It's bright and sunny here in the middle of January with high temps up to the mid 80s (last week) but settling around 70 for now. Apparently it's butterfly weather with multiple sightings of the ridiculously common but always welcome Vanessa cardui, seen here feeding on lantana nectar.
There have also been several Mourning cloak butterflies, Nymphalis antiopa, flying through. Some of them paused on the trunk of our Ulmus parvifolia tree, which seems to be a nice place to sun. This Chinese elm is a street tree that has been trimmed by the city over the years into twisted shapes that remind us of truffula trees; it also serves as a handy abrasive surface for the phone line to rub itself raw on during storms; and it dumps bucketloads of leaves and seeds all over the garden this time of year. But the mourning cloak considers this annoying tree a prime larval food source. Our Chinese elm is almost fully evergreen so it is leafed out at this difficult time of year for herbivores. Hopefully some egg-laying is taking place up in its deformed branches so we'll have more of these black and yellow butterflies flying later in spring to soften our opinion of the %#^&*#@ elm tree. Sorry no photo of the nymphalis . . . I was too slow or they were too wary.