I was talking to Aaron on the phone about his new house, the president of China, and the best route to Santa Cruz in a Lotus when a very particular kind of shadow caught my eye as it slid past the office door. I said, "gotta go", because only a butterfly makes a shadow that flutters like that. And there have been precious few butterflies around here so far this spring.
This was a mourning cloak, Nymphalis antiopa, that had alit on a perch high in the melaleuca linarifolia tree while waiting for me to get the camera. It's a 2006 hatchling, offspring of the adults that were flying (briefly!) back in January. The wings look really fresh; if it were an overwintered adult, they would be battered. Mourning cloaks live for almost a year. This creature has already weathered some unseasonably cold and wet weather as a caterpillar, so here's hoping for more sunny butterfly days just like today to make its long/short life a bit easier.
The adult butterflies preferred food is tree sap and rotting fruit, but they do also take nectar. This one looks like it is tasting the melaleuca flowers.