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A question mark butterfly, Polygonia interrogationis, lives in wooded areas like Mount Greylock.

Spring Harbinger Butterflies Abound on Mount Greylock

By Tor HansenCommunity Submission
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Above, a mourning cloak, or Nymphalis antiopa, soaks up the sun after overwintering on the mountain. Right, a spring beauty is ready to bloom. 

ADAMS, Mass. — Under azure blue skies our sun is warming the ground story all around the woodlands of Mount Greylock, and the native butterflies are responding. Drawn out of winterlong hibernation, resident species are actively flitting about, searching for mates, and sipping both ground moisture and sap from oak and beech trees.

As April warmth pervades the trailside glens, as winter's remnant snows remain and recede, one may find joy in witnessing these showy denizens basking in vernal warmth, and dashing and zooming hither and yon, in pursuit of conjugation or coupling so to procreate their progeny or offspring.  

Here nature shows us how butterflies and other insects share natural resources at hand in the ecosystem, and how they adapt to the changing climate, often abrupt and harsh intrusive cold, when cloud covers may chase these winged acrobats back into cold storage. After a long winter sleep or dormancy, they need to replenish dwindling fat reserves needed to supply energy to outlast a long winter. Such a glen with a trickling brook supplies a flowing reservoir where butterflies can imbibe or drink water and groundwater minerals essential for healthy life. They will seek early blooming wildflowers, here so far only the tiny Spring Beauty (Claytonia species) where true flies (family Diptera) are first to imbibe nectar, and like the flies, in turn, may cross-pollinate the flowers, another role of butterflies!
The evolution of the drinking proboscis is indeed remarkable. Like a flexi-straw, this coilable sucking tube allows energy supplying liquids to be swallowed and ingested. In three words evolution can be explained as "change over time." This incredible organ developed most likely as an outgrowth of a "positive" mutation of the caterpillar's jaws tissues that became beneficial to obtain nourishment. Microscopic studies in histology (tissues in cell biology) of the origin of the tongue-like proboscis may lead to an astounding clarification that led to the amazing success of the Lepidoptera (all butterflies and moths). However certain moths (family Saturniidae -- giant silk moths like Cecropia, Promethea, and Luna) do not have a working proboscis.
Knowing this background will help us to appreciate the wonder of how butterflies survive and utilize raw materials at hand. As we observe mourning cloak, comma, and question mark, the three species herein, going about their routine search for energizing fluids, they deploy an innate ability to probe soil, bark, and sap oozing wounds to find and secure molecular nourishment. In terms of structure, a proboscis can probe and decipher, sip, suck up, or imbibe (a fancy word), or pierce outer layers to obtain fluids within the cambium, or germinative layer inside the bark, where nutrients rich fluids are found.  

A comma butterfly's wings offer camouflage.
Now patiently follow the butterfly mini-bonanza. Endure the hiatus between events; for a while nothing may happen.  Presently a flutter of wings appears down in the old leaf litter. Mourning cloaks lay camouflaged among the sun warmed leaves, but suddenly motion appears and the shimmering wings open and display their sumptuous hues. And then another cloak dashes by on the wing, and together they flutter up into a spiraling dance, rising upwards some 30-50 feet or more, and then leisurely float down separately. If they disperse the meeting shows two males may have defined a territorial dance; if the two fly off together, they may be male and female eager to mate and procreate.  
Here on the down slopes and glens of Mount Greylock, Commas and Question Marks add to the jubilee. Before long these little sparks of flame-like flashing colors dash into arouse the cloaks to fly up into acrobatic ballet, a three-some swirling in awesome aerial acrobatics lastings seconds and long moments of thrilling encounters. A Mourning Cloak circled me three times and landed briefly on my head! 
Hidden joys are made manifest in exploration and discovery. Alighting once more on to a warming oak leaf, each butterfly can open its wings and basking in the sunlight, will soak up solar warmth, and in well-gauged thermo-regulation, so equip these lords of the air to perform their skillful needs towards species continuity. So they enhance halcyon grandeur through advancing biological diversity. Yes, observe a glimpse of sustaining a portrait of Emersonian utopia.
Tor Hansen, a naturalist writer, photographer, and musician, is a recent addition to the North County community.

Tags: butterflies,   nature,   

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Three Berkshires Women Named 'Unsung Heroines'

Liz Mitchell and state Rep. John Barrett III at Tuesday's 2019 Unsung Heroine ceremony at the State House. 

BOSTON — Three Berkshires women were named Unsung Heroines for 2019 during a State House ceremony on Tuesday.

State Sen. Adam G. Hinds nominated Donna Cesan for this recognition because of her dedication to community, having served as Community Development Director and interim Town Administrator for the town of Adams for 19 years.

Elizabeth "Liz" Mitchell, a North Adams resident and advocate for domestic violance victims with the Elizabeth Freeman Center, was nominated by state Rep. John Barrett III and Marie Richardson of Pittsfield, a caseworker in the Pittsfield Public Schools, was nominated by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.

"Donna has selflessly given countless hours of her time to ensure Adams is moving in the right direction," said Hinds. "She is well-respected in her hometown of Lanesborough, and the town of Adams is well-served by her. She is absolutely an Unsung Heroine for her dedication to our region and her professionalism, which is effortlessly showcased in all of her projects."

Massachusetts Commission of the Status of Women annually celebrates "unsung heroines" who don't always make the news, but who make a difference. They are the women who use their time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities and towns. They are mentors, volunteers and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectations of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community is better because of their contribution.   

Hinds said Cesan has dedicated her career to public service. As the director of community development, she has spearheaded economic development projects with big impact, like the construction of a platform for the Adams terminus of the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum's Hoosac Valley Service, the renovation of the Adams Visitor Center parking lot and implementing the community's vision for the Greylock Glen. Since 2014, she has been asked twice by the Board of Selectmen to also serve as interim town administrator, managing every aspect of municipal government for months, while also promoting community development initiatives in town.
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