardinal were near the conservatory one morning before my shift. I also saw a catbird that same morning but it flew away before I could get a photograph.

But the high point of the animals at Brookside was a box turtle! I had just exited my car and saw it emerge from a bed at the side of the conservatory and walk across the concrete in front of the service door to the north conservatory.

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It continued until it was close to the seal between the two doors then looked up like it expected the door to open. I wondered if it had – sometime in its life – spent some time inside the conservatory.

Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy – April 2019


The Wings of Fancy live Butterfly Exhibit at Brookside Gardens opened in April. I am volunteering there again this season and my first shifts were toward the end of the month.

The Wings of Fancy live Butterfly Exhibit at Brookside Gardens opened in April. I am volunteering there again this season and my first shifts were toward the end of the month.

On the first morning there was a little rain as I arrived, and the outdoor temperature was cool. The sun came out and it warmed up a little as the day went on. The heaters were on in the conservatory to make a comfortable environment for the butterflies. I went in to do some photography before the exhibit opened for the day. The golden-edged owl is new this year and it tends to open and show its colors more than some of the other owls.

The Julia Longwing is around this year. There were a lot emerging from chrysalis during my 1st shift.

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The White Peacock had a lot emerging my second shift and I had groups of pre-schoolers observing! They were very excited and full of questions.

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The Malachites are available from two vendors this year – one in US which means that the chrysalises from that vendor can be in the emergence case in the exhibit.

The zebra longwings are always striking.

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And there are lots of other species too.

The big favorite of most visitors is the Blue Morpho. I like it for more than the metallic blue. The markings around the edges and ‘eye’ spots are interesting too. The orange color is supporting too.

The second day, I didn’t go in early or take my better camera - I still got two decent pictures with my cell phone. It was a little cool, so the butterflies were sitting around more…always good to go at 10 (when the exhibit opens) while it’s still cool!

Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy – May 2018

I volunteered for 5 shifts at Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy butterfly exhibit. I visited once during a non-shift day as well in May; there is relatively little time to take butterfly pictures before visitors start arriving and I must focus on them.

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During one calm morning in the caterpillar house, there was a female cecropia moth that had emerged from a cocoon – on that grew as a caterpillar in the caterpillar house last summer and overwintered at Brookside. It was released in the garden later that day. The moths don’t eat as adult…they simply try to find a mate and lay then lay eggs.

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When I did come as a visitor, I was most interested in getting heads and eyes of butterflies. I’m always a little surprised at the color and complexity around the head…also the variation in eyes.

I have been able to take a few caterpillar pictures. The longwing caterpillars were only about ¼ inch long when I photographed them.

The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar was already about an inch long and had visible eye spots.

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On the walk up to the ticket taker table, I am checking the milkweed plants for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. So far, I haven’t found any although there are some leaves that have holes…something is eating the leaves. The flowers are beginning to form, and I did see a lady bug on one of the youngest leaves. Hopefully there will be caterpillars soon.

The other type of pictures I like to try before my shift begins are macro shots of flowers in the Brookside Gardens. I usually get there about 8:30 AM and the light is still good….not still the lemony color of just after dawn but still mellow…better than mid-day. The best of the best of those pictures are for another post.

Brookside Wings and Wine

Earlier this week we attended an evening event at Brookside Gardens that included wine tasting and appetizers in the non-butterfly end of the conservatory building….then watching the butterflies respond to the sun sinking to the horizon.

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When we first entered, the conservatory seemed calmer. The zebra longwings – and other butterflies – were beginning to find a roosting place in the fichus tree.

Others were on the walls or ceiling of the conservatory. I’m sure there were many that found a place in the foliage where I didn’t notice them.

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There were two flowers on the passionflower vine that is the food plant for a couple of the longwing butterflies; there were no butterflies around it.

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Just before sunset, the owl butterflies became more active – many dances through the air. I was waiting for the male cecropia moth that has emerged from its cocoon last Sunday to fly from where it had been hiding in the fichus tree all day. But it stayed where it was. These larger moths do not eat as adults so maybe there was no pheromone in the air of a female cecropia moth…and he didn’t feel the need to move!  I contented myself with a zoomed image of it through the foliage.