Victoria's Butterfly Gardens, Part 1: Insectarium and a Tropical Paradise! (+10 insets)

(+10 insets!) (Please scroll down to "Today's Pictures" for image information) Trip Talk: Victoria Butterfly Garden's Mind-Blowing Insectarium If you can believe it, the next five sets of pictures I'll be showcasing from our Vancouver Island trip are also from Victoria! You may be wondering if we ever left the city after the zillions of pictures I've been sharing from this lovely city and its amenities. Trust me, we did. But I cannot leave this place until I've shown just a bit more! As you know, Steve and I spent the day staggering drunkenly around Butchart Gardens as we did our best to capture the beauty that overwhelmed us everywhere we looked. What you may not know is that we weren't actually there all day. We took a break! Mid-day we left the park and had a picnic lunch at the Mediterranean Garden, situated next to Butchart's vast parking lot. Then we hopped into the truck and drove about 10 minutes to the other attraction of the day…the Victoria Butterfly Gardens! I've been to a captive butterfly exhibit once before when Steve and I visited one at the local county fair. The experience surprised me and left me feeling totally delighted because it was so much better than I ever expected. (Here is a link if you'd like to see pictures from my visit to Butterfly Adventures ) Knowing that a temporary butterfly exhibit could be such fun, I was sure that Steve and I were going to have an incredible time at a year-round establishment…and I couldn't wait!! Entering the building, the warm, humid air threatened to fog up my glasses and I began to wiggle with excitement. We were greeted warmly as we paid our entry fee and soon pulled open a glass door to slip into their new exhibit, the Insectarium. Do you know what a leaf-cutter ant is? Steve and I were lucky enough to see them when we went to Costa Rica many years ago and I remember how transfixed we were while we watched them carrying bits of leaves along a trail that went on and on, disappearing into the forest and out of sight. The second I stepped inside the Insectarium I was faced with what reminded me of the world's biggest ant farm! Measuring about six-feet tall and long, it was about two feet wide and made of clear glass. Inside was a colony of leafcutter ants and they were busy! A steady stream was carrying large pieces of leaves along a branch and eventually into their nest which we had a view of as well. I was totally transfixed by the show and did my best to take pictures but the lighting was dim and I was using my older Canon 5D Mark II so the results were mostly garbage (This otherwise incredible camera isn't fantastic in low-light situations if you want to do macro...too much grain!). I did manage to get one picture to share so you get an idea of what we saw. I could have watched for an hour but there were other exhibits to see and Steve was finally successful at peeling me away from the ants. Only to find the next display full of the largest stick bugs I'd ever seen! They were so cool as they stood motionless and nearly invisible with their exceptional camouflage. What fun to see them up close. Steve pointed out a baby one so small it was climbing on the leg of one that was more than 10x its size! Sadly my pictures didn't turn out but maybe Steve's pictures did, in which case I'll post one at some point down the road. Suffice to say, it was really cute! The insectarium had metallic-colored insects too, which seemed made of plastic they were so bright and shiny! There were all sorts of other insects, arachnids and other creepy-crawlies to see as well. I took lots of pictures with the hopes that at least a few would come out and that was a good idea. Most were garbage but I did get a few to share today! Today's Pictures Today's main picture was taken shortly after Steve and I entered the enormous butterfly exhibit. I'll tell you more about that wondrous place in my next post but for now just trust me when I say that it was incredible! :) The butterfly I captured was sitting on a leaf near the entrance and I was so happy to discover the picture turned out so well. I don't know what species it is though…if you've got a name for me I would love it! Inset 1: This is a Malaysian Wood Nymph stick insect! (Thank you, Maeluk, for positive identification of this insect!) Looking through all of my Insectarium pictures, I was delighted to find this one with its shallow dof and cool bokeh. Just enough focus to work, hooray! Inset 2: This was the only leafcutter ant picture that came out well enough to share…the depth of field is just a bit too shallow, what a shame! You can see its impressive spines though, how cool is that? These ants are found in Central and South America and to my utter surprise, as far north as Texas, Arizona, western Louisiana and southern California! Interestingly, the high altitude of New Mexico does not support this normally tropics-based ant. Inset 3: A pair of amorous metallic-green beetles of unknown species. I spent some time trying to identify these two but I had no luck. If I'd been clever, I'd have taken a picture of the signs on the insect displays but it didn't even cross my mind! Boo! Inset 4: This is a praying mantis that looks a lot like a stick bug! I'm not sure what species It is, maybe a Ghost Mantis but I don't know…the head's not right for that one. Inset 5: When Steve and I entered the butterfly exhibit, we saw a building that was brimming with dozens of developing cocoons in all stages. Butterflies were in the process of hatching, drying their wings and crawling around the enclosure. The facility has as many as 70 species on display and unfortunately they didn't have identification of many butterflies I got pictures of. Inset 6: This is a close-up of some of the cocoons that were developing…aren't they cool?! Inset 7: This is a view of one of the butterfly feeding stations. They placed sliced fruit of many kinds on a table and the butterflies were ravenous for the offerings! Inset 8: I wish I'd thought to have Steve stand next to these leaves so you could see how ginormous they are. The larger of the two was probably as tall as I am (5'4" or 64")!! I knew they grew very large in the wild but I don't remember ever seeing plants like this grown in an exhibit! Inset 9: These are Golden Trumpet Vine blossoms which grew on a huge vining bush! Inset 10: A dainty purple blossom of the bromeliad, "Neoregelia carolinae ‘Tricolor’" Pam, I don't know what your feelings are about insects other than those that land on flowers but I am going to bet that you'd go hoggggggggg-wild over the Insectarium exhibit that Steve and I saw at the Butterfly Gardens. It was hilarious to listen to other folks coming through. They simply could not keep their voices down because they were all so blown away at everything they saw. It made me giggle, but at the same time, I was busy oohing and ahhing myself! Talk about being transformed into a little kid, that place was incredible! Here's hoping that you're feeling a little better today…*BIG WARM HUGS* Explored on 10/28/19; highest placement #6.

Victoria's Butterfly Gardens, Part 2: Blue Morpho and More! (+9 insets)

(+9 insets!) (Please scroll down to "Today's Pictures" for image information) Trip Talk: Victoria Butterfly Gardens...the Main Exhibit! Steve ended up pulling me out of the Insectarium by my ear because I was totally entranced by all of the unusual critters! Still dazed, I went through the next set of doors into the main exhibit and stopped in my tracks. Listed as being the size of three basketball courts, this indoor jungle was also at least two stories tall and filled with sky lights to add illumination. I didn't realize how tropical and lush this place would be! Everywhere I looked there were plants and vines, flowers and thick, leafy undergrowth. And there were butterflies…everywhere! Flying around, resting on plants and feeding at the various fruit and nectar stations, you couldn't miss them! Steve and I immediately lost ourselves behind our cameras as we focused in on one subject after another. We read there were up to 70 species of butterflies on display at all times and we were dazzled by all of the different colors and combinations, sizes and activity levels of the countless "flying flowers". Next to the entrance was a small building which housed rows of cocoons and picture of some of the species. However, apparently they gave up trying to keep track because there were images for only some of the butterflies that we saw. There was a cement path that meandered around the entire enclosure, crossing over bridges and tucking into nooks and crannies. A map showed the many highlights that you could visit—various butterfly feeding stations, the "emerging window" that I shared pictures of yesterday, a caterpillar viewing area, but there was so much more to see than just butterflies! A pair of flamingoes, tortoises and turtles, a dart frog exhibit (which I didn't notice, boo!), a pair of macaws and many free-flying birds of various sizes and types. The plants and accompanying flowers growing there could be their own attraction—I couldn't begin to count the vast number of tropical species from around the world which thrived everywhere I turned. In one area of the path they even had a host of carnivorous pitcher plants which hung down from many vines. I was totally enchanted! Today's Pictures My main picture today shows the closed wing formation of a Blue Morpho butterfly! It's hard to believe that the other side of these wings are a dazzling metallic blue! These incredible beauties are among the largest species in the world with wings that stretch from between five and eight inches wide. I was surprised to learn that there are actually 29 different species and 147 subspecies which are found in the Americas as far north as Mexico. When Steve and I visited Costa Rica many years ago, we visited the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens and saw Blue Morphos for the first time. There were many other butterflies there but the Blue Morphos stole the show with their amazing size and gleaming color. Inset 1: This is a cropped close-up portrait of the previous Blue Morpho image. Inset 2: Closer still, the wonderful scales of a butterfly's wings is remarkable to see! Inset 3: I tried to get some good pictures of open-winged Blue Morphos but they were too active and skittish, or else they were too far away. This bedraggled beauty was definitely in its twilight hours as it sat exhausted on the ground but I was happy to immortalize it in a picture and delighted to share it with all of you! :) Inset 4: A pair of very content flamingos make their home at the Gardens and reminded me of the trip we took to a bird sanctuary in Camargue, France when we went to Provence a couple of years ago. Someday I'll post some pictures but this pair of flamingoes do the job quite nicely for now! :) Inset 5: All around the Gardens were bushes bristling with beautiful "red boas" and I discovered they are aptly called Chenille Plants. Chenille is French for caterpillar and it's also a type of velvety yarn. A perfect name for this lovely tropical bush, and I couldn't get enough of them! If you're wondering, they are just as soft as they look and I probably looked like a weirdo because I kept petting the flowers! :D Inset 6: The lovely plants were everywhere, including this colorful Croton. What a beautiful leaf! Inset 7: This is a pitcher plant, which hung down from vines that streamed all over one part of the Garden's path. Did you know there are over 170 species of these fascinating carnivores? Most are found in the tropics but there are some that grow here in Oregon! (Here are pictures from my visit to Darlingtonia State Natural Site …clicking on a picture opens the gallery.) Inset 8: This is another picture of a pitcher plant with a lovely russet tone. (The "tail" I pointed out is actually the cap to the pitcher that's folded back...but all I can see is a tail! :D) Inset 9: Finally, here's a group of pitcher plants hanging down, aren't they cool?! :) Pam, have you gotten the chance to see a Blue Morpho butterfly when you've been to a butterfly garden? They really are completely breathtaking. When we saw them at an exhibit in Costa Rica, we just about fell over because there were so many of them! They landed on us and slowly opened and closed their wings, crawling around. Exhilarating! Here's hoping you are having a good day--it's starting to get frosty on some mornings, SO COLD! Then the sun warms everything up and by the afternoon it's hot if you're standing still in the sun! CRAZY! Explored on 10/29/19; highest placement #1.

Victoria's Butterfly Gardens, Part 3: Lovely Butterflies and More! (+9 insets)

(+9 insets!) (Please scroll down to "Today's Pictures" for image information) Trip Talk: Victoria Butterfly Gardens...The Joy of Wandering Around an Artificial Jungle How often have you gotten the chance to walk around a real jungle? I'm going to guess that it's not been too often! Steve and I are pretty lucky in that regard. Together we've been to Costa Rica and Belize (with a short visit to Guatemala's Tikal Pyramid) and Hawaii's Maui too. The incredible diversity of flora and fauna is staggering, and I'd have to say that the Butterfly Gardens did a fantastic job filling every nook and cranny with plants. One of the things that I really liked was the mix of plants and animals that didn't normally live together. Whenever I've seen displays of various plant locals or animals, the installation has always been as true to life as possible. But at the Butterfly Gardens, their concern only seemed to be what grew well in the warm, humid conditions there. Hibiscus and pitcher plants rubbed leaves with cactus and ficus! Orchids and daisies mixed happily with bromeliads and philodendrons! I enjoyed it all I was delighted to learn that the larger animals that lived there were all rescues, which made it extra special. And it was obvious that everything was very happy and healthy there. The feeling in there was just wonderful. :) Today's Pictures The main image today shows a butterfly that I believe is called a Mimic Kite Swallowtail. Showing smokey black with pink and white accents on the outer wings, the inside featured gleaming black and red wings with white spots. Their juicy red and black bodies were so striking and I wished I'd been able to get more pictures of this beauty. However, this one turned out great and that's really all that I needed! :) Inset 1: This is a lovely pair of Red Postman butterflies…can you believe I managed to capture one in flight?! WOOT! The background was busy enough that I spent some time to fade the background a bit with some added texture. Inset 2: This beauty is a Red-Footed Tortoise, which is indigenous to South America. They can grow to be 16" long and can live 30 years or more. Inset 3: This tortoise shell just screamed to be a close-up texture, so here it is! Inset 4: A single blossom from the Thunbergia grandiflora, also commonly called Blue Sky Vine, Bengal Trumpet, Blue Trumpet Vine, Royal Clock Vine or Indian Sky Vine. Though I can't figure out what everything is, I've had fun trying to identify all the plants and animals I photographed. It's always so much more meaningful to know what it is you've got a picture of! This beauty is native to China, India, Nepal, Indochina and Burma and widely naturalized elsewhere. Inset 5: I was amazed to discover these huge peace lilies with their towering flowers. I had no idea that some species grew to six feet tall! Another surprise was learning there are 40 different species! Inset 6: A close-up of a peace lily's stalk and its white flower behind. In truth, the stalk is actually called a spadix, which is a type of blossom made up of many small flowers on a fleshy stem. The white "flower" behind isn't actually a flower at all! It's called a "spathe", a modified leaf known as a bract that forms a sheath around the spadix! Inset 7: Another image of a peace lily's spadix. These flowers were named for the similarity of their white flowers (spathes) to the white flags of peace. Another interesting fact is that they aren't lilies at all and are instead a tropical perennial. Inset 8: An Owl Butterfly resting on what I believe is a red pinecone ginger flower. And yes, they are edible--but it's the leaves you can eat--the red blossom can be gently squeezed and the liquid which comes out is used as a shampoo! Amazing! Inset 9: On the large maps found around the main garden, this was aptly named the "Turtle Log." What fun to see all of these happy guys enjoying their safe resting spot! Thanks to Pam for the positive identification of these Red-Eared Terrapins! *high five* Pam, have you ever counted the number of butterfly species you've photographed? I bet it's quite the total and I've always admired the number of different types you've gotten pictures of. I'm going to guess the number of wild species I've photographed is probably about a dozen or so. You have certainly been blessed with good luck and awesome patience to have captured so many varieties! :) Well, I'm hoping all is ok in your world…it's turned into an Indian summer here, though the mornings are frosty! *BIG HUGS FROM SOUTHERN OREGON*! Explored on 11/01/19; highest placement #7.

Victoria's Butterfly Gardens, Part 4: Even More Beautiful Butterflies, Plants and Animals! (+10 insets)

(+10 insets!) (Please scroll down to "Today's Pictures" for image information) Trip Talk: Victoria Butterfly Gardens...The Show Continues! Visiting a butterfly garden is something everyone should do if you have the chance. Have you ever done a Google Search to find out if there is a butterfly house nearby? You may find yourself surprised! In my case, by including "Near Me" along with "Butterfly House" I learned of a place just two hours away! It has butterflies during summer months, along with other attractions in the area for us to enjoy when visiting. What fun! It will be something to look forward to right in our own backyard! Steve and I spent about an hour or two at the Butterfly Gardens and every time we walked around the enclosure we'd see many things we hadn't noticed the last time around. It's just so profusely planted and filled with animals to discover, it was wonderful. Today's Pictures My main picture today features a Red Postman butterfly, which can be found in Mexico, Central and parts of South America. It's named for the way it follows a daily route, just like a mail carrier! :) There are between 20-40 subspecies which often interbreed because of overlapping territories. The resulting hybrids are an interesting blend but are often sterile. If you'd like more information, I found a fascinating web page which has many pictures of these butterflies and includes their locations. Inset 1: Check out this gorgeous Zebra Mosaic Butterfly! I am crazy about its pattern! Inset 2: I got some very nice details on this otherwise unremarkable and unidentified brown butterfly. I cannot help myself from trying to figure out what species each butterfly is but it's often a lost cause. Did you know there are over 17,500 species around the world? It's no wonder I rarely find the exact species when I look! Inset 3: There is a wonderful display at the Butterfly Gardens where their caterpillars are raised. This one was enormous and I enjoyed watching it move along the underside of a stem, munching leaves as it went. What a crazy shape and color…and if you can see, there's another small caterpillar at the top of the image too. Inset 4: A lovely pair of butterflies feeding on a slice of grapefruit. The more visible butterfly is a Malachite--thank you Anne Eliot for the positive id!--but the other one? Nope, can't tell you what species it is, though I looked and looked! It's so hard to resist searching, even though it's usually hopeless! :D Let me know if you come up with something! :) Inset 5: There was a pair of macaws to admire, a Blue-and-Gold and this one, the magnificent Green-Wing. Are you surprised I didn't say it was a Scarlet Macaw? I have a link here, which shows a picture of a Blue-and-Gold, a Scarlet and a Green-Wing Macaw so you can see the difference! Inset 6: These Guzmania Bromeliad flowers got my attention where they bloomed next to the main path in the Butterfly Gardens. I had some fun changing the path's color to something more attractive! Inset 7: A trio of Blue Sky Vine flowers that hung down from where they were growing on some tropical trees. These beauties are officially called Thunbergia grandiflora and part of a group of about 100 species. These plants are fast-growing and if the conditions are good, will establish themselves easily, often becoming invasive. Inset 8: Imagine my delight when I found an area of a pond that was covered with lily pads and flowers! They are one of my favorite water plants and I think this one is an Egyptian Lotus. Inset 9: This Blue Sky Vine tendril turned and began twining up itself, creating a natural green hangman's noose! In the background you can see a group of flowers in bokeh. :) Inset 10: The textures of this leaf were too much for me to resist! Sadly I didn't get any crisp pictures of the entire leaf but I believe it was from a Canna Lily plant. Pam, I'm not at all surprised to learn that you've gotten pictures of 53 species where you live, but WOW!!! That's just amazing to me!! I don't dare count the species I've captured but it's probably only about 20 or so I reckon. I'd hoped to find more butterflies this season while we traveled around but unfortunately there weren't many opportunities where I could just chill out and wait for butterflies to visit. We're hoping that our future travels will include much longer stays here and there so I can correct this extreme frustration. Truly, I was pretty unhappy that we couldn't just BE more often because we felt we needed to maximize on each location. I had visions of sitting by a moist place where butterflies gathered for minerals and water and spending an hour just taking pictures. Or finding an area full of flowers which had bunches of butterflies to capture images of. However, I did get a few pictures which made me really happy! We'll accommodate for Being In the Moment as we work out the kinks of our travels! :) Oh--and it sounds like we're both experiencing the same chilly mornings! *BIG HUGS from southern Oregon* :) Explored on 11/03/19; highest placement #4.

Victoria's Butterfly Gardens, Part 5: Lotus Blossom Buds and a Final Group of Butterflies and More! (+11 insets)

(+11 insets!) (Please scroll down to "Today's Pictures" for image information) Trip Talk: Victoria Butterfly Gardens…one last set of pictures, and the latest on our new RV! Well, I've finally managed to get through all of the Butterfly Gardens pictures! I'm glad I took the time to process what I could from because there was such an interesting variety. It sure would be nice to live near a place like this, as, just like Butchart Gardens, one could never run out of fantastic subjects to photograph! The latest on our new RV: We've been tweaking it like crazy…adding this and that, purchasing some necessary items, and building a few things. There will be some new shelves but for the most part we've only needed to buy plastic bins in various sizes. The cabinets are lined with non-stick matting now, doors protected from banging with little felt dots and stoppers. We've had to figure out where everything goes, and one thing's for sure, there's a LOT of ROOM! What a difference from the Grey Wolf. If all goes well, we'll be able to go on a short trip in a few days! Today's Pictures I simply had to post this picture first, even though I have some wonderful butterflies to share as well. I am crazy about lily pads and lotus blossoms, and when I saw the gorgeous display in one area of their pond, I was beside myself with happiness. Looking through my images, I took a look at this one and was really surprised. It's not always obvious what dof you should choose for an image like this so I took a handful at different settings. As it turned out, a shallow dof created some wonderful bokeh but exacting, crisp detail just where I wanted it: the buds and the edge of the lily pad leaf. It wasn't something I planned and so I was really delighted to get this shot! Inset 1: I managed to get a very good picture of this unidentified butterfly as it sat on a nearby leaf. If you know what it's called, I'd love to find out! Inset 2: Here's a cropped-in close-up of the previous picture! Inset 3: This colorful Bird of Paradise was the most brightly-colored I've ever seen! These are such bizarre-looking flowers and I simply can't resist taking pictures of them whenever I find one. Inset 4: A nearly-neon-colored Blue Wave butterfly enjoys some banana at a feeding station. Inset 5: A delicate beauty in shades of brown with white markings, this is the Blue Moon Butterfly. Thanks to Jakob Bärfuss for the positive identification! :) Inset 6: Lovely Blue Porterweed flowers growing along a green stem...thanks to Ron Hanko for the positive ID on these lovely blossoms! He got a picture of his own when he and his wife went to Australia one year! And, a past ipernity member, Fizgig, identified the flower for him when Ron posted his picture! :D Inset 7: Another picture of the Greenwing Macaw, what a beauty! There was a time when I considered getting a macaw and in my studies, I learned that Greenwings are known for being gentle and tend to be much better companions than Scarlets, which can be extremely feisty, the females in particular. Inset 8: I couldn't resist another abstract picture of the canna lily leaf that I found. I just love the combination of lime green with rusty browns and all that cool texture! Inset 9: I spotted this pair of Zebra Finches gathering nesting supplied and managed to get one picture to share! Inset 10 and 11: This lily pad and Yellow Pond Lily blossom close-up were photographed on an earlier trip when Steve and I wandered up and down the Oregon coast. Considering the main pictures, I thought this pair would be a perfect addition to this presentation. While we were at Devil's Lake State Park campground a few months back, we went on their boardwalk trail. It led us through a marsh and ended at a pond. There I found a bunch of lily pads with flowers! Steve supported me on the soft mud so I could take pictures! Pam, are you a fan of water lilies too? They are so exotic and beautiful and whenever I find them I absolutely must take pictures! HAH! This reminded me of some pictures I took a while back and I have processed them for this presentation, yay! I would love to see some of those ridiculously huge lily pads that can hold up a person! :D I'd just HAVE to give it a try! :D "Lunatic woman is hauled away after she is found in a pond laying on the lily pads!" Heh…well, I hope you are having a good day! It's another warm Indian Summer day and absolutely beautiful! Explored on 11/05/19; highest placement #2.