Monday, March 25, 2013

A brown cloak in the sun


There has not been much to report these past few weeks of cruel, late winter. However, there are signs of spring besides emergent flowering bulbs. An ardent song sparrow has been sitting atop the holly bush and singing its heart out even amidst falling late winter snow. Yesterday as I looked out on the garden I spotted a large butterfly. I ran outside into the spring sunshine, camera in hand, because I knew that I had seen a mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), the first of the season and a true harbinger of spring. It landed on a large stone in the sun, wings open so that its dark brown wings could absorb radiant heat from the sun. It sat there for several minutes providing me the opportunity to get a good close-up photograph. Yellow margins on the wing and azure blue iridescent spots add refinery to a somber, brown cloak. After a while the beauty took off and fluttered around me before landing again on my head! I felt a tickle in my hair and a feeling of joy. We have both come through the winter to bask in spring sunshine at last. Mourning cloaks are thought to be the longest-lived of all butterflies. Adults can live up to 10 to 11 months and most of them overwinter. Only some migrate south in the fall.