Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Calendar Butterfly 2008

My husband and I were stacking firewood on the back porch a couple of days ago in below- freezing weather. Dan noticed a battered, brown butterfly on the ground. We took a closer look and could see the wings moving slowly. Apparently we had disturbed its overwintering site in the logs. Eager to get the wood loaded and consequently, without giving it much thought, I put the butterfly in a cool room in the house, tucking it into a plant, and I returned outside to finish loading wood.

Back indoors I had forgotten about the butterfly until a few minutes later when it fluttered weakly across my shoulder. There are 23 windows in the house. The butterfly, with no assistance, chose the window with the Christmas angel on the outdoor sill. Even in its slumbering condition, the butterfly was hard to approach with my camera. I did get these few photographs and researched it in a small guide book from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Common Butterflies and Skippers of Ohio.

Don't the photos compare well with the guide book? It is a Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) which has a 3-4 inch wingspan. It prefers wooded habitat near water; my wooded yard with the watergarden and creek is similar. The flight period is April to September and it is a hibernating butterfly. Late summer adults may live eight months which is longer than any other Ohio non-hibernating resident. The mourning cloak is often seen on warm, sunny, early spring days flying around and basking in wooded clearings. One of its behavioral traits is that it is hard to approach and photograph, which I found to be true even in its sleepy state.

Once I realized that it was a hibernating butterfly (what else could it have been, duh?), I returned this little angel to the outdoors, gently covering it with some leaves under the porch decking. This New Year visitor reminded me of how much I will always have to learn about the natural world. Maybe it will remind me again in April while it basks near me as I'm stooped in the watergarden, whispering to me, "You are four months into 2008; are you any wiser yet?"

That's optimistic, but.........wishing you an optimistic year too!

1 comment:

Debby said...

How beautiful, it looks like brown velvet.