The first butterflies of the season aren’t freshly emerged from the chrysalis, they are about a year old. Early spring butterflies in the northeast – Mourning Cloaks, Eastern Commas, Milbert’s Tortoiseshells, and Compton’s Tortoiseshells – were caterpillars in the summer of 2007. They emerged as adults during midsummer last year, and spent the winter hidden in cracks in tree bark, stone walls and other spots. The spring adults aren’t as pretty as they were the previous summer, but they have character. Here’s a view of the dusky underwing of a Mourning Cloak:
Mourning Cloaks are strong but leisurely in flight. They have a way or circling around and perching prominently in a sunny spot for a moment, and then taking off again for another circuit around. Sometimes they perch on the ground, sometimes on a branch high in a tree.