It only takes a few minutes of time to realize that Lovell, Maine, like all other New England towns, is rich in history–both human and natural. And though we may be able to assign dates to certain events that shaped the town, there are reminders in our midst that predate our understanding.
Think about it. According to the American Museum of Natural History’s website, our knowledge of “Butterfly origins is based on the study of living Lepidopteran species. We can often learn about evolution from the fossil record, but there are relatively few butterfly fossils. Those that do exist, like the 40-million-year-old Prodryas persophone, are remarkably similar to modern-day forms—so the fossil record sheds little light on the origin of today’s butterflies.
Many scientists think that the specialized association between today’s butterflies and flowering plants suggests that butterflies developed during the Cretaceous Period, often called the “Age of Flowering Plants,” 65 million to 135 million years ago—a time when dinosaurs also roamed the earth.”
And there I was this afternoon at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve admiring a White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis.
In quiet reflection above Heald Pond, one seemed to contemplate life. A cool fact about this butterfly is that rather than seeking nectar, the White Admiral is known to extract much of the water and nutrients it requires from mammal scat. Though I didn’t see one on scat today, I knew that the we shared a special connection–scat, after all, happens and has done so since the beginning of time.
And then there were the dragonflies that may have been older than even the dinosaurs. Certainly by the structure of the exuvia left behind once they emerge, one gets a sense of that ancient time.
Today’s great finds at H&B included male Chalk-fronted Corporals that followed me everywhere,
and their occasional female counterparts.
There were plenty of Lancet Clubtails,
and even a Racket-tailed Emerald.
In keeping with the same theme at the Kezar River Reserve, I spied a female Common Whitetail–which was anything but common,
and atop bracken ferns a female (note her white dots) and male Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly.
Again, the earliest fossils of the Odonata so far discovered come from Upper Carboniferous sediments formed about 325 million years ago. The group of fast-fliers represented by the fossils went extinct about the time of dinosaurs, and yet today we have their relatives to admire.
Even the bracken fern on which the jewelwings paused spoke to an earlier time when it stood much taller than today’s three feet.
And then on my way home it was a dragon of a different sort that made me stop on a bridge, put the truck in reverse, park it and hop out. The snapping turtle may look much older than all the other species I encountered today, but it has haunted our wetlands for only 90 million years. A young’un in this neck of the woods.
These critters were the most intimidating, however, as noted by those claws,
and its snout.
Despite that, we shared a wink . . .
and then each went our own way.
The next time you step outside, whether in your backyard or on a land trust property, be sure to pay reverence to those that have brought a prehistoric time closer to home.