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August 30, 2013

Conservatory a great place to lose yourself

The other night, Pat and I relaxed in our hot tub just off the deck in the backyard. It was dark except for some light streaming down from the yard light several feet away. Stars sparkled in constellations dreamed up ages ago by men with vivid imaginations and too much time on their hands.

Suddenly, I saw something pass through the light from the power pole. It was a large moth, probably five inches across. It darted in and out of the light for several minutes before disappearing into the night.

The next morning, I was traveling up Route 7 thinking about what to write about this week when I passed the Joseph L. Popp Jr. Butterfly Conservatory just above Emmons. At that moment things clicked. The cecropia moth near the light pole and the butterflies near Emmons.

Like so many times in the past, I didn’t have time to stop. But my wife and I took our motorcycles for a ride Wednesday and ended up at the conservatory. I had a purpose that time.

I had heard great things about this exhibit and I’m glad we took the time to stop. Sure they have better than 20 different varieties of beautiful, colorful butterflies from around the world, but there are also about 30 species of tropical birds, a few other strange insects, a couple of large lizards, and even a two-toed sloth that lounges in a hammock of sorts.

What’s unique about this 3,000-square-foot, tropical, indoor paradise is that all of the butterflies and birds are free-flying creatures. They fly around the building, landing on the many colorful tropical plants and flowers — often just a few inches away from the wandering visitors.

The walkways lead you by pools of water, koi ponds and exotic plants just teeming with butterflies and birds from the jungles of Central and South America, Africa and even the South Pacific. I may consider myself an adventurer, but I would have had to spend weeks in the tropical jungles and travel thousands of miles to see many of these beautiful species.

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