Most of my observation of butterflies has been done at ground level. This has been true for my entire life. In the backyard; at the park; around the neighborhood. They have always seemed to fly pretty well, but it was all bush to bush, or thereabouts. I now occupy the first residence of my life that comes with a view. Twelfth floor, with a nice balcony. The surroundings are very low, my building is the only tall structure in the development. All around are private homes, and the area is chock full of mature trees and bushes. It’s a great spot for bird watching, which I enjoy. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of butterflies as well. It’s made me consider the lives and abilities of butterflies for the first time.
I suppose that I knew that butterflies were very capable fliers, but I’d never really thought about it before. Monarch butterflies, certainly, travel over long distances to go to their breeding areas in Mexico. But now I can observe butterflies in flight at altitudes of over one hundred feet, eye to eye, as it were. They are impressive creatures.
Some larger, some smaller, but they do very, very well in the air. They often fly straight up, holding a line, which can’t be easy. They often are seen flying into a considerable wind, successfully. They are holding the altitude, too, and the direction, which seems to indicate that they are going somewhere. Is it reading too much into it to assume that they are going somewhere? Somewhere that they know? Flying to an intended destination? That’s pretty amazing for a creature that does not seem well designed for flight in the first place, a creature with a brain that must be about the size of the point of a pin.
So, these manifestly unaerodynamic creatures are flying long distances, at impressive altitudes, and they are navigating. It’s been a revelation to me.
The world is full of these little surprises, and being struck by them is a nice change from the so-called news or the mundane worries of life on earth. Thank you, world, for this distraction. Most of us can use a little distracting these days.