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April 8, 2009 > Rendezvous with nature

Rendezvous with nature

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By Dustin Findley

Spring has sprung and butterflies flutter around. Longer daylight hours, pleasant temperatures, new plants sprouting, flowers blooming, and colorful birds chirping herald a season of renewal.

Butterfly Safari and insect egg hunt is one of many outdoor opportunities to get close to nature while enjoying a relaxing weekend. Kids can hone observation skills, develop learning, bridge an ever-widening gap with nature, and be healthier and happier by visiting natural habitats.

Fremont's Tule Ponds is a unique site for outdoors activity with natural as well as constructed wetlands in a single ecosystem, a sanctuary to many animals and plants. The free event is sponsored by Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District and the Math Science Nucleus, a nonprofit organization that conducts educational tours, teacher workshops, and research at the site.

"This is the first time we are doing a Butterfly Safari," said Dr. Joyce Blueford, Math Science Nucleus board president. "Last year we had a Frogs and Tadpoles Open House which over 400 people visited."

Her staff will provide lectures every hour starting at 11:30 a.m. "We will also be showing parts of a documentary on monarchs as they travel from Mexico to Canada," she added. It is geared to elementary-age students and their families. Children will be able to walk around 17-acres of trails.

Families will be directed to three areas so children can learn more about butterflies and moths. At the butterfly meadow, visitors will see different butterfly plants and learn which ones attract which butterflies. Learn about the lifecycle of butterflies as you look for caterpillars just hatching from eggs. Sit and watch hummingbirds as well.

At the second station, learn about milkweed and how it attracts butterflies. Children will discover how to plant milkweed so they can start their own monarch butterfly garden at home.

The third station is where they can make a small basket and decorate it before going out to find a plastic insect egg, which they can keep.

Visitors to Butterfly Safari will also get a chance to witness the lifecycle of a variety of insects.

"Silkworm moths are just hatching, so children can see the eggs and small caterpillar as they eat mulberry leaves," Blueford said. The Chinese domesticated silkworms over 4,000 years ago to make silk.

Swarms of Painted Lady Butterflies are migrating through the Bay Area this month. They are found almost anywhere, but tend to inhabit brightly lit and open environments.

"In the last week they started their migration from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Northwest," Blueford explained. "Tule Ponds have seen an invasion of Painted Lady Butterflies as they stop to take some nectar from our many flowers that are blossoming. This year is the highest number we have ever seen. When the sun is shining they just magically appear on their journey north."

They like to fly through wetlands looking for nectar and plants on which they will lay small green eggs. "I don't have the vaguest idea how long it will continue," said Dr. Arthur Shapiro, a professor of Evolution and Ecology at University of California, Davis, who has spent over 34 years monitoring butterfly migration trends. "It depends on how many more batches are coming north from the desert, and the paths they take."

Butterfly Safari
Saturday, April 11
11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
1999 Walnut Avenue, Fremont
(510) 790-6284

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