"Flight of Fancy"


I was inspired by lovely pics of exotic butterflies I recently found on Ispy to arrange a day out on Thursday with my children and their friends to the Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World.

Zebra butterfly, native to Central and South America

Armed with identification sheets, we split up and set out along the paths through the rainforest zone to see what we could find.

There were plenty of these to be seen, along with their relative, the Common Mormon………

Mating Common Mormons

I almost never read online reviews of places to visit but, whilst searching for available entry discounts to this place, I’d read one which said that it was very expensive for something which can be “done” in 20 mins. The writer and family must, surely, have picked the wrong attraction for them to visit, and not been very interested. We were there for 5 hours, with a packed lunch break outdoors in the adjacent picnic area and playpark, and we all agreed that we could have stayed longer. I also did manage to discount the cost for myself and 4 kids from £27 to £21, which amounts to £4.20 each – not much for a “round-the-world” daytrip, a wealth of learning, and some hands-on experience.

It was just wonderful to sit down, at times, on one of the several bench seats, for example, and just watch the butterfly world flutter by. The Blue Morpho (above), native to Central and South America, provided an awesome airshow, as the sun beaming through the glasshouse caught its wonderful colours. I was lucky to catch one landed.

We learned so much about natural defence mechanisms, too. The Owl butterfly was one of our favourites as, when sitting still, with wings spread, and those very feathery-looking wing edges, they do closely resemble Owls, and, therefore, manage to escape many predators.

Not at all a good pic, but just had to show the Glasswing from Central America. This tiny Butterfly (wing span of about 2") is amazing for its transparent wings, which really do look like a sliver of glass edged with reddish-orange as they flutter by and seldom seen landing – a real “spectacle”.

The Tree Nymph is quite a large butterfly and it was a pleasure to watch these in flight, as they flutter slowly and often just glide for short distances.

This Cattleheart, a native of Central America, was readily identified from the ID guide by its distinctive markings (a male, I think).

One of the most amazing flying creatures we saw, however, was the Giant Atlas Moth, which can have a wingspan of almost 1 ft (28cms). We watched one emerging slowly from its cocoon, and spotted one high in a tree.

There are several names for this huge moth, one of which is Snakeshead Moth (literal translation of the Cantonese name), which applies to the snake-like extensions to the forewings. I managed to capture this to an extent in the pic below.

The tropical glasshouse leads through to a reptile house with both diurnal and nocturnal zones. Most of the residents here have been “donated” as no-longer-wanted pets (we find it difficult to comprehend the idea of a pet no longer loved, but glad that places like this will give them a decent life). We managed to fit in one of the twice daily handling sessions, and wasn’t at all surprised that the boys wanted to get to grips with a Royal Python……..

…..nor that the girls preferred a little furry.

Suddenly, I remembered that all 4 of my “charges” had a Judo class at 4pm, and we were an hour’s drive from home. The children wanted to skip it and stay but me, having been so enthralled by the Olympic Games and the amazing background stories of many of the Team GB members and medal winners, not least the parental imput, thought otherwise (is this really why I gave this blog that title? Lol).

We made a fast sprint to the car, followed by an almost Formula 1 drive home, and just made it in time – phew!

Yes, this is one of those American “Terrorpins” I have seen and read about here on Ispy, which start off as pets and then get deliberately released down toilets, drains, into streams, ponds, etc……

Hope you don’t mind us sharing our day with some wonderful flying beauties and exotic wildlife. We all think that this “rainforest” is well worthy of a return trip, especially on a rainy day.



13 Aug, 2012
m_squared said:

A fascinating account.
I usually go to see the tropical butterflies at RHS Wisley when they're loose in the tropical house at the beginning of the year.

14 Aug, 2012
muddywalters said:

Great day out David and a canny discount too . . lol! Fabulous photos and may I say a young lady braver than most. :-))

15 Aug, 2012
phili said:

Cracking shots and an interesting blog,nicely done David.

17 Aug, 2012
david said:

I remember you mentioning the butterflies at Wisley, Malcolm :-)

Aye, ye cannae beat a canny discount, Muddy :-)

Many Thanks, Phil :-)

17 Aug, 2012
jane said:

Wow David....thank you for taking us all along your wonderful trip.A wealth of info on the many exoticas but I really love the Glasswing...just like a stained glass window !! Love the photo of the tarantula especially....in small trusting hands...:o))

19 Aug, 2012
robashfield said:

Brill David...thanks for sharing!!

21 Aug, 2012
aster said:

A brilliant blog David. I hope you have written a review for this wonderful day out ?
Your children and their friends won't know where to begin when they write about 'What I did in the summer holidays' !! They have had a fantastic time :)

21 Aug, 2012
david said:

Many Thanks for the comments, folks :-)

Thought that this female Tarantula would have been called Rose, Jane, but is actually named Sue ???

I did actually submit a better review, Aster :-)

30 Aug, 2012
bonkersbon said:

Apologies for my late arrival at this blog David.....juggling work with family visits and pretty exhausted !!It makes for fascinating reading...and your photos are superb. Good to see the children so involved too ! Included in " Wildlife " for posterity !!

6 Sep, 2012
david said:

Sorry, Bb, I just found this and, of course no apologies needed, as I know how hectic life is...worth it for the family time, however. Hope that you recover, soon, and Thanks for the commital to posterity :-D)

7 Jan, 2013
saucy said:

What a great day out. When you break days out like this they really don`t cost alot and the memories that you now have money can never replace.
Fabulous blog in a great place of interest.

8 Jan, 2013
david said:

Thank You, Saucy....you are so right,there! :-)))

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