Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Dalkeith Delights pt1

That's not a phrase you're likely to wear out - Dalkeith Delights! But it was the theme of yesterday's very uplifting adventure - and such was the fun that it will take 2 blogs to cover it. First a trip to Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World, one of my favourite places of all time. 

Within the grounds of Dobbies Garden Centre, on the outskirts of Dalkeith, this poorly advertised and rather modest looking clutch of glasshouses hosts an extravagance of butterfly and insect marvels, with a sprinkling of reptiles and spiders in the backroom, with tanks of fish, (and terrapins) and Japanese Quail and tortoises all coming and going or doing their stuff. The staff are impressively well informed and seem to be life long wildlife lovers and beasty collectors. Although smallish in scale the place appears extremely well run and you just know the captives are all very well looked after.

Mary asked last month what I wanted for my birthday and after thinking for a bit, I replied a trip to Butterfly World. The original idea was for her to go as well, however I knew she wouldn't be captivated for more than 30 mins and it took me 2 hours (and 400+ photos) before my cup was overflowing. I was looking for something to do with the glorious weather forecast for Tuesday (and Mary was working) so it was a solo trip on a weekday - which meant fewer kids in front of me in the queue at Animal Handling (every day at noon.)

Citrus Swallowtail

This Blue Morpho was hanging vertically but I've turned it around to fit. At rest they have the frustrating habit of folding their iridescent wings and it is only in flight that you can see the magnificent blue uppers.

Embryo, Larva, Pupa, Imago. 
Towards the back of the main greenhouse is rack after rack of hanging chysalises, looking like berries or leaves or jewels. Butterflies emerge and hang below, stretching their limbs and pumping up wings, brand spanking new, fresh as a mint stamp. 

Tree Nymph

Common Mormon

Malay Lacewing

One of the more bizarre specimens
an Indian Leaf Butterfly

Pink Rose Swallowtail
above and below

This exceptionally vivid Flame longwing refused to come any closer
and this was the best I got.

At noon the staff put on a handling session. They have a number of creatures through the back, many unwanted pets whose owners have grown bored of their tarantulas or snakes. We were introduced to Rosie (above) who walked with such delicacy and so slowly she was much less terrifying than most large house spiders. We also got to hold a millipede and a python and although both were interesting I was keen to get back out to the butterflies. I took some photos of some of the other inmates.

Underside of large wood nymph.

Love the bearded dragons.

I asked what the above caterpillars were and was very pleased to hear they were of the Atlas Moth. Did they have any in the place I asked with baited breath? They did, just the one out at the moment. Kev, the guy doing the chat walked out into the greenhouse and spotted it within seconds hiding in plain sight over the pond. The Giant Atlas Moth is the Blue Whale of the moth world, having the largest surface area of any moth. They are huge and have fake 'snake heads' at their wing tips. Although unable to get a decent close up it was brilliant to see one in real life.

The Owl - fake eye and feathers scare predators away.
While you are discouraged from touching the butterflies, what can you do if they land on you?

Apparently some species can 'taste' a leaf using their hindparts - in order to distinguish a toxic leaf before egg laying. Not sure if that is what is going on here or whether it is just keeping the place tidy by dusting.

A Clipper - blue subspecies
(Looking a bit tatty.)

Clipper from the Philippines

This locust wasn't superkeen on my proximity
and flew off strongly across the greenhouse rattling it's cellophane wings!

giant snails and bananas

trying to catch a Blue Morpho with wings open

Low's Swallowtail

swallowtail caterpillar which will rear up and impersonate a snake when disturbed

very pleased this Tailed Jay held still long enough for a shot,
they are very flighty and constantly fluttering with a hummingbird-like flight

Caterpillar of the the Owl Butterfly
thick as your thumb and more than twice as long

I can't recommend Butterfly World highly enough. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and very keen to answer your questions. The creatures are in great shape and it is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a tropical paradise for under a tenner. I was blown away from the moment I went in for the next 2 hrs, but then I am something of a fan. It is 4 years since I was last there and it is very similar, so not a lot changes, but then again I wouldn't want it to. If you are going to take photos and video, wait for a day like yesterday with good light.

Here is a video I made from 4 years ago. Some of the sound track has bad words so cover the childrens' ears.

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