Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mourning Cloak

I was sniffling and sorting through some old magazines in my studio yesterday afternoon when I saw a strange shadow on the trunk of the oak tree I could see out the window. It fluttered off, so I thought it must be some sort of butterfly. Today I was doing something similar and decided to get out the binoculars. It was a Mourning Cloak! (Nymphalis antiopa) I'd never seen a real one before, just ones in photographs and magazines.

I went outside and determined fairly quickly that I was not going to be able to get close enough for a decent shot. A yellow jacket's sudden interest in my bare feet hastened this realization.

I called my MFRs and thankfully my 2nd MFR came over and took these lovely photographs. Fortunately it stayed in one place long enough for him to get here, so I was able to tell him exactly where it was.

This particular butterfly has always fascinated me when when I've read and looked at photos of it, because the edges of the wings look as if they have been gilded with gold leaf. I think it's just such a beautiful, elegant and mysterious looking butterfly.

One surprising characteristic to me was its comparatively large size. When I was a teenager and a much more prolific artist, I drew this colored pencil drawing of all kinds of different butterflies. Here you can see that, in comparison to the swallowtails, I did not draw the Mourning Cloak or likely many of the other butterflies to scale. Since my weird blue rays emanating from each one were so realistic, this is very disheartening.

You can see more cool photos of Mourning Cloak butterflies on Jeff Pippen's site.


  1. teenage Lenore! (Or at least her eyes and forehead?)

  2. I think seeing them is a matter of being out at odd times of the year; they overwinter, so they're often seen very early in the spring.

  3. @marsosudiro If you to and scroll down to the last two pictures, you can see the complete teenage Lenore.

  4. I LOVE that drawing!! Please please please say you still have it!