In preparation for some upcoming high-altitude hikes, I’ve been walking a lot in the local hills. On Sunday, I decided that my breathing had become a little too easy as I approached the peak of my climb, so I ran the last 150 meters or so. That certainly took care of the easy breathing issue (room for improvement there!), and I spent some time at the top trying to refill my lungs.
Which is why I happened to be standing there as a Cleopatra butterfly (Gonepteryx cleopatra) wandered by.
At first I didn’t recognize the species, because her wings were so lacy. Then I got a closer look and realized that they weren’t lacy, they were tattered — she had escaped predation, probably by a bird or cat. But she still had enough lift to fly, and enough time to complete her life cycle. As I watched, she fluttered around a Mediterranean Buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus), which is the food plant for this species, and stopped several times to lay eggs.
The nice thing about butterflies is that if you stand still, they tend to dismiss you as a predator and ignore your presence. Sure enough, this one flew straight to me and laid an egg less than an arm’s length away, giving me a great view as she landed, curved her abdomen, and deposited a tiny, perfect egg on the underside of a leaf. Lifting off immediately, she flitted to a spot right in front of me and laid another egg. Then she went around the back side of the shrub, and when I stepped around to look she was nowhere to be seen.
It occurred to me that had I not run up that hill, gotten myself into oxygen debt and thus spent some time standing around at the top gasping, I would not have been there to see a butterfly laying her eggs.
Serendipity is a wonderful thing.