Yesterday I got a chance to go back to the 400-hectare property of the Santa Cruz Botanical Garden. The front part of the garden is developed with playgrounds, gardens, sport fields, fountains, etc, but the back part of the property is still natural forest. Although the property is quite narrow, it does go back from the main road between Santa Cruz and Cotoca quite aways. I have not explored all of it and hope to go back.
On Saturday’s hike I spotted one of the iconic species of the rainforest, the Blue Morpho Butterfly. We were walking down a wide path when all of sudden, we saw that distinctive and unforgettable, flash of the brightest blue you will see in nature (below). There are over 80 species of in the genus Morpho, so I don’t know what species I photographed here. We followed the fluctuating flight pattern in a clearing and could approach quite close. When the morpho stops it closes its wings, so I could only photograph up close the underside of the wings. They all have eye spots on the ventral side, which are said to be highly sensitive to UV light, hence, males can identify each other from long distances. They are territorial and this will avoid fights between males. I hope to go back to photograph one up close with the blue side showing. All I got was the blurry photo below, but it does give you an idea of what you see. When I used to spend more time in the neotropics, we used to put out pieces of papaya and mango on the ground to attract them.
The dazzling blue is not from a pigment, but from the molecular structure of the wing and they form light reflects off the wings. Owen was trying to catch it and I am glad that he didn’t get it. They are not endangered, but they are often sold to tourists as souvenirs. It was an exciting moment for me and the kids to see this classic butterfly of the neotropics.