Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23: Question Mark

In addition to all the avian activity on Monhegan this time of year, you can't help but notice the butterflies as well. The wild purple asters especially are graced with the colorful beauty of monarchs, red admirals, painted ladies, skippers, clouded sulfurs, cabbage whites, and my favorite, the question mark. It can be mesmerizing to focus closely on a butterfly as it flits among the flowers, then lands, its wings slowly opening and closing as it sucks nectar and then lifts off to find the next perfect bloom.

I found my first question mark of the trip today while scrounging for birds. When I pointed it out to a fellow birder, he remarked that the fringed edge of its wings are the same pale purple as the aster it was feeding upon. Most of the upper wings are an elaborate pattern of bright orange and burnt umber with brown spots, with "frilly" lavender edges. The underwings are pale and brownish, like a dried fall leaf, with a mark on the lower wing in the shape of a question mark.

Often I come across these graceful insects feeding on rotten apples--a striking contrast of what is lovely alongside what is not. Or rather, what is lovely drawing sustenance from what is not.
Question mark feeding
on rotten apples: beauty's
brevity on show?

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