One spring in early April I was out riding my bike when I spotted a large, dark butterfly fluttering over a mound of dirty snow. I did a double-take, for there was still a chill in the air and plenty of snow on the ground. In fact, this butterfly was perched on the snow, and appeared to be sipping from it, as though the pile of snow were a flower.
I later learned that the mourning cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa-pictured here in my garden last summer), which overwinters as an adult, is known to emerge once temperatures are in the 50s, so keep a look out for them when you are out and about on these warming days. The one I spotted on the mound of snow was likely getting moisture from it.
Other flyers (birds, that is) we don’t see much are here or soon will be, too, some just passing through to nesting grounds farther north, and others returning to the Twin Cities as the melting snow and ice exposes food and open water. I know I’m not the only one who’s heard the honking of geese overhead at night (many migrating birds fly at night), or spotted robins in the tree branches.
According to the Freshwater Society‘s Weatherguide Calendar, we should be spotting various waterfowl this week as the lakes continue to open up, and red-wing blackbirds may be heard trilling any day now.
Over at Twin Cities Naturalist (which posts a phenology update every Monday), naturalist Kirk Mona photographed a northern harrier recently returned to the area. And the Minnesota Birdnerd blog offers a migration map, updated periodically, so you can keep tabs on the movement of birds heading our way, as well as reports of recent birding opportunities for the avian fan.
It helps to have these cheerful migrants to draw our attention away from the muck and litter that the receding snowbanks are exposing, doesn’t it?