Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rhinos and Giraffes

We woke up one morning a few weeks ago and noticed how perfect the weather was. Cool, not humid, not sunny. That settled it. We all threw our clothes on and jumped in the car. We were going to the zoo!

The Sioux Falls zoo's biggest draw at the moment is its adorable baby rhino:

We also love giraffes.

To make the day even more perfect, we brought along a picnic of sandwiches and enjoyed them in the great weather.

Other highlights:

Well, I couldn't resist.

Misha falls in line with the other ducklings.

Hooray for camels!

We brought Misha's scooter along, which worked out very well.

Sebby's first scooter ride.

Sebby is getting remarkably good at identifying loads of animals, from giraffes to lizards to owls. So what if he sees a picture of a horse and calls it Karst? When you're as short as he is, a full-sized greyhound is definitely horse-like.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Just Can't Get Enough (Butterflies)

Since we've been having so much fun raising our own monarchs, we thought a trip to the Butterfly House in Sioux Falls was in order. It was a bit hit, as always.

Josh and I had fun photographing the different species, while the kids concentrated mainly on getting a butterfly to land on them.

Waiting patiently ...

There it is!

This blue morpho made friends with Josh.

Some more colorful creatures:

The Butterfly House has recently added a beautiful collection of salt water fish tanks. Their stunning aquariums have it all: clown fish, anemones, tangs, triggers, a shark, cichlids, clams, and even sea horses.

And right beside the Butterfly House is a huge playground - the perfect conclusion to a day out.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Butterfly Fever

This summer, we have jumped into raising monarch caterpillars like never before. Tanya started us off with a bang when she found us five newly-hatched caterpillars. We went searching in McCrory Gardens for more and found a few bigger ones. Misha has been very good about making sure our little friends have enough fresh milkweed to eat, and our whole family watches them grow bigger and bigger until they are ready to make their chrysalises.

Here they go!

Then it's a matter of waiting for them to hatch. A week and half to two weeks later, the chrysalis becomes transparent, showing the black and orange patterns of the wings inside. Then, out it comes, and the real fun begins! The butterfly grips its vacated chrysalis and lets its crumpled, wet wings dry off for a few hours. Its fat body pumps fluid into his wings, and after awhile, it tries a few tentative flaps. It will easily hang onto our fingers during this process, and we can sit outside until its ready to fly. Misha loves to hold the butterflies as they dry, free to admire the beautiful insects as long as he wants. Sebby got a kick out of holding one too.

Just like magic.

As we've learned, there are several generations of monarchs each summer. While most monarchs live less than two months, those born in the last generation of the summer can live upwards of seven months; these are the butterflies that will make the long journey south to warmer climates. Their rapid life cycles mean that we can have a constant rotation of butterflies hatching out. We have a new batch of babies that are busy eating and growing as we speak!