Friday, April 09, 2021

Friday Ramble - Cloaked in Springtime

Mourning Cloak or Camberwell Beauty
(Nymphalis antiopa

The first 'cloaks' of the season have hatched out, and Beau and I were surprised when several flew right by our noses on a morning walk a few days ago. The butterflies alighted on nearby tree trunks, perched on stones along the trail and rested on the luminous metal of parked cars to warm their wings in the early sunlight. Perhaps spring has arrived?

I was a little worried about food supplies until I remembered their diet is mainly tree sap, particularly that of maples, poplars, oaks and birches. Cloaks also 'mud-puddle', a process in which they take in nutrients from damp soil, compost and decaying organic matter, sometimes gathering in groups to do do.

Groups of butterflies are called kaleidoscopes, but a coterie of mourning cloaks dining together in a lovely patch of wet mud just has to be called a puddle. A banquet of mourning cloaks would be a fine expression too.  Whatever one calls them, our early hatching purple wonders have no need for spring wildflowers.

The Mourning Cloak (or Camberwell Beauty as it is known in Britain) is one of the longest living butterfly species on the planet, and it is certainly one of the most powerful fliers, sometimes being found far from its range during migration.

I always forget how beautiful "cloaks" are when they are viewed from other angles. The butterfly is lovely with its dark plummy purple wings open wide, displaying a row of bright blue spots along the back edge and yellow fringes, but this member of the tortoiseshell (or anglewing) family is equally exquisite when seen with its wings folded.

Every year I am enchanted all over again when I encounter a specimen of Nymphalis antiopa in profile, my attention held by its iridescence and complex overlapping scale structure. There is much to be learned from looking at the great wide world from a slightly different angle, and there are always surprises.

And so it begins... I so wish my departed love were here to witness the earth coming to life again. This was his favorite season, and he loved these butterflies.

1 comment:

Tabor said...

They are truly lovely. I 'think' I have seen them here but not sure. The only butterflies I have seen are the very small pale blue ones. Nothing else, but spring is in full swing.