My wife and I headed to Callaway Gardens yesterday to see what was going on in the world of butterflies and flowers. I haven’t been there in at least 10 years, and that was only for the Christmas lights show, and she hasn’t ever really looked around the grounds of the gardens, so we both were not prepared for some of the wonderfulness that we came across.
The day started with the Butterfly House (or whatever they call it), which is one of the gardens’ main attractions, and for good reason. You walk in to the lobby, with butterfly artwork and fat rednecks everywhere, then stroll through some double doors into the hatching area. From what I can tell, they let the caterpillars form cocoons in a lab type area, then pin them up in rows in a display behind glass so visitors can watch the process. Judging from the amount of butterflies in the conservatory combined with the short life span of a butterfly, taking care of the cocoons is a constant process.
The conservatory itself is a large greenhouse that is temperature and humidity regulated, so while it was nice and cool outside, inside felt like a regular Georgia summer day, just with a few more butterflies. They have a stream/waterfall system with koi running through the room, along with a few cages for parrots and other exotic birds. The non-fluttering creatures almost seem like an afterthought, even though the parrots yelling “Hey baby!” and “Hola chica!” and whistling the theme to the Jeffersons was pretty entertaining. My wife swears she taught one of the parrots to mimic her voice, but the parrot was mute whenever I was around.
The butterflies were, of course, the main attraction. There were hundreds in the room, with several always fluttering around you. We spent around an hour in there the first time, and went back later in the day for another hour or so. Butterflies are not entirely cooperative for picture taking, but I did manage to snap off a few (hundred) shots of the lazy ones. I won’t clutter this thread up with my five million butterfly pics, so check out the photography section for the rest.
Not a great pic, but this should give you an idea of how many butterflies there were:
Here’s one that tried to make friends with me. I smushed him after I took this pic. OK, just kidding, I nudged his butt until he flew away.
After the butterfly house, we headed to the “vegetable garden.” Their calling it a vegetable garden is kind of a misnomer, as you will see from the pics. This thing was MASSIVE, with row upon row of just about every vegetable you can think of, most of which had produce hanging from the plants. They sell the produce along with using it in their restaurants, so I imagine that they go through a lot of vegetables on a yearly basis. There are some fruit trees ringing the area, so we saw peach, cherry, persimmon, and apple trees. Everything was well taken care of, which was impressive considering the size of the area.
The garden had this beautiful flowering vine running around the perimeter and in several of the vegetable areas. Callaway is hell bent on removing invasive species, with information in the main building about their eradication, but the vine did not look like it was harming the vegetables. I am assuming that the vine was there to attract pollinating insects, which it did in spades.
After the vegetable garden, we headed over to the birds of prey show. The host sounded like a children’s TV show host, but more annoying. The birds of the show completely made up for her with their impressive displays. She brought out a Harrier (?) Hawk, and two Great Horned Owls. They were all well-trained, and would swoop from the host to perches around the area with a display of grace rarely seen in our hectic urban lives. The birds would fly mere inches over the tops of peoples’ heads, but we did not get to see any eye gouging or baby swiping. The host made sure that no pets were around before any of the birds were brought out, so we also did not get to see what surely would have been an entertaining Fifi theft.
They also have a bald eagle, barn owls, barred owls, condors, and other birds, but they only show three per show. We are seriously considering buying season passes and going back on a regular basis, so hopefully we will see all of them eventually.
In case you have never tried, trying to get an in flight bird of prey in focus and in frame when it is maybe 20′ from you is friggin’ hard.
After the birds of prey show, it was back to the butterfly house, and then back home after being stuck behind an old guy that obviously thought his Grand Marquis would erupt in a fireball if he took any slight curve in the road faster than 8 mph (seriously).